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Like we already didn’t know this…

92%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2Online Dating

Okay… I absolutely love it and wish I could have had this setup when I started InterstateQ.com.

A new LGBQI news portal focusing on politics, activism, youth, culture & arts…. IQN theINTERSTATEQ.COMnetwork.

I hope you’ll check it out. I hope you’ll link to it in your blogrolls and I hope it actually goes somewhere.

I’m also offering free web-hosting for folks who want to LGBTQI-oriented websites/blogs through IQN.

Take a peek.

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HRC gets a blog?

So, it seems as though the Human Rights Campaign has gotten itself a blog.

I guess it is too bad they are about two years (or more) behind everyone else.

I wonder if HRC really thinks its new blog is going to help them out. If we can use past HRC actions as any indicator as to how this blog will work, then I expect we will find anything but real blog-like material. It’ll be corporate, short, and written like a PR person wrote it.

BUT… as for right now it doesn’t look so bad. The main person doing the blogging, Chris Johnson, seems to be doing a good job so far. Nothing too in-depth yet; just some short posts pointing to some polls.

I’ll wait awhile before casting judgment.

In the meantime, check out HRC’s blog on your own: HRC Back Story.

From Activate! – The North Carolina Advocacy Coalition (original story):

Click to download in PDF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2007

Contact: Matt Hill Comer
Executive Director
Phone 336 391 9528
ncadvocacy@gmail.com

PO Box 24972
Winston-Salem, NC 27114
Phone 336 391 9528
ncadvocacycoalition.org

Winston-Salem City Council protects gay & lesbian employees
Gay and Lesbian advocacy group praises decision; calls for more

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Members of Activate! – The North Carolina Advocacy Coalition (Activate – NCAC) are praising the decision by the Winston-Salem City Council to protect city employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

At its June 18, 2007, meeting the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approved amendments to City Personnel Policies adding the term “sexual orientation” to a list of characteristics for which city employees will not be discriminated against.

The City of Winston-Salem joins Orange, Durham, Guilford, and Mecklenburg County, as well as the municipalities of Bessemer City, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh, in a growing list of county, city and town governments protecting employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

“We think it is of absolute importance that all citizens are treated equally and fairly in employment,” states Matt Comer, Executive Director of Activate – NCAC, who first spoke to City Councilman Dan Besse about possible policy changes in 2006, “We know for a fact that gay and lesbian employees face above average discrimination in employment and they are not protected by any state statute.”

According to a new study released this month by the Williams Institute at UCLA, 15 to 43 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual surveyed since 1992 report being discriminated against in employment. Transgender individuals reported discrimination at a rate of 20 to 57 percent.

Activate – NCAC is calling on the City of Winston-Salem to also protect employees on the basis of gender-identity or expression. Transgender citizens face even more difficulties in employment and are not protected in the majority of those local governments which have taken steps to stop discrimination. Only Carrboro and Chapel Hill have policies inclusive of gender identity or expression.

Activate – NCAC is a state and local political action committee based in Winston-Salem, NC, run and organized by young adults and focused on getting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight youth involved in the political and activism process on LGBT issues. More information is available at www.ncadvocacycoalition.org

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Previous Stories:

My letter to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, prompted by the news above:

From: Matt Hill Comer matt.hill.comer@gmail.com
To: Geneva Brown (gbrown2@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Buddy Collins (bcollins2@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Jane Goins (jgoins@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Vic Johnson (vjohnson@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Donny Lambeth (dlambeth@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Jeannie Metcalf (jmetcalf@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Elisabeth Motsinger (emotsinger@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Marilyn Parker (mparker@wsfcs.k12.nc.us), Jill Tackaberry (tack4schools@triad.rr.com)

Dear members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education,

The community is beginning to learn that the Winston-Salem City Council amended its personnel policies to include prohibiting discrimination against city employees based on sexual orientation.

A press release about the City Council decision can be seen here.

I was wondering… Seeing as though this change was made and, at least to my knowledge, the sky hasn’t fallen yet, when will the Board of Education see fit to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from harassment, bullying and protecting employees from discrimination?

For almost a decade or longer, community members have asked for this change. I endured four years of tormentful harassment because I am gay and while a student at R.J. Reynolds High School (Class of 2004) I asked the Board numerous times to make this change.

Yet, the change hasn’t come. Instead, I have heard my elected leaders publicly use words like “faggot” and tell me that I shouldn’t be protected because I’m a sinner.

Wouldn’t it be nice for the Board to make this change voluntarily, before being forced to do so when the NC Senate passes the School Violence Prevention Act?

Thank you,

Matt Hill Comer

Reply from Donny Lambeth, the Chairman of the Board:

We have discussed this issue in the past and we have no plans to discuss this again. Our policy is consistent with other school systems and does not allow discrimination of any kinds. thanks for your email

Donny C. Lambeth

My Response:

Mr. Lambeth,

If school system policies prohibit discrimination of all kinds, then please tell me why School Attorney Doug Punger told me in 2004 that gay-straight alliances are “political clubs” which cannot be school sponsored or appear in the yearbook, yet “political clubs” like Teenage Democrats and Teenage Republicans are still, to this day, allowed to have school sponsorship and appear in yearbooks?

Policies are not being enforced fairly. They never have been.

I don’t think you speak for the whole Board, Mr. Lambeth. I can think of at least one Board member who is just fine with discriminating against gay students:

“I told him we shouldn’t be making concessions to homosexuals because it is clearly portrayed in the Bible as sin… And believe me, I know we all sin but what other sin can you think of that has been so white-washed? Let’s have murder-pride marches, rape-pride marches etc.” Jeannie Metcalf, Winston-Salem Journal B1 February 13, 2003

“I think homosexuality is a sin. If they want to make fun of them, I don’t have a problem with it.” Jeannie Metcalf, Winston-Salem Journal February 4, 2003

Quite frankly, I am kind of hurt by your very short reply. You say that the Board has had this conversation before. No, the Board hasn’t had this conversation. What the Board has done in the past is make up their minds before the conversation ever begins. What the Board has done is talked out of both sides of its mouth.

I apologize if I come off as being angry. Perhaps I am angry. I’m angry at the fact that for almost a decade, students have suffered and we know they are suffering and we know that harassment is a problem, yet the Board wants to ignore it because of how “sinful” they think the people being harassed are. In fact, I say have the right to be angry, because when I was being harassed and tormented every day and when I was, at times, afraid to go to school, you and the Board did absolutely NOTHING when I and others asked for your help. The only people I can thank for any type of help they had to offer are teachers who were very close to me and my principal, Mr. Elrod. I wish I could thank you, but I can’t.

The school system policies do not protect students from harassment based on sexual orientation or gender-identity. That is a fact. Those words do not appear in any policy. By saying that the policies cover everyone, you are telling a lie.

As for the reason why these words should appear and why they should be enumerated, I’ll quote NC Representative Rick Glazier, sponsor of the School Violence Prevention Act:

“…enumeration is required because all of us get concerned, tense up, when we talk about kids who are different. We may be mature enough to handle that but [youth] are not… It is a bill designed to make sure all children are safe when they go to school. We know that every bit of data in the state and nationwide that there are certain children which are much more likely to be attacked and bullied. There is I think another world out there. I think in the end, we have a responsibility to every child regardless of whether they are unique by creation or exceptional by designation. In the end when we protect every child from harm we protect all of our children and all of our grandchildren.”

I’ll also quote Rep. Earline Parmon, from her remarks during debate on the School Violence Prevention Act:

“I have years of experience as an administrator in public education. I can tell you that because of our own biases I had to discipline teachers because homosexual children were being bullied and teachers didn’t speak up and when I asked one teacher why she did nothing, the teacher said she thought it would help make a man out of them. We must be specific and send a strong message to those with these biases. I don’t support protecting a gay lifestyle but this bill isn’t about that. It is about protecting our children and telling the adults we hold responsible for their protection that these children are vulnerable. We must send a strong message. We must have a safe environment. We must be specific about it.”

Matt Hill Comer

A community member in Mankato, Minnesota, writes a letter to the editor on the Soulforce Equality Ride visit to Bethany Lutheran College.

He makes the argument that Soulforce “should be more open to change,” for our “viewpoints” and our “lifestyle:”

Was SoulForce just as willing to become less liberal and more conservative, to change not only their viewpoint but also their lifestyle? I doubt it.

Okay. Okay.

You hear that minorities? You should be more open to changing who you are to fit everyone else!

A quick guide for minorities wanting to take the letter writer’s wise advice:

  • All people of color… You should be more open to being “more white.”
  • Hispanics… You should be more open to totally forgetting your heritage and adopting a European one.
  • Native Americans… Oh, totally, forget the red man thing, drop your religion and forget your language.
  • Women… You need to butch it up! Change your feminine “lifestyle” and be more like real humans (read: men).
  • And all us gay people… Yes, we so totally need to straighten up.

Conclusion of the letter? Writer’s definition of “conservative” = Everyone must look, act and think the exact same way and that is: Straight, White, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon Male.

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Reflections on Pride

Kevin Jennings, the Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), writes a reflection on his first Pride experience:

I couldn’t help but think back to 1986 and my first time marching in the Boston Gay Pride Parade, at age 23. My excitement and nervousness was palpable. My Harvard classmate Trey Woods, one of the most impossibly handsome men who ever walked the planet, showed up in khakis and a button down, so completely overdressed it was almost laughable. We were young and we would conquer the world. Well, Trey died of AIDS in 1995 and I am not so young anymore. But today, I felt like we had indeed conquered the world. If only for a day.

I remember my first Pride. I was a freshman at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2004. Down in Durham, NC, on and around the campus of Duke University, the North Carolina Pride Festival takes place in either late September or early October (it is way to hot down here in the South for us to have it in June; those folks in Atlanta are crazy!)

I had never been a place where, at least for the day, people committed to equality just like me were in the majority. It was empowering… it was Pride. I was with UNCG PRIDE! and we marched in the parade and saw all the vendors. The experience was one I’ll always remember.

NC Pride has become, at least for me, more and more like a “public appearance,” though. Over the past few years, some of the fun has gone out of it. It is still fun to walk around and see the vendors and march in the parade, but it just seems to be the same thing every year. Needless to say, I go more for chatting with LGBT leaders around the state, than I do for anything else.

My first Pride experience was nothing like Jennings’, however, and I’ve only been to one big Pride. That was Capital Pride in Washington, DC, last summer. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to Atlanta or New York City’s festivals.

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Strange bedfellows, indeed

As I have continued to get myself involved in situation after situation and controversy after controversy, I have increasingly realized that sometimes, taking a stand on a certain issue puts you into bed with some strange allies.

I first learned this lesson while working with the Student Government Association at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During hte 2005-2006 academic year, I served my first of two years as the Chairman of our Student Senate Legislative Committee (arguably, one of the most influential positions – along with the executive officers and Finance Committee Chair – in Student Government). The President placed me and a friend, serving as a Senator at the time (and who had once represented the College Republicans in Student Senate proceedings), on a University committee to study our campus’ so-called “free speech zones.”

Since the start of my academic career at UNCG, I had run into the rantings of UNC-Wilmington professor Mike Adams. An un-apologetic, die-hard conservative who had more than his share of opinions on every topic under the sun, Adams joined in on the free speech controversy at UNCG. Surprisingly, I agreed with everything he had to say. Surprising, you ask? Yes, it was: Adams had regularly spoken out against UNCG and other UNC System schools with LGBT student groups and programs. Needless to say, I had hardly ever agreed with him on anything, at least not until that point.

A year later, in March 2007 while I was away from UNCG on the Soulforce Equality Ride, I’d find myself agreeing with some strange allies once again. The College Republicans at UNCG would hold their annual Morals Week and included a “Straight Pride Day.” Of course, they come under attack from many students and folks associated with the University. Controversy sparked. I was told about it – from both the side of my LGBT friends involved with the LGBT student group and from the side of one of my closest friends, that same student Senator who served with me on the University free speech committee and who had represented the College Republicans in Student Senate. I had to agree with my Republican friend: The College Republicans’ opinion might not be one with which all people agreed, nor necessarily one with which I agreed, but they still had every right to speak their mind and have their views known, despite others’ efforts to silence them (in an unrelated Morals Week activity, some students had shown up to a forum almost completely naked, screaming profanities and almost shutting down the event).

Once again, I find myself sitting between two different communities and two different sets of interests. With the situation regarding Tyler Whitney, I spoke out against what I saw as vile, cruel and inappropriate language. I called on those within the LGBT community who were making these comments to stop and to show respect to the God-given dignity and integrity of each and every person “wonderfully and fearfully made” by God. I also called on those leaders who themselves run websites where these comments appeared, to moderate the comments, as this type of vile, obscene language was totally indecent and not fit for an intelligent, public debate or discussion.

On one side, I have more conservative-minded folks supporting my decision to not engage in attacks against Whitney. At the same time, I have more conservative-minded folks questioning whether or not I really meant it. Again, at the same time, I have more liberal and progressive-minded people calling me an “Uncle Tom” and a “shill.” Even again, I have at the same time more liberal and progressive-minded folks telling me that I am “coddling” the oppressor, and that I should not be “offering an olive branch” to what they consider a group akin to the KKK.

Today, I read news that Jeff Gannon had come out in support of Whitney. How is that I find myself on somewhat of the same side as a person like Gannon… a person that in the normal business of the day, I’d probably never agree with? I don’t necessarily agree with every point he raises, but in principle, I do agree that Whitney shouldn’t have become the subject of such a large public focus and scrutiny.

All sorts of folks have come out of the woodwork. From each and every side of the political spectrum, I have been called this or that, or accused of being or doing this or that.

I once said, that if I’m getting blasted from both sides of the political spectrum, that I must be doing something right.

Here is where I stand: I do not play politics by labeling myself as this or that. My political views are shaped and formed by a variety of sources, including my faith and my experiences living in this world. Sometimes, I’m radically left. Sometimes, I’d say I curve to the right. Sometimes, I stay right in the middle of the road. And… sometimes I could really care less. What matters to me is that I stay true to who I am and to what I believe is right and just.

Does this mean that what I believe today or yesterday will be the same as what I believe tomorrow or next year or in the next 20 years? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that I am growing, learning and continuing to define and re-define who I am, what I believe and what is most important to me.

I’ve learned a lot in this latest controversy. I hope what I have learned helps me to better know who I am and what I stand for. I’ve learned a lot about LGBT folks who identify as politically conservative. I’ve learned about where their beliefs come from and why they believe it. Perhaps I still don’t agree with everything they say, but at least I am attempting to understand their point of view. The same goes for those opinions coming from the progressive side of things.

And… one last point… I am firmly convinced of the fact that our political process is in a huge state of disrepair. For a person to feel as though he or she is no longer a part of a community – whether progressive or conservative – that he or she firmly identifies with, just because they happen to disagree with one point of that community’s “agenda,” is wrong. We live in America, folks… and we are all able to form our own opinions and because we live in America we have the ability to not be forced into “toeing the party line.” We can disagree on this or agree on that and, guess what… we can all still get along. That is, if we return to showing people the dignity and integrity that all people have from birth.

And that is something I promise, here and now, to show more of: Respect, kindness and courtesy towards others is what defines a truly open and welcome environment for each and every person. For us to sit down at the same table and truly act like fellow Americans wishing only the best for our communities and nation, we must sit down with each other while showing mutual respect. We can still disagree, but we can do it politely and with some civility.

Previous Posts:

Seth Crawford, a junior at Northwest Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC, wrote a great student journalism article and profile on me and my activism as a part of a multicultural journalism workshop with the Greensboro News & Record.

His article appears in today’s paper:

UNCG student fights for gay rights
June 26, 2007
Seth Crawford, Northwest Guilford

This article was written as part of a Multicultural Journalism Workshop at the News & Record.

The numbing cold handcuffs constrict his wrists.

A firm hand tightly grasps his arm.

An attentive man guides him to the sporadic blinking lights of a police car.

As he is placed in the back seat, confidence builds up inside him.

Unlike most college students, 21-year-old Matt Hill Comer has been battling adversity his entire life.

Comer, a UNCG junior, realized he was gay when he was 12. But he grew up in a strictly conservative Baptist home, where he struggled with a decision to make his sexual orientation known. He would sit in church on Sundays, listening to his pastor — who seemed to point him out — condemning gays as despicable, vile creatures that would inevitably burn in hell.

Comer struggled with his sexual orientation. Maybe he didn’t feel the way he thought he did, or maybe it would pass. After two years of wrestling with himself, he finally came out to his parents at 14.

“My dad just sat on the couch. He didn’t really say anything,” Comer said. “My mom gave me the typical conservative Christian reaction saying, ‘You’re going to hell.’

“I cried myself to sleep.”

After he told his parents, he built up enough courage to confide to a friend in his Boy Scout troop and another friend from school, who told everyone else. It wasn’t the way he had planned. But there wasn’t much he could do about it, except grit his teeth and take the verbal abuse that followed.

Comer remembers being teased by the kids in his Boy Scout troop. That eventually turned to violence.

“They tied me to a tree and threw rocks and sticks at me and hit me with wet towels,” he said.

His father confronted the Scout master, who simply replied: “Boys will be boys.”

Read the full article by Seth

I emailed Seth this morning, told him he did a great job and gave him just one correction in his article. Besides that… I think his little bio at the bottom of the article – “Seth, a junior, wants to write for Sports Illustrated.” – might be right on cue with his talent for writing.

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LGBT North Carolinians making history

Part Five of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

North Carolina certainly may not be like the hot-beds of LGBT community, life and activism like San Francisco or New York City, but we still have plenty of history makers and leaders to be proud of!

From politicians to activists, authors to bloggers and community leaders, philanthropists and community organizations, North Carolina has more in LGBT history, leadership and community than many outside of the state may realize.

Of course, this article is no where near exhaustive and I am sure that I have unknowingly left out a lot of worthy individuals. However, thanks and great gratitude is extended to those I have not listed, as well.

Julia Boseman (Wilmington, NC), politician
Julia Boseman is North Carolina’s first and only openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender member of the North Carolina General Assembly. Senator Boseman serves in the North Carolina Senate and was elected to her second term in the office in the 2006 elections. (Thanks to reader Hunter for keeping my airheadedness in check; I had originally said Senator Boseman was in the NC House. Don’t know what got into me today; perhaps not enough coffee.)

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Mandy Carter (Durham, NC), activist
“Mandy Carter is a life long activist for women’s and queer rights and peace. In 1993, Mandy helped found SONG – Southerners On New Ground – to help build allies in Dixie – connecting peoples of different races, classes, cultures, gender & ual identities. Mandy has devoted most of her life to the social justice movement, educating audiences about LGBT rights. Mandy Carter is a member of the national steering committee of the Freedom To Marry project former board member of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and of the International Federation of Black Prides. Recently, Mandy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for Peace nominations! She lives in Durham, North Carolina.” (src)

Mandy Carter was also among the founding members of the NC Pride PAC, which later became a part of Equality North Carolina (see below in the “Organizations” section).

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John D’Emilio (Greensboro, NC), author, educator, advocate
“John D’Emilio (born 1948, New York City) is a professor of history and of women’s and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has taught previously at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1982. […]

His most important and widely cited book, ual Politics, ual Communities (University of Chicago Press, 1983), is considered a definitive history of the U.S. homophile movement from 1940 to 1970. Therfore D’Emilio won 1984 the Stonewall Book Award.” (src)

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Ed Farthing (Hickory, NC), advocate, attorney
“Activism was not new for Farthing on coming out of the closet. He has been active in the Republican Party since he was a teen, even serving as President of the North Carolina Teen Age Republicans in the mid 60’s. He served 2 terms on the Catawba County Board of Elections in the mid 70’s and early 80’s (one of those as Chair), and currently serves as GOP Precinct Chair in Greenmont Precinct. […]
In the LGBT community Farthing has served 2 terms on the Equality NC Board of Directors, resigning as Chair of the Equality NC PAC Board to work for Equality NC. He helped organize and served as treasurer of Catawba Valley PFLAG and also helped organize and helped facilitate the LGBT youth group Catawba Valley Time Out Youth. He was on the Board of Directors of NC Pride, Inc. and helped organize NC Pride events in Charlotte, Durham and Winston-Salem, as well as teaching several seminars on legal issues for LGBT citizens.

He has been active with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and served as local counsel in matters that arose in Western NC. Farthing has also been active with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and attended candidate training in 2001. He is active in Soulforce, an LGBT activist organization for people of faith, and has been arrested twice in non-violent demonstrations protesting spiritual violence perpetrated by organized religion against God’s LGBT children.”

Ed is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and a former Boy Scout. (src)

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Dr. Kimeron N. Hardin (Rutherford, NC), author, medical professional
Hardin was born in Rutherford County, NC, and was the child of fundamentalist Christian parents. He came out at the age of 17 in 1977 and later attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he became a campus educator. Later, Hardin taught at other public UNC schools.

“He is now the Director of the Bay Area Pain Program in Los Gatos and San Jose California. Although Kimeron went on to develop a subspecialty within my clinical practice in the area of pain management and health psychology, he has continued to try to support the GLBT community through his writings which have included The Gay and Lesbian Self-Esteem Book: A Guide to Loving Ourselves and Queer Blues: The Lesbian and Gay Guide to Overcoming Depression, as well as GLBT book reviews, articles and workshops.” (src)

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Kevin Jennings (Winston-Salem, NC), Executive Director/Founder, GLSEN
Kevin Jennings, a native of Winston-Salem, NC, is the son of a Baptist minister who grew up to become an educator, moving to Boston and then later New York City. In the 1990s, Jennings came at the forefront of advocacy for LGBT students in K-12 education. He founded the Gay and Lesbian Teachers Network, which later became the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network based in New York City. GLSEN is the leading national organization working on issues affecting LGBT students in K-12 education and sponsors the annual Day of Silence and No Name-Calling Week projects.

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Armistead Maupin (Raleigh, NC), author
“Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.
Maupin worked briefly as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. The climate of freedom and tolerance he found in his adopted city inspired him to come out publicly as homosexual in 1974. Two years later he launched his “Tales of the City” serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, the first fiction to appear in an American daily for decades.
Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, The Night Listener and, most recently, Michael Tolliver Lives. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three novels in the Tales series. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.” (src)

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Mike Nelson (Carrboro, NC), politician
“Michael R. Nelson (popularly known as Mike Nelson) is an American politician from North Carolina who currently serves on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

A Democrat, Nelson is a former mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina and the first openly gay person to be elected as a mayor of a North Carolina city. Nelson was elected in 1995 after serving two years on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. He served five consecutive terms as mayor from 1995 to 2005.

In November 2006, Nelson was elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners.” (src)

Mike Nelson was also among the founding members of the NC Pride PAC, which later became a part of Equality North Carolina (see below in the “Organizations” section).

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Bob Page & Dale Fredericksen (Greensboro, NC), businessmen & philanthropists
Bob Page and Dale Fredericksen, owners of Replacements, Ltd. are major community leaders and donors in North Carolina. Their philanthropy and leadership has helped to shape and create a visible and viable movement for LGBT equality in the Triad area of North Carolina and across the state. Page and Fredericksen’s philanthropy has led to the creation or sustainability of numerous organizations including the Triad Business & Professional Guild, the Guilford Green Foundation, UNCG PRIDE! and Equality North Carolina. Replacements, Ltd. is a national-level corporate sponsor of the Human Rights Campaign.

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Gary Palmer (Greensboro, NC), advocate, educator
“I moved to Greensboro in 1983 when about the only things that existed in the gay community were bars. Fortunately, our community started growing shortly after that and I became involved with gay groups as they materialized. I became involved with ART in the late ’80s and was President of [Alternative Resources of the Triad] in the early ’90s, the first president of GLASS, the gay teen support group and one of the original board members of GGF.

Going to work at Replacements in 1992 was a huge blessing. I no longer had to worry about being openly gay. Bob Page was supportive of all my gay activist activities and instigated my involvement in the committee that created the Triad Business and Professional Guild. I have served on the board of [Triad Health Project] and the granting committee for GCAP. I founded the GLSEN [Greensboro] chapter in 1997, working to create positive change for LGBT students in high schools. I now lead the GSAFE group whose purpose is very similar.

One of the great pleasures of working at Replacements is that I have been able to incorporate my work, Vice President Community Affairs, into being a visible gay person in a lot of community organizations and activities. I was part of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Class of 2000 leadership program, Other Voices and a member of the 2001 class of Leadership Greensboro. In 2003 I received the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Greensboro Medal and in 2006 the Chamber of Commerce Other Voices Change Agent Award. I now serve on the board of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, the board of the National Conference for Community and Justice – Piedmont and the granting committee for the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. In addition I am involved with the Community Education Committee headed by the new Guilford County Schools diversity officer Monica Walker. This group is working to improve acceptance of differences in schools and works to address the issues of racism in our schools. I have served on the steering committee of the Bennett College for Women Chief Diversity Officer’s Forum since its beginning in 2004.” (src)

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Ian Palmquist (Raleigh, NC), advocate, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina
Ian Palmquist, the young Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, has quickly become a respected leader in the national movement for LGBT equality. After taking the helm of Equality NC as Co-Director with current Political and Community Organizing Director Ed Farthing in 2003, Ian became the sole Executive Director in 2006. Ian has served as Co-Chair of the national Equality Federation since 2004 and helped to organize the national Gay Men’s Health Summit and its conference in Raleigh, NC, in 2003. (src)

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Jay Quinn, author
“Born in North Carolina, Jay, two-time Lammy finalist, is the author of Metes and Bounds and The Mentor. He is the editor of the Rebel Yell series of anthologies featuring the stories of southern gay men. Founding and Executive Editor of Southern Tier Editions, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., Jay lives in South Florida with his partner of ten years, 2 Dobermans and a Weimaraner.” (src)

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David Sedaris, author
“David Sedaris is an openly gay author who was born in Johnson City, New York, raised in North Carolina. David Sedaris began his career by reading his essays on radio, which aired in America and the UK in the mid-nineties. He developed a knack for making people laugh by humorously telling of his own stories throughout his life, such as his family, jobs, and relationships. His books include: , Barrel Fever, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. He still does essay readings on the radio, and also live readings of his books, which are very funny. Sedaris’ latest book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, was released in June of last summer and was the New York Times bestseller for Nonfiction. After an extreme adiction and a period of akward jobs (described in parts of Me Talk Pretty One Day), he’s somewhat settled down in France with his long-term boyfriend (husband?) Hugh Hamrick.” (src)

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Pam Spaulding (Durham, NC), blogger/activist
“Pam Spaulding is the editor and publisher of Pam’s House Blend (pamshouseblend.com), honored as “Best LGBT Blog” in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. The Blend, which averages 110,000 visitors a month, was launched in July 2004 as a personal response to the anti-gay state of the political landscape.

A regular contributor to the progressive blog Pandagon.net, Pam has also guest posted at the national blogs Firedoglake, The Rude Pundit, and has written for The Independent Weekly.

With roots in North Carolina and the New York City, Pam considers herself to have “dual citizenship” status as a Southerner and a Yankee — and brings that perspective and voice to her blog, which focuses on current political events, LGBT and women’s rights, the influence of the far Right, and race relations.

Pam’s House Blend is ranked in the top 100 progressive political blogs. […]

Pam has spoken at national forums, and performed the first-ever live-blogging event for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s annual dinner in May 2006.

Spaulding has a B.A. in Media Studies from Fordham University and in the non-virtual world, serves as Information Technology Manager at Duke University Press. She is a board member of The Institute of Southern Studies, which publishes the award-winning investigative journalism publication Southern Exposure, and the blog Facing South. Pam is on the organization’s Media Advisory Group.

She lives Durham, NC with her wife Kate — they legally married in Vancouver in 2004 — and their two dogs.” (src)

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Shane Windmeyer (Charlotte, NC), author/speaker, founder of CampusPride.net
“Shane, – ited Out on Fraternity Row: Personal Accounts of Being Gay in a College Fraternity, in this book speaks candidly about his experience on coming out to his fraternity and how homophobia hurts everyone – gay or straight, Greek or non-Greek. [..]

Shane is considered one of the foremost educators on ual orientation issues in relation to greek life. A true champion for lgbt issues on college campuses, Shane recently founded and currently serves as coordinator of CampusPride.Net – National Online Network for LGBT Student Leaders and released his third book titled Inspiration for LGBT Students & Their Allies in October 2002.”

Shane is also the editor of The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. (src)

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Jo Wyrick (Greensboro, NC), LGBT advocate, Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats
Wyrick, a native of Greensboro, NC, is the former Executive Director of Equality North Carolina and is the current Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats, taking her job first as the interim director in March 2006 and becoming the permanent director in July 2006. Wyrick is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (src)

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Organizations

Alternative Resources of the Triad (Greensboro, NC) 1988
“Alternative Resources of the Triad was established in 1988 by Katheryn Smith, former Executive Director of the Triad Health Project. Receiving help from numerous friends and acquaintances, Katheryn also relied heavily on John Quillan of the Charlotte Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and Greensboro attorney Ron Johnson for guidance in obtaining nonprofit tax exempt status.

An anonymous donation of $1,000.00 was giving and the seed that produced their first event was named “the Lesbian Health Fair” that same year. The legacy of ART “The Gay & Lesbian Hot line of the Triad” was initiated shortly after. This had become the foremost function of the organizations beginning and the Gay & Lesbian Hot line was placed in the spare room of a volunteer’s apartment at that time. Donated phone equipment lead to the first training of seven pioneers in Greensboro. The official opening of the hot line even received coverage in the Greensboro News & Record as well as two local television stations.” src)

Alternative Resources of the Triad now operates OutGreensboro.com, a resource and referral site for the LGBT community in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, NC, and also operates “Greensboro, Out at the Movies.” In 2007, Alternative Resources of the Triad organized the Triad area’s first-ever, regional LGBT Pride festival.

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Equality North Carolina (The NC Pride PAC & the North Carolina Human Rights Fund) 1979/1990

Equality NC got its start as NC Pride PAC, which was founded in December, 1990, by Joe Herzenberg, Mike Nelson, Ruth Ziegler, Mandy Carter, Jesse White, David Jones, Tom Warshauer, and Eric Rosenthal. Founded in the wake of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender mobilization for the 1990 Helms-Gantt race for U.S. Senate, this political action committee sought to use that energy to affect change at the state level.

Since then, the group has been active in state legislative races and other races of statewide importance. The organization also has maintained an active lobbying presence in the NC General Assembly, advancing issues including Crime Against Nature reform, hate crime, non-discrimination, HIV/AIDS funding and education, and others. In 1998, the group changed its name to Equality NC PAC and joined forces with Equality NC Foundation (then called Equality NC Project), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, to do more public education and organizing work.

Equality NC Foundation was founded in 1979 as the North Carolina Human Rights Fund, an educational and charitable organization established to promote and defend the human rights and civil liberties of lesbians and gay men in North Carolina. In the early years, NCHRF worked to document antigay violence, to fight for repeal of the Crime Against Nature law, and to provide legal aid to gays and lesbians targeted for prosecution. The group also worked to foster local organizations across the state, and help fund the first NC Pride marches. In the late eighties, the focus shifted to providing education on lesbian and gay issues.

In 2002, the Board agreed that it was time to form a parent organization to link the PAC and the Foundation, and to manage the group’s growing lobbying and advocacy work. Equality NC, Inc. was created as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group.

From the 1979 founding of NCHRF to the 1990 founding of ENC PAC to today, Equality NC has been fighting tirelessly for equal rights and justice for all North Carolinians, regardless of ual orientation or gender identity. (src)

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UNCG PRIDE!, formerly the Gay Student Union & Gay & Lesbian Student Union, 1974

PRIDE!, formerly known as the Gay Student Union, the Gay and Lesbian Student Association and the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Association, is among the nation’s oldest gay student groups. Established in 1974, PRIDE! is, to knowledege, the oldest, most continuously active gay student organization in North Carolina and has had a varied and interesting history as the GLBTQA student organization on the campus of UNCG.

The earliest records of any existence of a gay student group on the campus of UNCG dates from November 1974 through January 1975 in the form of historical documents including a flier, an interdepartmental memo, and a correspondence between the UNCG Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and the Office of the President of The University of North Carolina. One document within the historical archives of PRIDE! does date back to 1973; it is, however, unrelated to the original gay student group, but relates to the formation and recognition of “Gay Liberation on state-supported campuses.” The name under which PRIDE! operated during this time period is unknown but the letter written by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs refers to the group as being a part of the “Gay Liberation Movement.”

In the 1979-1980 academic year the Gay Student Union was given official University affiliation. According to an October 30, 1979 article in the Carolinian, the first meeting of the newly affiliated Gay Student Union (called the “Gay Academic Union” in the article) was held on October 25, 1979. Many correspondences between members of the alumni, the Greensboro community and University administration detail the overwhelming anti-gay attitudes of the time period. The correspondences also reveal the vehement opposition from alumni to the affiliation of a gay student group to the University. Many letters to the editor within the Greensboro Daily News echo the same attitudes from Greensboro citizens. These letters are not only valuable to the history of PRIDE!, but also to the history of the entire LGBT Rights Movement. These letters are evidence of the intense anti-gay attitudes held by the vast majority of Americans during the 1970s and 1980s, a time in which the Movement had finally formed a somewhat unified and solidified effort. During this time, gay rights also began to become a more accepted topic within the debates of mainstream American politics. Although our group did not receive official affiliation until 1979 and although no mention of a group name appears before 1979 in the historical archives of our organization, outside evidence points to the fact that only one, continuous gay student group has existed on the UNCG campus since 1974.

Most likely in an attempt to be more inclusive of the LGBT community, the name of the Gay Student Union was changed to the Gay and Lesbian Student Association sometime in the mid-80s. In September 1993 our name was changed to the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Association and in a final push to be more inclusive, our name changed to PRIDE!, Proudly Representing Individuality, Diversity and Equality, in 1997. […]

PRIDE! continues to uphold its more than 30-year service to the UNCG community through weekly meetings, social events, educational and awareness programming and activities, and through the annual PRIDE! Week, usually held every April. PRIDE! also shows a commitment to healthy living by holding athletic and sports-based activities at our weekly meetings throughout the academic year, as well as offering information on safe , abstinence and other healthy living topics and issues. (src).

Previous Pride Series Posts

Part Four of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

Before 1973, LGBT people were considered to be mentally diseased, sick or ill. Even today, people still believe it.

But history would be made in 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its lists of mental diseases contained in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).

For average LGBT people, the removal of homosexuality from the DSM-III meant that they would no longer be subject to involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals or tests and neither would they have to undergo such inhumane psychiatric treatments as shock-therapy.

However, the debate has raged on ever since 1973 and remains hot today, at least within religious and “ex-gay” circles.

The A.P.A. continues to state that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and in a fact sheet on sexual orientation, the A.P.A. states:

No. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem. More than 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that homosexuality, in and itself, is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems. Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information.

In the past, the studies of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people involved only those in therapy, thus biasing the resulting conclusions. When researchers examined data about such people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was quickly found to be untrue.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association confirmed the importance of the new, better-designed research and removed homosexuality from the official manual that lists mental and emotional disorders. Two years later, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting this removal.

For more than 25 years, both associations have urged all mental health professionals to help dispel the stigma of mental illness that some people still associate with homosexual orientation.

In 1976, Exodus International, the largest “ex-gay” organization in the world, was founded on the premise that homosexuality is a mental disorder as well as a religious short-coming. Exodus and other “ex-gay” groups such as the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexual (NARTH) continue to say that homosexuality is a mental disease:

NARTH agrees with the American Psychological Association that “biological, psychological and social factors” shape sexual identity at an early age for most people.

But the difference is one of emphasis. We place more emphasis on the psychological (family, peer and social) influences, while the American Psychological Association emphasizes biological influences–and has shown no interest in (indeed, a hostility toward) investigating those same psychological and social influences.

There is no such thing as a “gay gene” and there is no evidence to support the idea that homosexuality is simply genetic. However, biological influences may indeed influence some people toward homosexuality; recent studies point to prenatal-hormonal influences, especially in men, that result in a low-masculinized brain; also, there may be genetic factors in some people — both of which would affect gender identity, and therefore sexual orientation. But none of these factors mean that homosexuality is normal and a part of human design, or that it is inevitable in such people, or that it is unchangeable.

Numerous examples exist of people who have successfully modified their sexual behavior, identity, and arousal or fantasies.

Unfortunately, the myth that LGBT people are mentally ill, diseased and sick continues to spread around the nation and the globe.

And, unfortunately, the debate will most likely rage on. Until there comes a time when radical portions of the religious community no longer seek to use their religious tenets to outcast and exclude other members of their human family, the propagation of false information claiming that homosexuality is mentally disordered and that sexual orientation can always be changed will continue.

Previous Pride Series Posts