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A note on transitions and new opportunities

By now, many of you might have heard through QNotes, Facebook, Twitter, or Creative Loafing fine editor, Mark Kemp, that I will be stepping down from my position at QNotes on Jan. 20. It’s been a fantastic experience and one for which I’m truly grateful. Below is the letter I sent to many personal friends, acquaintances and colleagues after my resignation was announced by the paper.

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is with humility and gratitude that I write tonight to let you know that I will be stepping down from my role as editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT newspaper and North Carolina’s premier source of news, opinion and arts and entertainment coverage. My last day with the paper will be Jan. 20, 2012, as announced by the paper on Tuesday evening (http://goqnotes.com/14053/).

On Jan. 23, I will begin work as the new communications and programs manager for Campus Pride, a Charlotte-based, national non-profit group that works to create safer environments for LGBT students on college and university campuses across the United States. An official announcement from the organization should be soon forthcoming.

As I prepare to take on new challenges, I find it necessary to pause and thank each and every one of you for your support of me and of this newspaper. Each of you has contributed in myriad ways to the success of this community, of Charlotte, of North Carolina and of this organization. Personally, each of you has made my life richer and fuller.

But, don’t think for a minute that this is a goodbye. You don’t get away from me that easily, haha.

Though I am leaving QNotes, I will remain an avid and vocal supporter for our community and for independent, progressive and LGBT-inclusive news-media. As always, I’ll continue to advocate for fair and equitable coverage from mainstream news-media organizations and will remain a committed advocate for progress and change. I hope new opportunities allow me to be more involved in our community in new and exciting ways, especially as the May 8, 2012, vote on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment draws near.

Again, thank you for all you have done to support me both personally and professionally. Thank you once more for the support you have given and will continue to give to QNotes and my yet-to-be-announced successor.

I humbly welcome your continued support, friendship and kindness, and hope you will continue to follow me in my new endeavors at Campus Pride. I’m excited about the opportunity to help Campus Pride grow and further fulfill its mission in supporting the future leaders of our community and nation.

Additionally, I hope you’ll stop by from time-to-time here at my blog, InterstateQ.com, where I will resume more regular posting. There, I will continue to provide the same objective, fair and progressive-minded coverage of the ongoing anti-LGBT amendment campaign you’ve come to expect from my work at QNotes and where I will continue providing commentary on local, state and national LGBT and progressive political affairs.

With love and wishes for a happy New Year,

Matt Comer
336-391-9528
matt@mattcomer.net
twitter.com/interstateq
facebook.com/matthew.mh.comer

North Carolina’s favorite conservative columnist, Wilmington’s Mike Adams, brought back some fond memories of my days at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) today.

In his most recent column at TownHall.com, Adams rants and raves in his usual sarcastic, smart-ass-style against UNCG’s Speech and Hearing Center’s courses for transgender people undergoing transition. He brought back one of his trademark digs. Welcome to the return of “UNC-Gomorrah.” Continue reading this post…

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Neal: It’s time to man up, Mr. President

Chapel Hill businessman and one-time U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal took to The Huffington Post yesterday with a message to President Obama.

“Man up,” he says in the face of Tuesday’s devastating midterm elections, poking and prodding the president to engage in a political fight to show which party really does have the nation’s best interests at heart.

Neal also sees a bright side to this week’s political history:

When the new Congress convenes in January, there will be a new bogeyman in town. The hot potato is in the hands of the Republican Party for the next two years.

And therein lies the silver lining — a Pyrrhic victory — for the president. The heat’s off. It’s now the Republicans’ economy to fix and it’s the Republicans’ responsibility to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

That’s a tall order for a Party that reminds us “Government doesn’t create jobs.”

In 2012 Americans will do what they always do: vote with their pocketbooks. The Republicans have no rabbits in the hat, no tricks up their sleeve to fatten, much less maintain, those pocketbooks. You can’t pay the mortgage with a tax cut. You can’t stave off a foreclosure with a tax cut. You can’t stimulate short-term economic growth through tax cuts. You can’t create jobs by cutting government spending and shuttering government agencies. You can’t create jobs by bashing gays, illegal immigrants and mosques.

Read Neal’s full column…

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O’ Here’s to Wake Forest!

Wake Forest player Jeff Teague reacts when a foul is called against him. Photo Credit: Winston-Salem Journal Lauren Carroll

Wake Forest player Jeff Teague reacts when a foul is called against him. Photo Credit: Winston-Salem Journal Lauren Carroll

I’m not much of a sports guy. I’m sure that isn’t hard to see.

But when it comes to Wake Forest and UNC, I at least take pride in knowing they’re doing well. I had long wanted to attend Wake Forest University, am a member of Wake Forest Baptist Church and Wake Forest is in my hometown of Winston-Salem. And any North Carolinian who says they don’t like UNC really can’t be called a North Carolinian in my opinion.

So, when UNC and Wake Forest actually have to compete against each other in a game, I just wait to the end to choose who I should have been rooting for from the beginning.

GO WAKE FOREST!

The two schools played each other last night in front of what The Winston-Salem Journal says was the largest crowd ever at Winston’s Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum. The final score was 92 to 89. So close, Tar Heels, so close.

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This and That

The last couple days have been so hectic. It is funny how life has a tendency of just dumping everything on you at once.

On Monday evening (my birthday) my old Cadillac broke down. One of the transmission lines burst and had to be fixed the next day (we also had to get a new battery). On my way over to my uncle’s house (I was driving my aunt’s car), I was pulled over and given a warning ticket because her license plates had expired. I was stopped probably less than 1000 feet from my uncle’s home. That morning we were also going to try to get her tags renewed and new tags for a Ford Explorer I’m buying from another uncle. The latter didn’t work out and we’ll have to get the Ford Explorer at a later date.

For now, though, here’s a bit of news.

CMS Bullying policy news
A young person in Charlotte takes issue with how The Rhinoceros Times reports on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System bullying policy. She especially takes issue with the alleged “outing” of a Providence High School student. I made a comment there, but I hope to speak to the student in question and the issue may be the subject of my next editorial in Q-Notes (March 8 issue). Read more of the young person’s thoughts here.

N.C. Lawrence King memorial
Students at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are planning a memorial and vigil for openly gay 15-year-old hate crime victim Lawrence King. They’ll meet in “The Pit” on Chapel Hill’s campus on Feb. 22, 2008, at 3 p.m. For more information contact the school’s LGBTQ Center.

Triad Gay social networking
A gentleman in Greensboro, N.C., has started an online social networking group he hopes to turn into a full-fledged social organization. Learn more and register at www.mytriguy.com.

HRC Trans Educational Initiative
Transgender activist and founder of Transgender American Veterans Association Monica Helms reports on the educational initiative at the HRC Carolinas Gala on Sat., Feb. 16, 2008. She writes, “Overall, I would say it was a successful event.  There is one thing I would have done different.  I would have not given people a comprehensive sheet of paper with a lot of information on it.  It overwhelmed them and they didn’t read all of it to see the room number to come up and speak with us.  Instead, I would have given people a small piece of paper with an invitation to come up to the suite for refreshments and conversation.  The heavy duty information would have been given to the people who came to the room.” Read more.

The Daily Tar Heel, the award-winning daily newspaper of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published a staff editorial on sex education on Tuesday.

In it, the staff said that sex education in North Carolina should be expanded and that abstinence-only education doesn’t work:

The idea of teaching tolerance of everyone and defining words such as prejudice is progressive and stands in striking contrast to North Carolina’s out-of-date abstinence-based curriculum.

Teaching eighth-graders about homosexuality, like in Montgomery County, might seem too early or inappropriate to some people, but neglecting to teach 10th-graders other options for staying safe besides abstaining might seem equally inappropriate and questionable.

Let’s face it, teenagers do have sex, and they do experiment. All that educators can do is give them the information they need to make smart choices.

In addition, being a teenager is confusing enough without having to be judged on your sexual preferences or lack thereof. It will be comforting for students, whether they consider themselves gay, straight, both or something else, that it’s not wrong to embrace who they really are.

[…]

There is one legitimate issue we have a problem with – the lessons state that homosexuality is innate. The idea behind teaching this is to ensure individuals do not get blamed for being homosexual.

While it sounds nice, science has not proven this true one way or the other. Factual uncertainties should be avoided, regardless of how just the goal of teaching them seems.

If teenagers knew all sides of the story, they would understand that sexuality isn’t black and white, and that it’s OK to have fears and questions about themselves. In life we are bound to run across people who will judge us and not accept us in ways we would hope.

Any program the helps avoid hate crimes like the death of Matthew Shepard should be applauded.

It is a nice editorial… although I think the staff skewed a few things. They are right that science hasn’t proven conclusively that sexual orientation is 100% innate, but in the editorial they are neglectful of the fact that medicine and psychology knows without a doubt that for the vast, overwhelming majority of all people, sexual orientation is unchangeable. For the vast majority of all people, sexual orientation is – for lack of better words – innate.

I’m also a little put back by their choice of wording in their use of “sexual preferences.” As I’ve said, sexual orientation for the vast majority of all people is unchangeable and something that seems very much a part of their being. It isn’t a “preference.”

I don’t “prefer” to be attracted – emotionally, spiritually and, yes, physically – to men… That’s just the way I am.

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Edwards building more LGBT support

On the day of the HRC/Logo Presidential Forum (I missed it somehow), the Edwards campaign announced the addition of more LGBT leaders to its growing list of supporters.

According to the campaign:

Senator John Edwards’ campaign to transform America continues to gain momentum in the LGBT community. For the third time this year the campaign announced the endorsement of several prominent community leaders from across the country. Tonight at the Visible Vote ’08 presidential forum, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and LOGO Television, Edwards showed why so many LGBT leaders and activists support him for president. This group joins dozens of other national LGBT leaders who have previously endorsed Edwards.

[…]

“As activists for social and economic justice, we need a candidate who believes in the beloved community, who honors hard work and sacrifice, and who stands up for civil rights,” said Hans Johnson, President of Progressive Victory and officer of Pride at Work, the official LGBT organization of organized labor. “As Democrats, we need to put our strongest foot forward in order to set the country on a better course. John Edwards is the candidate equal to these challenges.”

The LGBT leaders endorsing Edwards for president today are:

  • Kyle Bailey, Board member of National Stonewall Democrats
  • Kenda Kirby, former Executive Director of North Carolina Human Rights Initiative
  • Hans Johnson, President of Progressive Victory
  • Greg Gallo, Board member of National Stonewall Democrats
  • Les Krambeal, Board member of National Stonewall Democrats
  • Todd Elmer, former Clinton Administration Commerce Department Official

Good goin’ John.

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The News & Observer down in Raleigh published a great article July 11th on The Chapel of the Cross, the historic church that was the beginning of what we now know as Chapel Hill, NC.

From the N&O:

CHAPEL HILL — At a time when women were often denied positions of authority, the tattered book that chronicles the 1842 incorporation of The Chapel of the Cross bears the signatures of 12 women beside those of 12 men.

The book also lists the names of young slave children whose owner brought them to be baptized in the 1850s. Pauli Murray, the granddaughter of one of those slaves, became the first black woman ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. She returned to Chapel Hill and received her first Eucharist as an ordained priest in the church.

Now, The Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church is incorporating another minority community into its 1,200-member congregation by entering into a discernment process — or active discussion — about blessing same-sex unions.

“We have a number of gay couples in our parish that have been together 25, 30 years, some of whom would like the church’s blessing on their private covenant,” said Rector Stephen Elkins-Williams. “I think we’ve asked them to wait, those who want to, long enough.”

The larger Episcopal Church does not recognize any rites for same-sex unions, although specific parishes are not penalized for offering such ceremonies or creating their own rites.

The Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., would join several other Triangle churches that have offered similar ceremonies for years.

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh has offered “holy union ceremonies” since the early ’90s and performs three or four per year, said Pastor Nancy Petty.

Check it out.

By the way… the Chapel of the Cross is a wonderfully beautiful little building that sits right in the middle of the hectic mess that is The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They have amazing worship services and if you are ever in Chapel Hill on business, visiting friends or for one of their many conferences throughout the year, I highly encourage you to attend Sunday worship there.

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In the Life (ITL), (www.itl.tv) a national LGBT television newsmagazine syndicated to PBS stations across the country is slowly making its debut in North Carolina.

Last month, ITL debuted on UNC-TV’s channel 4 (serving Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham areas). UNC-TV has yet to put ITL on all of its transmitters and translators which send UNC-TV programming across the State of North Carolina and into parts of Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.

ITL’s program this month will focus on June, Pride Month.

It is kind of upsetting, really. I wish UNC-TV would put the show on all of its network programming. I live in the Triad and according to UNC-TV, our transmitter is WUNL-TV-26.

A year ago or so I emailed UNC-TV requesting that ITL be acquired as a syndicated PBS show on their programming. I guess they finally did it, just only on one station.

If you have the time, please copy and then paste following letter to UNC-TV at their contact page: http://www.unctv.org/aboutus/contactus.html. Urge them to carry ITL on all of their channels across the state:

Letter to UNC-TV, urging the inclusion of ITL in their state-wide programming

Dear UNC-TV:

With the inclusion of many available and worthwhile programs, it is no wonder this station over the years has gained much respect in our local community. Knowing that you rely on the support and recommendations from all of your viewers, I would like to take this opportunity to point out a very admirable and educational program that has not been one of your regularly scheduled
programs.

“In the Life,” the television newsmagazine on gay and lesbian America, has been an available program on the public broadcasting service since 1992, and is a remarkable news and social issues production. Not regularly found on network or public television, the “In the Life” program is an essential resource for dispelling homophobia and imparting to its viewers vital information about the ever-growing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) presence in our nation.

Unfortunately, “In the Life” does not find a spot in your regular, state-wide program schedule, as it only appears on the WUNC 4, the transmitter for the Triangle area. I am confident that I am not the only viewer who would be very excited and appreciate knowing that the monthly series, “In the Life,” would have a permanent position in this station’s state-wide programming schedule.

I hope that my request affirms your knowing that “In the Life” has a desirable audience and reinforces your knowledge that it can make an equally powerful positive impact in our community.

Thank you.

UPDATE and CORRECTION from an IntersateQ.com reader:

I popped onto your blog and read your post about contacting UNC-TV about airing ITL. I applaud your efforts, but thought I’d just clarify a wee bit. ITL does not air on UNC-TV proper (the network available to 99% of North Carolinians and lots of folks in VA, TN, SC and GA. Instead it airs on UNC-TV digital channel UNC-ED, available to persons with digital sets and the digital tier from Time Warner and other cable companies in our state. So folks should be able to get it all across NC, etc., assuming they have digital cable (or hdtv/dtv).

Either way, as I told the reader (who so kindly emailed to give me the correction), I think ITL should be available to ALL UNC-TV viewers. I assumed that when ITL said UNC-TV Chapel Hill it mean the Chapel Hill transmitter. I was wrong and I stand corrected. Thanks!

Saw this on a LiveJournal blog. Thought it might be something folks want to know about:

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Subject: Traveling Anti-Gay Preacher Alert!

Hello from Texas!

I am speaking for GLOBAL, the GLBT organization at the University of Houston. Our university was recently visited, for the second year in a row, by a religious group called SoulWinners Ministries International. Please do not take this message lightly

I am writing to you in hopes that I can help fellow GLBT students prepare for their arrival, and also offer some suggestions about how to respond to the group.

They have a website: www.soul-winners.org

If you have received this e-mail, your university is on their list of schools they plan to preach at. We are not sure where they are now (their website does not list dates), but we think they may be near Florida. This is a chronological list of the schools they will visit:

Florida State U
Florida A & M U
U of Florida
U of Central Florida
U of South Florida
Florida International U
Valdosta State U
Georgia State U
U of Georgia
Clemson U
U of South Carolina
North Carolina State U
U of North Carolina

SoulWinners has a campaign called S.O.S., or Save Our Students, which is run by Michael and Tamika Venyah. They are extremely anti-gay evangelical Christians. When they arrive, they may be wearing shirts that say “All Homos Go To Hell.”

After dealing with them for 2 years, GLOBAL has some suggestions:

1. If you plan to protest them, get as many people involved as you can. This includes campus religious organizations and faculty members who are Allies. Organize a phone tree so you can get the word out quickly when they arrive. Bring snacks and water (you will probably be there for several hours).

2. Make signs ahead of time. They have a giant banner that they display, and it helps to have something visual that passing students can read.

3. Don’t let them film you (you may end up on their website). If they do, take note of the time and find a campus police officer ASAP so they can confiscate the tape and, hopefully, remove them from campus. Better yet, make signs or shirts that say “SoulWinners may not film me.”

4. Have a police officer standing by for protection. They can also serve as witnesses if need be.

5. The Venyahs believe that making people angry means that God’s message is getting through to them. They stoop to personal insults and slurs frequently. If they yell names at you or others when you are not engaging them in conversation, file a complaint with your Dean of Students. This is most likely the easiest way to get them banned from your campus. Encourage anyone they insult to report it and bring witnesses.

6. Don’t bother arguing with them. They are unwilling to defend their beliefs against others and will simply ignore you.

7. Read your school’s Freedom of Expression policy. Make sure you stay within their guidelines, and check to see if the SoulWinners are breaking any of them. If they are, report them.

8. Try forming a large circle of people around the area in which they are speaking (not too close!), and keep your backs turned to them.

9. Bring noisemakers or loud whistles (if the policy permits it), and make as much noise as possible when they say hateful things.

10. Turn their preaching into something positive. I know this sounds strange, so I will give an example: GLOBAL turned the event into a fundraiser. For every hour that the SoulWinners preached, students and faculty would pledge a set amount of money, or they could give single donations. It was the best fundraiser we have ever had! Be sure to announce every 15 minutes or so the amount that has been raised, and thank the SoulWinners for their “support.” Using this tactic forced the group to leave earlier than they had planned.

11. Be aware that they usually appear for at least 2 days in a row. Try writing opinion articles to your school newspaper to raise awareness and involve other students in the discussion. You can also involve your local media by calling newspapers and TV stations.

I hope this helps, and good luck to anyone who is dealing with them now!

– GLOBAL at UH
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There’s a facebook group called Students Against Soulwinners Ministries International which decribes them as, “Soulwinners Ministies International is an evangelist group that travels to college campuses all over the country, telling gay, lesbian, muslim, buddhist, and atheist students that they are going to burn in hell for all eternity. They verbally accost students who they deem to be “the right type” of persont to go to hell, telling them that God doesn’t love them. If you disagree with the creators of this evangelist group, Michael and Tamika Venyah, then join this one in protest.”