To the staffers at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s Auxilliary Services:

I noticed with great surprise today your social media-esque text-over-photo meme in an announcement of Spring Break hours:

Perhaps it was just an unknowing mistake. I’m willing to give you the great benefit of doubt.

Perhaps you did not know that Chick-fil-A has been embroiled in controversy for years for its corporate support of non-profit groups that fund anti-LGBT organizations.

Perhaps you didn’t know that among those groups are organizations like the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has named an anti-LGBT hate group. Or, other groups like Exodus International, which, before closing last year, pushed the utterly un-scientific, harmful and dangerous “ex-gay” message that LGBT people could be “cured” through prayer and divine healing.

Perhaps you didn’t know that Chick-fil-A’s COO, Dan Cathy, tweeted (and then deleted) a message in response to June’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a portion of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, that called the landmark move toward equality a “sad day for our nation.”

Maybe you are exuberantly looking forward to the day when Chick-fil-A will cease funding some of the more extremist political and social groups that have regularly received money from them. Or, perhaps, like Shane Windmeyer, your former staffer and current executive director of the national group Campus Pride, you are hoping that personal relationships and friendships, even across lines of difference, can help move the needle by changing hearts and minds (a strategy, by the way, that I fully support).

But, even if all that is true, what is also still true, as so eloquently pointed out by The Advocate‘s Lucas Grindley, is that Chick-fil-A has yet to fully cease its anti-LGBT funding — still giving to groups that oppose marriage equality, though they’ve stopped giving to the more stridently bigoted groups like Family Research Council.

I’m not a UNCC staffer. I’m just an (extremely) part-time student. But, if I were a staffer, I’d have been greatly displeased that you decided to speak on my behalf and lump me in with all staff people who allegedly “love” the short lines at Chick-fil-A. I haven’t eaten at Chick-fil-A in years, and won’t ever again. I won’t because I don’t want my money going to a company that will turn around and then give it to organizations who are fighting tooth and nail against my very existence and my civil and human rights. If I wanted to donate money to organizations that hate my very being, I’d write a check myself. Instead, I think I’ll support companies like Salsarita’s, which you also named and which spends its company’s time, resources and finances supporting homeless families instead of denigrating LGBT ones.

So, simply put, no, I don’t think all UNCC staff persons love the short lines at Chick-fil-A. Indeed, I’m pretty damn certain there are many of them who skip those lines entirely.

Perhaps — just perhaps — it might be wise of UNCC to do two things: (1) pause and ask itself why it is doing business with a company that has actively funded groups that discriminate against a portion of the community you serve — a community of people whom you have committed to protect via non-discrimination policies and other inclusion practices, and (2) even if it did decide to continue doing business with such a company, why it would highlight it in such a positive manner, knowing that a portion of your students, staff, faculty and others associated with the campus are the direct target of that business’ anti-LGBT funding.

Perhaps, all of this just seems trivial to you. “Oh, those gays and their pesky boycotts,” you might say. But, it’s not trivial. It’s my life, my rights and my human dignity. And, you’ve chosen not only to do business with a company that doesn’t give a shit about me, but also chosen to speak on behalf of some of those very same people just like me who will never look at Chick-fil-A and be able to feel anything but exclusion and distrust.

UNC-Charlotte, you can and should do better.

P.S. (March 3, 2014, 9:24 p.m.) — No, news tonight of Chick-fil-A’s decrease in anti-LGBT funding doesn’t change my mind. The company still has no LGBT-inclusive policies and some of its funding is still problematic. Progress? Yes. But, it isn’t complete inclusion.

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2009: The year that was (or wasn’t)

Another year has come and gone. Since I began blogging, first on Blogger, then my own hosted blog and then here at InterstateQ.com, I’ve always done a year-end recap of my biggest stories of the year.

This year’s rewind is kind of sad, to be honest with you. As the economy continued to falter and challenges mounted up for print media across the nation, we felt our own sting at my day job. My friends and fellow staff at QNotes managed to hold our own, but responsibilities there led to a decline in my frequency of writing here.

Regardless, I managed to pull off some good stories here although many weren’t the “breaking news” I used to publish before I made the leap from blogger to “traditional media” gig.

So, in a way it was the “year that wasn’t” here at InterstateQ.com. Regardless, catch my Best of 2009 after the jump…

(P.S. — Be sure to check out my “The defining decade of my youth” at Bilerico Project.)

Continue reading this post…

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Local organizing, ex-gay protests, HRC

You might be asking, “Where the hell is Matt? He hasn’t made a post in, like, forever.”

My little gay butt has been working overtime the past two weeks as the whole of the gay world (or, at least, a good portion of it) descended on Charlotte at exactly the same time.

I worked with the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) to plan grassroots events Feb. 14 and Feb. 19-21. CRANE organized a Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day awareness event in Uptown Charlotte and a presentation, “Pray Away the Gay,” with author and activist Wayne Besen. On Friday, Feb. 20, we held a fabulous press conference. That evening I attended Takeover Friday at the Westin Hotel. On Saturday, Feb. 21, I attended the Focus on the Family Love Won Out “ex-gay” conference as media. I helped to organize the protest outside. The very same evening I attended the HRC Carolinas Gala. It has been a busy, busy two weeks and this past weekend was perhaps the gayest ever in the history of Charlotte. I’m sure the mainstream press and police departments very quickly began to refer to it as “the Gay Weekend.”

Here are snapshots, one video I’ve been able to complete and a news story from the many days I’ve been absent from the blogosphere… More photos and videos will be posted at Q-Notes Online and I’ll make sure you see them here, too.

CRANE Feb. 14 Uptown Awareness Event

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Takeover Friday at the Westin

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Love Won Out conference & CRANE protest

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Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala

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Video

Take a gander at the press release below, then head over to www.truthwinsout.org and, for more details on events visit www.rainbowaction.org/events/.

TWO Joins Coalition of North Carolina Organizations to Counter Infamous ‘Ex-Gay’ Road Show
New Landmark Publication, ‘Ex-Gay & The Law’, To Be Unveiled At Friday Press Conference

Truth Wins Out (TWO) announced today that it has joined a coalition of North Carolina Charlotte at Nightgay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates responding to Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference, which encourages people to “pray away the gay.” Led by the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE), there will be a week of educational events in Charlotte designed to get correct information to the public about the danger of ex-gay programs. The coalition will also offer honest and accurate depictions of the lives of GLBT people, to counteract the distorted view offered by Focus on the Family.

“The research is very clear that you can’t pray away the gay and attempts to do so can be harmful,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “Focus on the Family is offering false hope to vulnerable people and profiting from their pain. They are intentionally confusing stereotypes with legitimate science in an attempt to mislead people about homosexuality. We hope to offer a realistic view of our lives and use sound science to set the record straight.”

The week’s events include a lecture by Besen (Pictured Right) on Thursday, Feb. 19, at theWayne TuxLesbian & Gay Community Center (7:00-8:30 PM). On Friday, Feb. 20, there will be a press conference at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Charlotte (11:30 AM). On Saturday, Feb. 21, there will be a non-violent protest against Love Won Out (11:00 AM-2:00 PM) in front of Central Church of God (5301 Sardis Road).

At the Friday press conference, Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal will release a landmark publication, “Ex-Gay & The Law”, that aims to educate victims of “ex-gay” programs of their legal options. The many people who have had their lives damaged by ex-gay programs inspired this work.

“Ex-gay programs teach that homosexuality is demonic and ‘treat’ children as young as three years old,” said Besen. “What they do is dangerous, scientifically unsound and rejected by every respected medical and mental health association in America.”

CRANE is a grassroots coalition of activists and community members working toward civil and social equality for Charlotte’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community. Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that defends gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from anti-gay lies. TWO also counters the “ex-gay” myth and educates America about gay life.

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Headlines: At the week’s end

A re-cap of the last week at InterstateQ.com and around the blogosphere.

Royal Queen
Prince Harry’s antics continue to raise eyebrows, being called racist one day and enlightened the next. Either way, it’s hot.

And the winner is…
On Tuesday, I urged you to vote your conscience for Best LGBT Blog in this year’s Weblog Awards. While I contribute to both Bilerico.com and PamsHouseBlend.com, and rooted for them the whole time, Towleroad shone through as the winner. Congrats!

Campus crusading
A Campus Crusade group wants to work with a campus LGBT group on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. I still can’t figure out how that’s going to work out.

‘Ex-gay’ lies
Exodus International’s Randy Thomas continues the legacy of the group’s long-standing disingenuousness, claiming no one is ever forced into “ex-gay” therapies. The stories from the long list of gay youth victimized by such therapies call such claims into question.

A model for the nation
Florida LGBT groups are teaming up in a united coalition to fight regional and statewide threats to equality. On Wednesday, I said such a coalition could serve as a model for countless regions around the nation, as well as our national LGBT community.

Secretary of the Gay
A Boston, Mass.-based grassroots group wants a “Secretary of GLBT Affairs.” The U.S. Department of Queerdom will have fabulous office furniture and impeccable interior design for sure.

Lavender Folder
A Charlotte talk show host took shots at several North Carolina and Charlotte LGBT organizations in his Jan. 15 broadcast. Audio included.

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Randy Thomas and ex-gay disingenuousness

In response to a recent Dan Savage column, ex-gay Randy Thomas, an official with Exodus International, wrote (h/t Ex-Gay Watch):

For the most part, we are intelligent, balanced, stable, tolerant of what we may not personally accept and loving. We looked at what identifying as gay and all of the predetermined relational options of what that means and said, “no thanks.” Some of us have experienced orientation shift and others haven’t … and we are all living out our faith and life as we see fit. I and everyone I know, have no desire to force others into our line of thinking.

Except that last line is a lie. Time and time again, ex-gay ministries or their supporters have forced gay teenagers at ages 16 or 17 into residential treatment centers.

Zach Stark

Zach Stark

Back in Summer 2005, teenager Zach Stark was forced into an Exodus International-affiliated treatment center. The late Jerry Falwell, an Exodus supporter, “dismissed psychologists’ claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.”

And we can’t forget about Lance Carroll, who was forced to attend the same residential treatment center as Stark. He says the “therapy” included isolation and group shaming sessions where one participant would be singled out and shamed for the personal occurrences in their life.

There’s also this gem, the story of Jeff Williamson, a young man whose parents made an appointment for him to go to an ex-gay therapist referred by Focus on the Family, an Exodus supporter. He says he wasn’t “exactly forced,” but felt “an intense pressure” from his parents. What else is a teenager supposed to do?

It’s situations like Williamson’s that might just be the most dangerous. Teenagers and other young people who feel so pressured to go into these therapies that they keep all of their emotion, grief or anger bottled up inside. For LGBT youth, who are already more susceptible to suicide, these factors are all a dangerous combination.