Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Lesbian Pioneer Passes

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns death of pioneering community hero Del Martin
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the death of Del Martin, 87, who died today in San Francisco, Calif. Martin married Phyllis Lyon, her partner of 55 years, on June 16, 2008. In 1955, the couple joined six other lesbians in founding the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco, the first lesbian rights organization in the nation. In 1997 and 2004, the Task Force honored Martin and Lyon for their decades of community service.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive DirectorNational Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has suffered a devastating loss today with the passing of Del Martin, who was one of our movement’s most courageous and extraordinary figures. We extend our deepest sympathies to Del’s family and, especially, to her life partner and, most recently, legally wedded spouse, Phyllis Lyon. “Del Martin, with Phyllis Lyon always at her side in a remarkable relationship that spanned more than five decades, dreamed a world in which sexual orientation and gender identity and expression would be accorded full dignity and respect. They spoke the unspeakable, wrote the unthinkable, and lived their lives as few before them ever had: open and proud lesbians in 1950s America.“Del and Phyllis were inspiration in action, living openly and proudly as a loving couple long before many others felt safe to stand with them. Their love for each other gave them strength and sustained them; that same love, courage and grace have left an indelible mark on our movement, and in each of our hearts.“Del and Phyllis have personally been an inspiration to me since I came out when I was 16 years old. In my office, a picture of the two of them looks over me as I work to carry on their work and their vision for living our lives in truth. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will honor Del’s life by using our uncompromising voice and fighting for justice and equality — a voice made louder and stronger by her 87 years of life. Thank you, Del, for showing so many of us the way.”
More about Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
Founding the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon launched the world’s first organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbians. When they published The Ladder in 1956, the first magazine by, for and about lesbians, the couple created the means for lesbians to know themselves and each other and to break out of the stultifying isolation that marked many lesbian lives, inviting thousands of women to join a nascent but growing lesbian community. Throughout their decades of activism, Martin and Lyon made the vital connections among communities and movements, engaging in social justice advocacy projects that included anti-war, civil rights, anti-poverty, HIV/AIDS, and women's health and empowerment. In 1964, they participated in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, the first organizing in this country to forge a wider space and a welcoming place for LGBT people in faith communities. In 1972, the couple published their groundbreaking book, Lesbian/Woman, named by Publisher’s Weekly in 1992 as one of the 20 most influential women’s books of the past 20 years. Lesbian/Woman spoke to a new and hungry generation of women, eager to answer their clarion call to sexual liberation and freedom. Martin was an early leader in the battered women’s movement, again breaking new ground with the publication of Battered Wives in 1976, a book that inspired grassroots organizing to end domestic violence and the establishment of shelters for battered women. Lyon-Martin Health Services, founded in 1979 in San Francisco and named in honor of Martin and Lyon, is the only free-standing community clinic in California with a specific emphasis on lesbian/bisexual women and transgender health care, delivering quality health care services regardless of ability to pay. In 1995, they were appointed to the White House Conference on Aging; they continued to advocate on behalf of older lesbians through Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. The valuable lives and good works of Martin and Lyon are the subject of the 2003 award-winning documentary, No Secrets Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, by filmmaker Joan E. Biren. Martin and Lyon made history again, becoming the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of California on June 16, 2008. In 1997, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 10th annual Creating Change Conference in San Diego, Calif., Martin and Lyon received the Community Service Award for their organizing work and political involvement. At the 2004 conference in St. Louis, Mo., they were honored with the Creating Change Award, which read, “You spoke the unspeakable, you wrote the unthinkable. You lived openly and proudly as a loving couple long before a movement would stand with you.”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fairness and Equality

This comment appeared in response to the call on this blog to help reinstate the Hate Crime ammendment to include protection of GLBT people.

"This blog is sick, perverse, and contrary to nature. Just like you queers."

This is what a bigot sounds like. This is what drives the anti-gay movement - a deeply ingrained belief that efforts to bring conversation that confronts the many myths surrounding the GLBT community is "sick, perverse, and contrary to nature."

The wonderful thing is that Venango County and much of the country - much of the world - is getting past this kind of bigotry. It's no longer possible to control what people know. What people are learning is that those who hold the beliefs of the commenter are the ones who are sick, perverse and contradicting nature.

Science is now proving that homosexuality is as natural as being left handed. The genetic markers are most clear with homosexual men. Science is often ahead of the general population and typically religious conservatives are the last to accept the truth. But then, most of you reading this blog already know all that. And the few watching who hang onto ingrained stereotypes and lies aren't going to change their minds reading this blog.

An interesting example of how the religious right works science to prove something that isn't science at all was on the radio this week. Seeking NPR, I stumbled onto a story about DNA. The speaker was explaining how 30% of a worms DNA is common to ours. And DNA research is very demanding - even one letter change and it can be totally misinterpreted. I was interested. Then the punch line telling me this was certainly not NPR. All this DNA research proves that Moses was right all along when he said we humans are as close to dust as we are the other animals. AND this proves that the only truth we need is the Bible.
Where's the DNA research in the Bible? I missed that...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Help Reinstate the Hate Crime Ammendments in PA

When I was a boy growing up in Boston I had an older neighbor who was a little different. As a teenager Rick was outgoing, liked to dance and wore flamboyant outfits. Despite his clothing choices, he was popular with a lot of the boys in the neighborhood because he was a great dancer, and he was willing to teach us some basic moves so that we could go to the junior high dances and not look completely foolish.

One day I saw Rick walking by my house, but I didn't recognize him. His face was swollen his nose was broken and he lost some teeth. My mother said he was beaten up because he was "a queer." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew it was wrong to beat up somebody simply because he was a little different. I remember telling my mother that there should be a law to protect people like Rick.

In Pennsylvania, there was a law protecting people like Rick. It was an amendment to a law called the Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act, better known as the PA Hate Crimes Law. It was overwhelmingly passed in 2002 by Democrats and Republicans and signed into law by then-Governor Mark Schweiker.

That bill extended protections against hate crimes for people based on their gender, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity and mental and physical disability.

But last month the PA Supreme Court struck down the law on a technicality, saying it was passed illegally. That leaves Pennsylvanians in all of those categories vulnerable to hate crimes.

I don't know about you, but I find that unacceptable. That's why we're calling on our State Senators and State Representatives to once again pass this legislation-and to do it right this time. Pennsylvania protects people based on their religion, race and ethnicity. Shouldn't we extend the same protections to people based on their gender, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity and mental and physical disability?

Please join Keystone Progress in calling for the reinstatement the amendments to PA's hate crimes law at

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This County - This time in History

When I left Venango County in 1975, it was a very homogenous place. The Barrow Civic Theatre in Franklin did not exist. It was a sports store. The Latonia Theatre in Oil City was a furnature store. I don't recall a single art studio. No coffee shops to meet in. My sense was, if you wanted to be involved in the community, you had to be connected somehow. It seemed you had to be tied to the right family and you had to fit the narrowly defined "right type" in order to be part of anything significant.
Some exceptions I recall were shows by the Civic Operetta in Franklin. I volunteered to usher plays at the high school and experienced some wonderful shows. Lil' Abner, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1776, Fiddler on the Roof... And I was fortunate to have been part of Franklin High's Madrigal group.
A teacher gave me the very first copy of MS magazine. I still have it. There were visionaries here. Coincidentally, many of the people I remember from those experiences now live in other places. But some remain.
I left and became part of other communities doing many of the things I didn't think would be possible in Venango County. I was active in the Federal Women's Program, NOW, Women's Networks, and discovered amazing Lesbian Feminist activists along the way. I spent time in Woman Only space - Spain, NYC, Upstate NY, Spokane, Wichita, areas in New Mexico, Minnepolis, Akron, Chambersburg...
The greatest observation I would offer from these experiences and these communities is that empowered women bring creative solutions to community issues. Women in leadership positions tend to be more inclusive and more willing to think outside of the box. Women tend to be more creative. And the men who support the empowerment of women tend to be more creative and self assured.
This brings me to the greatest change I see in Venango County. More women are now in leadership positions than ever before. Even in conservative circles, women are at the forefront. That's a huge change from 1975. It is changing the "feel" of Venango County. It's changed the face of the county. There are more cultural and creative outlets than ever before that are open and assessible to everyone.
This is what empowerment does. This what inclusion creates.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why are You here?

More than 30 years ago, I left Venango County determined never to return. So how did I wind up back here? Halfway across the globe and back to Venango County like a slow boomerang. How does that happen? How has Venango County changed? How have I changed? Why am I here?
Who really knows the answer to such questions? We're drawn to the familiar. We seek connection with our roots and find ourselves back home. Jobs, family...
Venango County has changed as much as I have changed.
If you never left, what have you seen happen here? If you left, why did you return?

It's your turn. You tell your story and I'll tell mine.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Take a bite out of discrimination!

In case you didn't hear, there's a local effort to punish McDonald's for joining the National Gay/Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. While I'm certain the proposed boycott will fail miserably, you and I can do something to make our vote heard.
I'm not a proponent of fast food but am encouraged that a large company would take such a public stance. So, let's take a bite out of any possible impact of a boycott locally. Stop at McDonald's. I've already done so, which means they had a few more dollars this month then any time last year since I don't normally go there. I discovered a long line ahead of me (on Sunday morning) but did it anyway. It was worth it as I discovered you can get a great Ice tea with real lemon for just a buck.

Why do we need community?

Sometimes the world looks very complicated and unfriendly. Mass communication, including the internet, has put information in front of us that people could never have imagined when I was born. We now get detailed information, sometimes minute by minute, about missing children, cheating politicians, war horrors, and millions of other glimpses of lives around the globe.
And yet, most people old enough to remember another generation feel there is less of a sense of community than ever before. People are more mobile and often do not live in the area where they grew up. Families are spread out across the country or even the world. Neighbors do not know one another. We no longer have the long histories with one another which used to go back generations.
Why is that important? History and community provide context and perspective to our lives. When we are personally connected to a broader number of people living around us, we have a greater sense of our interconnection – the impact of our actions or inaction on the lives of those sharing this life experience with us.
In a recent workshop we were asked to consider what would happen if we were suddenly placed in a survival situation with a random group of people. Imagine you are in the grocery store and suddenly the world is gone somehow. The people there are now Your People. You must make a community. It includes the dirty, stinky man in isle 10, the radical church lady at the counter, the goth kids in the back, the macho man, the crazy lady, the beauty queen, lesbians and gay men as well. Now what?
The reality is, that is exactly the world we live in. These are all our people. We share this space and time. We live in a diverse world. We need to hear one another. We have a responsibility to ensure that all voices are heard. It is a shared responsibility.
As GLBT people we need to build our community as a support for one another. But we also need to be an open and active part of the larger community in order to hear and be heard. Get out, be involved. Survival will get a whole lot easier.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Water those seeds!!!

Seeds have been planted all around Venango County. Seeds of Fairness and Equality. Seeds of growth and prosperity for the region. Seeds of justice. Seeds of kindness and good will toward all.
Let's help them grow!
This weekend, as with most weekends in the area, there are dozens of events to choose from - music at the coffee houses, a Paddle In at Oil City's Justice Park, an ORA sponsored Motorcycle event, a show at the Barrow... Pick up the newspaper. Get your friends together and water some seeds!
Just show up! Be there. That is how we make a difference. We show up and support the people who are doing good things. We vote for what is right and good in our community by being a part of it. Just show up! Have fun.
The trend for far too many years in the area has been to sit back saying "there's nothing to do around here." There's plenty to do around here and you're support is needed to create the kind of community you want.
While other people are boycotting things, let's be about supporting things.
So, again - Come out, come out, wherever you are! Water those seeds you want to grow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Come out, Come out, wherever you are!

A new resident of Venango County is beginning to believe there are no gay men in the area. Imagine that! He read all the warnings from the AFA and WAWN, moved here and nobody's home.
It does pose the question - how do GLBT people get together in Venango County. Just meet. No Diane, not to have orgies and destroy your family, just meet. Sorry to disappoint your wild imagination.
For those of us who have lived here many years, we suffer the same problem. But we know who to call on a given night to find out where the local are gathering. And we have typically stayed underground so we don't raise the attention of those who are determined that we should not exist in the light of day.
New people are moving to our area and they include GLBT people. So folks, we want the existing community to be fair and open to us. How are we going to be welcoming to our new GLBT people? How can we - as a GLBT community - put out a welcome mat for our new neighbors?
You have a venue that is open to your ideas. Come out, come out, wherever you are!