Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Have a "Courageous Conversation."

The Courage Campaign, Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfield) have a special message for you. I love when they say, "This isn't about winning someone over, it's about having the conversation." It is exactly how I feel and how I approach this subject of marriage equality.

Have the conversation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Happy Holidays!!!

To all who have celebrated holidays in the past month, I hope they were full of cheer, friendship, good food, rest and happiness! While I had planned to be in NYC for Christmas (with a roadtrip to one of my surrogate families' homes), Saturday brought a change of plans. Bad news was that I wasn't working extra through the holidays (which I kinda needed to do), but good news was the reason why. I am happy to share that I am a new team member of Apple as a Family Room Creative Specialist! But I don't start until mid-Jan/early-Feb, so I was able to be with my family for the holidays. Yipee!! I came home to construction on our house, knocking out a wall, and lots of painting and table/chair, bathroom fixture/sinks/tile shopping with my mom :) It was a great time. We will celebrate our Buffie version of Christmas later when my sister returns from the Peace Corps and her additional travels on January 15!!!! WOW 2 1/2 years without seeing someone!! Makes you even more thankful for your family around the holidays!

As we enter the new year, so many like to make resolutions of habits. Of course I have those, but this year I want to focus on living some of these quotes I've collected over the past few months...
  • "Today's preparation determines tomorrow's achievement." - Unknown
  • "Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light." - Yogi Bedtime Tea (which is really good)
  • "What you say, you speak into existence."
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
  • "Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't." -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." -Eleanor Roosevelt
Peace in the Holidays and 2010 ~ Claire

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Important Votes & Statements

Both in DC and here in NY, there have been incredible steps taken and inclusive statements made for the LGBT community.

In the District of Columbia, Council passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 11 to 2. (Take a hint, NY) This second successful vote now sends the bill to Mayor Fenty who has pledged to sign it. It is so important to have support of this bill in our nation's capitol, making a statement for the entire United States. Congratulations to all of the advocates who have worked tirelessly to bring us to this historic day.

And right here in NY, I couldn't attend because I was in a job interview, but Governor Patterson came to the LGBT community center in Manhattan yesterday where he delivered great news. He issued an executive order extending anti-discrimination policies to gender identity for state employees. This is a step towards the passage of GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) which will protect private employees as well. It is interesting to compare the states that have established the same executive order - they aren't necessarily the states that have marriage equality. "New York joins eight other states in which an executive order, administrative order, or personnel regulation prohibits discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity: DE, IN, KS, KY, MD, MI, OH, and PA. In addition, twelve states and DC prohibit full employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: CA, CO, IL, IA, ME, MN, NJ, NM, OR, RI, VT, and WA." So that gives us a total of 20 states + DC in which you cannot be fired for being gay, simply put. But that's still less than half. And not acceptable.

OH. and. Dec 12, Houston, Texas elected its first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker. Annise will be in charge of the fourth largest city in America, and is the second woman elected Mayor in Houston's history. Many people in New York helped raise money for her campaign, and obviously those funds were needed to beat her opponent. Annise's campaign fought off very anti-gay attacks, and won with 53.6% of the vote.

Parker, 53, has never shied away from, nor made an issue of, her sexual orientation. She has been with her partner for 19 years and they have two adopted children. "I have always stood up for the fact that I am gay. It's part of the resume that I bring to the table, but it's just a piece of the package," she said. Congrats.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's worse? AIDS or the NY Senate Vote?

Yeah. That's a harsh question, isn't it? Well, I mean it.

Let's start with something a little, not happier, but more hopeful. World AIDS Day was last week (sorry I didn't post closer to it.) Leigh-Taylor, my roommate Matt and I went to City Hall just a 5 min walk from my apartment to read names of those who have lost their lives to AIDS. The book I read from, of three total, was maybe 1/3 of the way through the giant three-ring binder and it was already 10:00pm, many hours into the vigil. We were there among NYC Public Allies (my sister was a PA) and a few independent people just like us, people who wanted to honor and remember those who have lost the battle and stand with hope that someday, preferably in my lifetime, we will see the end to this devastating disease. And this is in the US. My sister, Sarah, just left Namibia, Africa after 2 1/2 years in the Peace Corps. You want to talk about AIDS? No one, myself included, can wrap their head around what an awful epidemic HIV is. But we can all hope and pray for a future without it.

The vote. Ok I did not post about the NY Senate vote on Marriage Equality immediately because I wanted to be appropriate. The energy and emotional disappointment I felt following the hours I spent glued to the computer watching the live stream would not have made a good combination with public blogs and social media. Why, NY, why? And a 24-38 vote? We put so much effort into the Republican and conservative vote - but we still have many Democrats voting against this civil right. The senators who proudly spoke during the stream were insightful and passionate. The people who voted against this act proposing deserved equality cowardly said "no" with no explanation. Some things I took away from the debate:

Why is marriage so important? (among the 1,324 rights that marriage grants)
  • Access to employer-provided health insurance for partners or adopted children
  • Ability to sponsor your partner for immigration
  • Denied rights to non-biological adoptive parents
  • Joint insurance for home auto and health insurance
  • Hospital visits and questions
Sen Diane Savino, 23rd Distrtict, brought up a brilliant, yet kind of disgusting point about our society. "Watch reality tv shows – they’re giving away husbands! 25 women can compete to win the heart of a 40 year-old man who hasn’t been able to hold a serious relationship or a man can choose between 25 beautiful women and love or $1,000,000."

Rather than asking yourself how can you vote yes? Ask yourself how could you vote no? As a senator who believes in our constitution, as a woman, as a Jew, as anyone who has experienced discrimination themselves or in their family/friends, how could you vote no?

Reflecting on his own recent wedding– the most important and moving day in his life – Sen Daniel Squadron of the 25th (my) district said he was empowered to speak up about the importance of this decision today to allow every person to equally and rightfully experience what he did on his wedding day. Think about your wedding - the one you had, maybe the second one you had, the one you want to have.

"History has shown that extending civil rights to all people has made our nation whole, held up the constitution of the US, and improved our society." - Jose Serrano, 28th District

So what's next? We have to keep going. In January, we could see this bill proposed once again. Thank your senators who said "yes." Remind them that they are voting in the right. Write your senators who said "no." Share a personal story with respect. When you get defeated about it, just think, "Iowa did it."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

United Nations International School and a bonus


Monday morning, upon my return from the holiday week, I did one of the best school presentations I've been a part of with PFLAG NYC Safe Schools Program. The United Nations International School is an incredible school of diverse students who are truly ahead of the game. Because of their rich blend of ethnicity, race and religion, they have a level of acceptance and celebration of differences that is admirable and inspiring.

On top of that, I was honored to be speaking with Kate Hathaway, a proud mother of 3 children: a writer, an actress, and a college student, one of whom is gay. We shared our stories of our family members who have come out and brought attention to the normalcy of my sister and her son - that coming out did not change WHO they are. We emphasized that this is not a choice and were able to expand on that when asked "Is there such a thing as a gay gene?" We discussed how different cultures dealt with homosexuality as the 9th grade students shared insight into their communities in the Middle East, Kuwait for example. We told about our emotions of pride and love, but also tears of sadness, never wanting to see someone you love struggle for the rights that PEOPLE should naturally have. We congratulated these students and their mentor Dennis Lacey for building their GSA program. On their website, the executive director, Stuart Walker, writes, "Additionally, the school seeks to prepare students for the leadership that this world so urgently needs." So I thanked these kids for being the leaders who embrace diversity and challenged them to continue that, outwardly accepting diversity in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity as well.

Even at the end, when Kate revealed that her son Michael, the writer, who was an assistant to a film star...Anne Hathaway, his sister---aha! get it? They were excited and anxious, but immediately got back into the discussion asking about the "gay gene." The amount of focus and respect that these kids had was just amazing. This was the best experience I have had speaking at a school and I definitely want to make a yearly habit of it.

The Hathaways have made a big impact with PFLAG, but especially other LGBT organizations, namely the Empire State Pride Agenda. In my Equality and Justice Day blog post, I explain meeting this family for the first time. They are true leaders in this fight who strongly stand up for marriage equality, especially in the state of New York. They are also a family who humanizes this fight and fame simultaneously. For this, they were honored at the Empire State Pride Agenda 2009 Dinner. Their incredible speeches are below. In Mr. Hathaway's speech you will also hear a bit of the story that I witnessed Kate tell at UNIS...a coming out story about pride and love.

Anne Hathaway

Gerald Hathaway