Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Gays of 2010

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Another few hours and we'll be sliding into 2011.

Time to look back at the year in gay. I've compiled the stand out individual achievements in the LGBT world this past year, which has taken all kinds of thought since comparing these folks is like apples/oranges.... or I guess more like pomegranates and carambolas. Mainly, I rated these folks based on how well they spread the gay agenda, regardless of whether it was in the arena of journalism, politics or entertainment.... based on purity of their intent, reach of their message, and difficulty of the obstacles.

10. Steven Slater, aka The Jet Blue Flight Attendant

He probably doesn't belong on this list, but what the hell - it was one of the most talked about personal news stories of ther year.

Fed up with his job, with mounting pressure from dealing with an ill mother, Steven was mad as hell and was not going to take it any more.

After getting hit in the head with luggage, he eventually took to the mike - delivered his resignation, then popped the emergency door, grabbed some beer and slid out to fame and fortune. Celeb publicist Howard Bragman - who also works for recent out tv housewife Meredith Baxter - took him on as a client, and Slater is working on a book.

Considering the never ending recession, the wars, the ridiculous bail outs to big money, this story hit a nerve with all every day Americans. Most of them touted them as a hero for sticking it to the man.

9. The Gays of Modern Family

Nothing spreads the hope of tolerance like bringing lgbt people into America's living rooms on a regular basis. Not since Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or Will & Grace, has there been a huge American tv hit with gay main characters until Modern Family. (Previous lgbt rep winners also include Brothers and Sisters, The L Word and Queer as Folk....but this show looks to score those big big ratings and awards)

Not only has this show revitalized the American sit com, but amongst the three families, one is gay. The out gay Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the straight Eric Stonestreet play a gay couple who has just adopted a baby.

Television is helping LOADS with familiarizing the American public with who we really are (gay couples on House Hunters, open gays/lesbians on Project Runway, Top Chef, et all), and it's nice to have a few prime time shows as the tent poles of representation. Especially when it is just an simple family. They don't go to discos, do drugs, they don't have multiple sex partners, but they do have a gay best friend played by Nathan Lane.

It's sad that there are actually two gay networks - here! and Logo - that have managed not to fit this bill tending to head instead into not only stereotype exploitive shows like Dante's Cove and The A Gays, but bad shows (there are exceptions, like Rick & Steve - rent it!) Actually, most people think when you say Gay Network, you're referring to Bravo. Andy Cohen has turned that network into a plethora of gay sensibilities.

8. Graeme Taylor

A shockingly eloquent 14 year old addressed a school board on the issue of a suspended gay teacher who asked a student to leave his class room because of anti gay remarks.

As I suspected, this video not only went viral fast, but Ellen invited this young man onto her show.

I can't imagine what it's like when an entire town or city is against you, and you have the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

7. Joel Burns

This Fort Worth City Councilman surprised everyone when he took an unexpected moment during a City Council meeting to talk about teen suicide, turning the next 14 minutes into an unbelievably poignant and moving call for tolerance.

It is profoundly emotional when Joel has to pause several times to fight back tears.

Joel was supported in his run for office by The Victory Fund. If you would like to support LGBT candidates for office, please click on that link and donate!

6. The Gays of Glee: Ryan Murphy, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer

Murphy has a long track record of insinuating the the plight of our peeps in all his shows including Popular and Nip/Tuck - not only casting LGBT people, but having story lines revolving not just around lesbian and gays, but transgenders. But when he teamed up with Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan to create Glee, it was a homoexplosion right on prime time television.

Chris Colfer didn't even realize he was supposed to stay in the closet. He came out right away in an Advocate article and the network and studio grumbled since they weren't consulted. But what they felt would hurt the young actor and the show, turned into an Emmy nomination. And a Golden Globe nomination. And a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. And a hero for lgbt teens.

Following in the footsteps of such rare out gay teens on television like Wilson Cruz in My So Called Life, Colfer's character Kurt and his homosexuality took center stage in many of the episodes - with storylines revolving around coming out to his father, dealing with bullying, and having a crush on his straight best friend.

Jane Lynch has always been a steadfast, active advocate for LGBT rights (and animal rights). She's been on the board of directors of The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, appeared at upteen LGBT fundraising events and starred in countless gay films by young up and coming queer film makers.

Once she hit big with GLEE, that didn't stop. In a fame theme park ride rivaled this year only by Betty White - Jane graced the covers of magazines, hosted award shows, appeared in the Emmy's opening musical number and hosted Saturday Night Live. Huge visibility to say the least, and at every opportunity, she spoke about being openly gay and her recent marriage to her partner Laura.

5. Constance McMillen

Constance wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom. That simple thought sparked a nationwide debate and coverage as the teen hit all the major airwaves with her story including Ellen, CBS, CNN and the rest.

Hailing from a small Mississippi town, the mere fact that she is a lesbian put her in such a tremendous environment of hate and discrimination, it's amazing she had the courage to even make a peep. But peep she did - becoming the poster child for all lgbt youth across the country that was facing similar discrimination.

She lawyered up and sued the school district. Then they had a prom and DIDN'T TELL HER WHERE IT WAS. She endured taunting and discrimination from adults and kids alike. It was one lesbian against an entire town.

The hickville environment of said town, however, was nothing when the entire nation seemed to step up to back this teen. She won $81,000 in damages from the Mississippi school district ($35,000 goes to her and the rest to legal fees), and Ellen awarded her a scholarship to college. On top of that, ABC Family bought the rites to her story and is going to make a tv movie about it. She also served as the Grand Marshall in the New York City Pride parade - giving lgbt teens across the country a hero.

4. Ellen

I can't even imagine in my wildest dreams having a lesbian on tv like this when I was a kid. And not only tv, but you can't open up a single mainstream chick magazine without her face plastered in two page ads for the mainstay Americana company Cover Girl.

She makes the list because she has had almost everyone in this top ten list on her show. She doesn't hide her sexuality, and I'm pretty sure it's not popular with studio execs and networks when she takes the pulpit for LGBT issues - which she always does.

It's good to have friends in high places - and this lesbian comes into America's living rooms every weekday and she continues to be a voice and a positive representation for LGBT folks.

And introduces American audiences to some of the unknown and brave LGBT people like #5, 7 and 8 on this list.

3. Dan Choi and The Get Equals

I mean if you've ever seen some ridiculous homophobic news story (anything starring John McCain this year) and just uttered profanities from your couch or ranted at a cocktail party, Dan and the folks of Get Equal were the ones that got out there and did I think what we'd all like to do. Big crazy shit. Like chaining themselves to the White House. Like staging a sit in outside Nancy Pelosi's office. Like disrupting President Obama's speeches. Like crashing Senate hearings.

These people don't stop until they're arrested, escorted or kicked out.

If you've ever just wanted to scream or take the bull by the horns, these guys are the ones that did it this year.

Get Equal is a small national organization that not only takes meetings with politicos in DC, but tends to get all up in their faces. They are like the Greenpeace of LGBT politics. Led by the quintessential everyman - a former PTA mom - Robin McGehee, they utilize a national network of grassroots activists to visibility bring attention to issues, and pressure the politicos at a constant and steady pace.

The organization gained momentum because - and seemed to be the answer to - such large organizations like HRC (as Rachel Maddow calls them, "the gay organization without gay in the name") - who sit on millions of dollars and have nice dinners, but tend to be soft on the issues with politicos in DC (many speculated ED Joe Solomnese was soft on Obama for so long since he was positioning himself for a post in the administration).

Check out a sample of their work - crashing a hearing on ENDA ( I love how she starts it, "With all due respect...")

They garner tons of criticism for their grassroots tactics, but if you support this sort of thing, I highly recommend you visit their site and make a donation:

Get Equal took on the cause of DADT with Lt. Dan Choi. Choi hit the scene hard when he came out on The Rachel Maddow Show as gay while still serving in the military. Choi was the perfect poster boy for DADT- West Point educated, articulate, decorated, combat veteran and a Arab linguist. I mean - who could not hear this guy speak for five minutes without thinking, "yeah, we shouldn't kick guys like this out of the military"?

That public outing surprisingly did not get him discharged. That came later when he chained himself to the White House. After that, he was discharged. Then he was free to lead a very public and tireless fight against DADT.

After dealing with what he calls major let downs with advocates such as Harry Reid, and unbelievably harsh criticism from the gay community, Choi was recently committed involuntarily to a VA hospital after having a break down. He felt the politicos had made one too many promises to his face, and then made one too many compromises - and he endured the gay community calling his antics PR stunts and insinuating that he was merely seeking his own fame. That plus the fact that he was now without that which he cherished the most - his military service. The pressure had built up, and now he was paying a heavy price.

A month after his nervous break however, the House and Senate came through. Here's a fantastic video of Senator Reid with Choi after Obama finally signed the repeal of DADT.

2. The Perry v Schwarzenegger Gays

(photo, interview mag, Chad Griffin center, Dustin Lance Black second from left, Bruce Cohen far right - and entire team of AFER)

Here's something that could turn the tables nationally on gay marriage, and it was again in direct response to failing campaigns in various states to defend gay marriage by large gay organizations.

Ted Olson - a conservative! - and David Boies are two powerhouse lawyers, and they are currently fighting for marriage equality in California by attempting to annul the Prop 8 vote on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

This is - in a nutshell - what this is and how it broke down. In California, we fought and lost Prop 8 - and it was the most money raised for a ballot initiative I think ever. That means we taxed our lgbt resources to the max and still lost. While the gays licked their wounds, the gay orgs started in-fighting about when to put the marriage equality initiative back on the ballot.

Nothing like gays in-fighting I tell ya - it's akin to Krystal and Alexis in the cement pond engaging in hand to hand combat.

This is where these gays and some Hollywood players tore a page from the book of the movies. Political consultant Chad Griffin initiated the assistance of film director Rob Reiner and his wife Michele and soon a plan was hatched. A smart one. Why don't we just hire the best attorneys in the country take the bastards to court?

Soon, The American Foundation for Equal Rights was formed and their Board was filled with gay heavy hitters like Bruce Cohen (producer, Milk, American Beauty) , Dustin Lance Black (screenwriter/activist), Lt Dan Choi, David Mixner, Cleve Jones, Hilary Rosen, Stuart Milk and Griffin himself (along with some kick ass straight advocates as well).

And of course, we have the two plaintiff couples - lesbians Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and gays Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo.

Perry v Schwarzenegger was born. The premise was that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

(pictured left, the plaintiffs)

It's been a long and windy road but here's where we're at. We won. Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in the Northern District of California Court that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. But wait... there was an appeal. And those pesky bastards that hate us petitioned for and won a stay (that means even though we won, we can't get married until the appeal. I know, I know, this is more complicated than Inception)

This appeal was heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in early December. Basically, this could keep getting appealed to the Supreme Court where - this where it gets really juicy - this court case could have national consequences - good or bad.

It's a ball-sy move, one that has also been criticised by lgbt organizations - but if they pull it off - it could mean marriage rights nationally. Stayed tuned here.

If you like this plan, these guys and what they're doing - please click on that link and give them money! Elton John is hosting a concert for them to raise money soon - buy tix to that!

1. Dan Savage

Dan Savage did one little tiny thing which didn't even cost any money to start. He created a web site and uploaded a video and encouraged everyone else to do the same. This lead to a national contagion of epic proportions where everybody from President Obama to Tim Gunn to Bob your mailman uploaded a video. All sending a message to lgbt youth - and the world - that It Gets Better.

Holy cow - tell me what else has brought the issues of LGBT folks onto every television, youtube and facebook page to this degree.

This was done in response to several teen suicides this year that generated mass public shock at all the stories of young people killing themselves because of gay bullying. But here's the really interesting thing - the numbers of teen suicides aren't any higher or lower than they've ever been - they just FINALLY GOT PUBLIC ATTENTION.

That alone was a monumental achievement. Then by Savage starting this campaign, it kept the topic very much in the public eye and hit everyone on their heart strings just right, often, and continually.

Once again, there was criticism. I'm seeing a trend here - every time someone goes out on a limb and does something awesome and creative, someone's going to bash them. Some say lgbt teens need more than just some rhetoric on a youtube video.

Well I say this has fired up the American dialogue on what we LGBT people have been dealing with forever - discrimination. We have all dealt with it. No lgbt teen had a cake walk coming to terms with their sexuality, sexual identity and eventual coming-out. And it has put it out there in such a viral way, that everyone knows about it. That is amazing.

I think what Savage has done was one simple, creative idea born of desire to stop the horrible persecution of lgbt teens - and it's a campaign that worked on the level of involving everyone, and exposing it to everyone. Kudos.

Savage was clearly upset and felt he had to do something - and he included all of America in his mission. Brilliant.

It Gets Better was started to raise money for The Trevor Project and GLSEN.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama Finally Signs Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy

I can't think of a better Christmas present - today after 17 horrible years of witch-hunts, lies and ruined lives - Don't Ask, Don't Tell has officially ended with a signature by President Obama.

A crowd of LGBT activists looked on, and I snagged a few of their shots from Facebook to share with you.

It was one of Obama's campaign promises to repeal the ban of gays in the military, and activists had been criticizing him for dragging his feet.

With the GOP taking over Congress come January, the clock was ticking. It was denied, until the House put a separate bill together. Then Obama backed the tax cuts, and suddenly the DADT repeal flew through the House and the Senate.

(pictured above, activist Robin McGehee with her son to the left, and Davix Mixner to the right. Also in background - Dustin Lance Black, Oscar winning screenwriter of Milk)

With the signature, we still have to wait for the joint chiefs to figure out how to implement, and then wait for 60 days.
Log Cabin Republican ED R Clarke Cooper - an Army man - salutes the president after the signing

Several of the activists that tied themselves to the White House fence several times this year in protest were there to witness the signing, including PTA mom-turned-activist Robin McGehee and discharged West Point Grad Dan Choi. The latter had to be involuntarily hospitalized just two weeks ago by the VA after having a break down he attributed to both the the duplicity of allies in congress and the criticism from LGBT activists for his tactics. Today, Harry Reid gave Choi back his West Point ring. (see photo to left, care of National Equality March)

Last night there was a last ditch effort by the Republicans to block the repeal in the Senate by tacking on verbiage in a defense authorization bill, which fortunately failed.

The U.S. now joins countries including Israel, Canada and Great Britain who also allow gays to openly serve. Senator McCain called it "A very sad day", but you know, he can kiss our asses.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Gets Better: The Benefit Gala for The Trevor Project rocks the Hollywood Palladium at Trevor Live

As Kathy Griffith so rightly announced from the stage, "You don't say 'no' to the gays", and indeed the celebs turned out en masse to help celebrate and support the work of LGBTQ organization The Trevor Project last night.

If you haven't heard of The Trevor Project, you've surely seen the It Gets Better videos floating around the internet (Obama made one) in response to the recent rash of teen suicides. This viral activism was started by Dan Savage for The Trevor Project which hosts a national teen suicide hotline, along with educational programs and outreach to help reach LGBTQ youth in crisis.

Check out the opening number, which set the tone for the entire evening - Darren Criss, the new kid on the GLEE block, singing with Katie Perry.

Executive Director Charles Robbins started off the evening with a wonderful introduction explaining the organization, it's services, history and impact. One could think an evening dealing with suicide could quickly turn maudlin, but Robbins speech celebrated the victories and show director Adam Shankman's (Hairspray) production was a loving tribute to the victories in LGBT lives.

I especially liked how Robbins started off the entire evening with a quote from one of my favorite lesbians Eleanor Roosevelt, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Among those performing included husband and wife team Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs with a mash up of Cole Porter and Ebony/Ivory, where they played around the themes of mixed marriages: "I could star in Yentl, I could star in Roots". Katy Perry kicked off the night with a fantastic performance of Teenage Dreams accompanied by GLEE's Warblers and that hunky new Darren Criss.

An homage to marriage came with the musical number by James Marsden and Neil Patrick Harris, which was accompanied by photos first of classical Hollywood scam marriages (Liza Minelli/David Guest, Spence/Heidi) then gay marriages (Ellen/Portia, Elton/David).

David Arquette sang "Single Ladies" with Dave Navarro, alumni from the casts of Rent did a stirring rendition of "Seasons of Love", Queen Latifah belted out her showstopper from Hairspray "I Know Where I've Been" and comedian Sarah Silverman sang a song I think was called "Cunt" (that was the most used word in the lyrics at least).

Recent Entertainment Weekly cover girl Jane
Lynch gave an award to Kathy Griffith who was
off the wall funny and outrageous (as usual). Griffith recently announced that she's going to donate her salary from her upcoming Gibson Amphitheatre show to Trevor, and commented, "I see Google and Levi's gave $15,000 - well they can suck my dick, I'm giving way more and I'm an individual." She then lifted up her award and announced, "That's right I bought this award!"

Levi's also received an award during the evening for their years of LGBT support, including their work in the 1980's during the HIV/AIDS early days. Someone leaned over to me at our table and said, "Makes you want to buy Levi's doesn't it?" after the presentation.

Hot Hollywood hunk Josh Duhamel presented with Fergie - not his girlfriend - Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family, who cooed over the hottie. Jessica Alba and Justin Long also made an appearance introducing a mother and son who were highly affected by The Trevor Project. The mother/son spoke about calling the Trevor Project hotline - a call that ultimately saved the boy's life. They were both in tears, and the crowd stood to their feet.

Other celeb presenters included Anna Kendrick and Emma Stone (two of my favorite young up and coming actresses) and Amy Poehler.

We also heard from a young lady who had been so bullied and rejected by her family, that she moved onto the streets, turned to drugs, joined a gang and was raped - all before finding her way of that environment. "If it can happen to a nice girl from Beverly Hills," she warned as she told her story. She is currently a volunteer at The Trevor Project having committed her life now to helping other young people avoid tragedy.

LGBT teens are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide. Sarah Silverman explained it pretty well invideo response to the recent rash of teen suicides..

Here's some photos from the rest of the evening:
Get the flash player here: