Friday, May 29, 2009

You're Graduating! (And even if you're not...) Here's some wisdom: Ellen's Commencement Speech

Ellen DeGeneres gave this commencement speech to the graduating class at Tulane University, 2009.

She's brilliant. Watch it!



Thanks, Ellen!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Talk


By Kathe Koja

Kit is secretly gay, and has a major crush on Pablo. Kit's best friend Carma (who pretty much knows) dares him to try out for the school play.

Kit gets cast as the male lead, opposite Lindsay, their school's leading lady.

While Kit is crushing on Pablo, Lindsay crushes on Kit, and then their controversial play (about getting a terrorist to talk) is threatened - some parents want the school to shut it down.

So Kit and Lindsay have to fight for the play and for the truth - the battle rages in school, onstage, and even inside themselves.


Add your review of "Talk" in comments!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So You Want To Write or Illustrate for Children and Teenagers? THE SCBWI SUMMER CONFERENCE 2009 - And Why It's an AMAZING opportunity!!!

SCBWI - The Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators - is an awesome organization. How awesome?

Check this out!

SCBWI Tribute from Kimberly C. Baker on Vimeo.



SCBWI has their big international annual conference in Los Angeles this August 7-10, 2009 (lots of great info on it here), and I'll be there, live blogging the event with an amazing team of fellow authors and bloggers. (Check out links to their blogs in the right hand column, under "SCBWI TEAM BLOG")



If you write or illustrate (or want to write or illustrate) or are otherwise part of the children's book universe, come to the conference and it could very well be the highlight of YOUR career year, too!

There are sessions on craft (how to become a better writer and/or illustrator) taught by some of the biggest luminaries writing and illustrating for children and teens.

Honestly if I start naming names, I'd have to list them ALL... (click here for the full list!)

But I will say that I'll be having an exclusive pre-conference interview right here on "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" with Ellen Hopkins!!! AND another interview with Holly Black!!! and I'm very very very excited about talking to both of those AMAZING authors!

There are sessions on the business (agents and editors talking about how to do things and about their own personal tastes)

There are even opportunities to have your work professionally critiqued!!!

But wait! There's more....

There's a beautiful pool, a gala costume party, joke contests, a bookstore, chances to get SIGNED COPIES of your favorite books by your favorite authors, so much fun to be had, and endless opportunities to network and make new friends on your professional journey!

I hope to see you there,

Namaste,
Lee

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Same Gender Marriage in California - The CA Supreme Court Issues a Bittersweet Ruling on Prop 8

So my same-gender marriage, and the other 18,000 same gender marriages that happened last year are LEGAL, and will remain LEGAL.

But Prop 8 was upheld, and no other same-gender marriages can be performed (or will be recognized) in California.

How incredibly ridiculous is that?

7 out of 7 judges upheld my marriage.

But only 1 out of 7 understood the basic principals at play under all the legalese - that for a majority to deny a minority its rights is NOT the American Way!

In Justice Moreno’s view, “[d]enying the designation of marriage to same-sex couples cannot fairly be described as a ‘narrow’ or ‘limited’ exception to the requirement of equal protection,” but adds that “even a narrow and limited exception to the promise of full equality strikes at the core of, and thus fundamentally alters, the guarantee of equal treatment . . . . Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment for all. Promising treatment that is almost equal is fundamentally different from ensuring truly equal treatment. Granting a disfavored minority only some of the rights enjoyed by the majority is fundamentally different from recognizing, as a constitutional imperative, that they must be granted all of those rights.”


Justice Moreno declares that “Proposition 8 represents an unprecedented instance of a majority of voters altering the meaning of the equal protection clause by modifying the California Constitution to require deprivation of a fundamental right on the basis of a suspect classification.” He states that “[t]he rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage Cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities” and “weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority.”


I suggest the other 6 Justices, and everyone else for that matter, re-read this:



And think about the spirit and the meaning of these words, from the Preamble to our nation's "DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE"

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


Everyone can understand ALL people should have equal rights. I was raised to believe that's what AMERICA stands for!

The California Supreme Court embarrassed itself today with this Prop 8 ruling. And while I'm grateful that they upheld the legality of my marriage, I'm appalled at their coming down on the WRONG side of equality for everyone else.

A little sweet.

A lot bitter.

A very bitter-sweet day.

The fight will continue...

Namaste,

Lee

Monday, May 25, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Thoughts for Next Year, Part 3. Other Schools' GSAs - collaboration versus competition


Generally, the nature of inter-school relations is competitive (often the only organized interactions are sport or academic competitions which set students from different schools AGAINST each other.)

But with GSA clubs in multiple schools, there's an opportunity for collaboration between schools and for friendships between students. For community.

Friendships flourish in shared experiences and circumstances. Like campers from different schools who come together over the summer, or summer job co-workers, or probably even the top 10 on American Idol (who'll be on a 50 city tour this summer.)

I don't personally know if other affinity clubs in high schools (like Asian Pacific Islander students, Latino students, and Black students) feel a kinship with their counterpart groups across school loyalties, but I bet they do.

GLSEN reports that there are over 4,000 GSA clubs in schools in the USA as of 2008.

Maybe you could explore the other GSAs in schools around you - after all, they're part of the same GLBTQ and Allied community.

Maybe there are some joint events you could plan with another GSA club at a different (or even rival) school for next year?

Just like a rainbow crosses borders,
those of us who make up the GLBTQ rainbow come from everywhere.
This makes us uniquely positioned to bridge
the traditional conflicts and competition that divide groups of people.
We build our community across ALL other communities.
There's an opportunity in that.
What do you think?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hope Part 4, or Another Great Thing You Can Do: The Bridget Zinn Auction



From April Henry's blog, as posted at The Bridget Zinn Auction site:


This is Bridget. Three things happened to Bridget in February:
1. She got an agent for her young adult novel.
2. She got married.
3. She found out she had Stage Four colon cancer.

I met Bridget a year ago at an Oregon SWCBI event. She had just moved to Portland from Wisconsin, where she was a teen librarian. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. When she found out she had an agent, she was just glowing. A few days later she went to a naturopath for headaches and vision problems. She ended up in the ER – and learned very quickly that she had cancer.

As Bridget says in her blog, “I would like to add in here that I am a super super healthy non-smoking, non-drinking, carcinogen avoiding young vegetarian who wears sunscreen every day. I looked at the list of risk factors for colon cancer and it turn out that I don’t even have one. Not one risk factor. So that was a surprise. Then Barrett and I decided to get married. He proposed on my hospital bed, it was terribly romantic and we were married by the hospital chaplain the first possible moment we could be.”

But now Bridget is dealing with an ugly reality that is all too common in America today. Even when you have insurance that covers most things, it doesn’t cover everything. Medscape reports, “The cost of treating colorectal cancer has skyrocketed over the past 5 years or so, and the costs of new agents and regimens have risen 340-fold.”

Here’s how you can help. A group of writers who have been impressed with Bridget’s friendliness and what can only be described as her radiant joy (even now) has banded together to help Bridget with the costs she faces.

One of the activities will be an online auction.


The Auction is up and running, and bids are being taken until 11pm Saturday May 30.

There are some AMAZING things being auctioned:

FOR WRITERS WANTING TO GET PUBLISHED:

Reads and critiques by

Kristin Nelson, Agent

Nancy Mercado, Editor Roaring Book Press

A unique team critique by Dori Chaconas (author) and Andrea Tompa, assoc. editor Candlewick Press

and many more critiques by award winning and wonderful authors!!!

FOR WRITERS WANTING MORE READERS:

There are so many amazing opportunities!!! Like these:

an expert social media plan,

a personalized book launch consult,

a custom audio production of a program you can use as a podcast and on your website,

a custom marketing package,

your own website designed for you,

a custom teacher guide created just for your book,

even a podcast interview

and a radio show interview!

FOR READERS:

There are Many, Many, Many signed first editions and Original works of ART!!!

There are too many wonderful choices to even try to summarize them here, but there are some incredible finds - like this ARC of "Dreamdark: Silksinger" with temporary faerie warrior facial tattoos that Laini designed!

Oh, and this signed first edition of Stephanie Meyers' "Eclipse" (the 3rd book in the Twilight series)

FOR EVERYONE:

There's so much more...

Vacations,

baby quilts,

hand crafted journals,

more vacations,

goody bags,

a dragon jester stick!,

custom kitchen knives

...hey, you can even bid to get Carl Kasel's voice on your answering machine!

There are so many great things beyond what I highlighted... and it's for such a great cause!

So please, Go check it out (and get your bids in) to help Bridget and get something AWESOME for yourself!

Thanks for being part of sharing the HOPE this week!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This was going to be Hope Part 3 - but, scratch that. Kris Allen wins American Idol.

Adam Lambert (Left) and Kris Allen


Just after announcing Kris Allen as the winner of this year's American Idol contest,

Ryan Seacrest: How does it feel?

Kris Allen: It feels good, man, but um, Adam deserves this.

Yes he does.

Sigh.

Oh, America. What the Hell? Kris is cute and a good singer, but Adam is a star and an AMAZING SINGER!

I guess the best revenge will be that Adam will end up being the biggest star that was ever on American Idol.

And I'll be first in line to download all his songs!

I guess we'll get back to "Hope" tomorrow.

Heavy sigh.

Namaste,
Lee

***UPDATE***

this post-show interview with Adam from EW:

I want to just get this question out of the way first, something that's been dangling a bit over you for the whole season: Would you like to put to rest all the speculation about your sexuality?
It's not dangling over my head. [Laughing] It may be dangling over yours, but it's not over mine. Yeah, I think speculation keeps things really interesting.

So you don't want to say anything one way or the other?
Like I said, I think speculation keeps things very, very interesting. [Laughs]


All I can say right now to that is:

Aaargh!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hope, Part 2: A 3rd Grader puts together a rally of hundreds of people for same-gender marriage!

A few days ago a teacher contacted me to let me know that one of his 3rd grade students had put together a marriage equality rally... at the state capital in Denver, Colorado! (Here's one of the many articles on Ethan's rally in the Denver Post.)

Here are some photos from Ethan's Rally that his teacher sent me to share with you all:






Times like these make us yearn for hope. And this child, nine year old Ethan - who is so wise, gives it to us.


UPDATE: HERE'S VIDEO OF ETHAN'S RALLY!!!




Here is the text of the speech that Ethan read on the steps of his state's capitol building:

First I want to thank everyone for coming, specifically the speakers that took their free time to come and speak and support me and equal marriage rights.

At our rally today there might be some people that have a different view than us and they might say some unkind things, but please keep all of your positive energy on the rally. Despite the view of these people

I believe that I am doing the right thing and it will help lots and lots of people and make many lives better.

I believe that everybody is equal. No matter their religion, race, or sexual orientation. In the past different figures in history have improved civil rights, like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. And things got better. But not for everyone.

We need to continue to fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians. Over time things have gotten better for gays and lesbians, but there are two things that have not improved: 1. equal protection for gays and lesbians and 2. Equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

I believe that everybody deserves equal protection. This includes police officers and government officials, without bias. On July 9, 2008 an off duty police officer threw the first punch in an anti-gay bar fight and smashed a glass into a gay man’s face before running off. In school you’re taught that the police are supposed to be your friend. How are you supposed to believe that when you’re gay and a police officer just smashed a glass into a gay person’s face? Have you ever heard of a police officer smashing a glass into a straight man’s face? [not all police officers are like this]

I also believe that everyone deserves the choice to get married. I don’t understand why people seem to think that civil unions are the same as marriage? In civil unions you don't get the same benefits such as if your partner dies you don't get their retirement Why are straight couples better than gay and lesbian couples? If you were gay or lesbian how would you feel if you weren’t allowed to get married then later you
see a straight couple get married? People marry because they love each other and want to stay together the rest of their lives. That’s important to children and to adults. If you are married you can go to the hospital to see your partner. If you aren’t married you can’t be there if your partner is sick or dies just because you are gay and lesbian? Do you think that’s fair that one person can stand by their partner when they are sick but a gay or lesbian person can’t? But getting married is not only a right but a responsibility.

In conclusion, there is a lot more work to be done regarding marriage equality and equal protection. I hope this rally will make an impact and let our voices be heard. Once again I would like to thank everybody for coming.


Wow. I have another new hero. And I feel hope for the future of our world!

Thank you Ethan. And thanks to your Mom and to your teacher for supporting you in this amazing step for Gay rights!

With great respect,
Namaste,

Lee

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hope, Part 1: Teenage Boys In Jail. What gives them some hope for their future? Books.


Check out this amazing project to help out Teen Boys who are in LA juvenile detention.

Guys Lit Wire and Inside Out Writers are teaming up for a two week bookfair to get some hope (in the form of books) into the hands of these kids.

Go read about it. And maybe buy them a book.

Some of these kids are gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Questioning. Heck, some of them are even straight!

A single book could change their lives.

Like Colleen says, Let's change the world!

Monday, May 18, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Thoughts for Next Year, Part 2. Mentoring, Giving Back, Giving HOPE

Four generations of hands in my family


Okay, another thing to consider is how can you and the other kids in your high school GSA reach out to the community in the middle and junior high schools you came from?

Not that you have to have ALL the answers to be a mentor, but even two of you going back and talking to a human development or health class at your middle school about being in the GSA at your high school and what it means can make a huge impact on the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders there.

At every point in our journey, we benefit so much from reaching out and helping others.

In fact, one of the best recipes for cooking up your own self-esteem is to get out of your own head and volunteer to help someone else.

Think about what an impact it would have made on you if someone had come in to talk to YOU when you were in 7th grade about their being a Gay Straight Alliance club in the high school.

Realize that YOU can do that for the kids in the junior high. You can give them that gift of perspective, of knowing there's a safe space for them, no matter if they're gay, or questioning, or straight - you can give them that gift of hope!

Things like this take some planning, so start thinking about what steps you'd need to take.

Also, whether or not you're involved in a real-world GSA, getting out there and giving back is something we can ALL do, in many different ways.

Think about how YOU want to give back next year. How can you volunteer? How can you give the gift of HOPE?

And now make a plan to make it happen!

Namaste,
Lee

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Saturday Bonus Post: How cool. James over at Book Chic interviews... ME!


And it was really fun!

Check it out here!

Thanks to James for including me in his GLBT Month Celebration!

Namaste everyone,
Lee

Friday, May 15, 2009

Let's BUTCH it up, gentlemen! Figure Skating goes "Macho" for the 2010 Winter Olympics

Did you miss this?



Canadian skating officials, in advance of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, say the sport needs to get macho. Skate Canada hopes to expand figure skating's audience by projecting an image of "masculinity" that will draw in the "hockey crowd."

Snarkiness of the "Good Morning America" hosts aside, I'm flabbergasted by the assumption that a sport has to be macho to be hard - or the parallel flawed logic, if it's not brutal then it's not really a man's sport.

THIS IS ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA.

"If viewers think the athletes are gay, they won't watch." That's the subtext of this whole thing.

This goes right back to the stereotype that "real" men do hard sports, and if there's a softer sport (I'm thinking ballet and figure skating - two physically demanding but not "aggressive" sports) then the men that do that can't be REAL men - they must be gay. AAARRRGHHHHH!!!!

GAY MEN ARE REAL MEN!!!! For that matter, Swishy, effeminate men are REAL MEN, too! I think I need to shout that again:

SWISHY, EFFEMINATE MEN ARE REAL MEN, TOO!

It also makes me think about Olympic level gymnastics. Those guys don't wear the sequins and frills some figure skaters wear, but even there, with their muscles straining as they do stuff with their bodies that 99.9% of straight guys couldn't even IMAGINE doing (the ring routine? crazy!) Not ONE single gymnastics athlete was OUT in the last summer Olympics in Beijing. Not ONE gymnast. And look how girly it looks:


That's Yang Wei, the all around gold medal winner from China in the 2008 Beijing Olympics - We don't know if he's gay or not, but he sure looks like quite the athlete!

Maybe the answer is for the male figure skaters to wear less! Show us more muscle. Perform in just speedos. It worked for Matthew Mitcham!



That should satisfy the hockey crowd and prove to them the sport is masculine enough to admit they enjoy it. And the gay audience won't complain about the changes, either...

This whole "controversy" tells us three things:

1. Homophobia in sports is still a major problem.

2. We need more athletes - in aggressive AND in non-aggressive sports - to come OUT!

3. The media, in reporting the story this way, is quite happy to let the homophobic subtext go without talking about it. They'll talk around it. And snicker at the thought of figure skaters being masculine, but they won't address their own homophobia. So we have to call them on it.

For more Cool Gay and OUT Sports stuff, check out outsports!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Riverhouse Stories: How Pubah S. Queen and Lazy LaRue Save the World


By Andrea Carlisle, illustrated by Mary Narkiewicz

Two women live together on a houseboat.

Pubah is an electrician, and a dynamo.

Lazy is a writer, and a dreamer.

Together they experience life's small epiphanies, like feeding ducks. And rainbows. And difficult cats.

And together, all those little experiences add up to their life's BIG love.


Thanks to my loyal blog reader who recommended this as a book teen readers love, citing it's "extremely playful" tone! Add your review of "The Riverhouse Stories" in comments.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inferno


By Robin Stevenson

Your best friend has moved away, without you ever getting to have 'the conversation.'

You change your name from Emily.

You call yourself "Dante."

And then you meet Parker - a girl, a high school dropout, an anarchist.

Sometimes when you fall for someone, you fall into an "Inferno."


Add your review of "Inferno" in comments!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lieutenant Dan Choi comes out, gets fired under "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and what President Obama said about his commitment to end the policy

Rachel Maddow interviews Lieutenant Dan Choi about his recent coming-out and dismissal under "Don't Ask. Don't Tell." She also speaks with the highest ranking former military officer in the US Congress, Representative Joe Sestak, (Dem. PA)

Rachel starts off the segment by sharing a hand-written note President Obama sent a female officer, Lieutenant Sandy Xou [phonetic spelling of her last name] who wrote the President after she was also recently discharged from the military for coming out as gay.

It's essential viewing:



Lieutenant Choi's final words in the interview,
"We Want To Serve"

still ring in my ears!

For more info, you can check out the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

All right, President Obama. We're waiting for you to come through on this!

Monday, May 11, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Thoughts for Next Year, Part 1. Tentpoles, Anchor Stores, and Events of the Season!

Thousands of GLBTQ people and our straight allies
wore RED at Last year's Gay Days in Disneyland


And I was one of them!

As this year winds down, it's a great opportunity to think through what goals you have for the GSA next year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be tossing out some ideas for YOUR group to discuss. (And if you don't belong to a Gay-Straight Alliance club beyond this virtual one, I'll be sharing some ideas for you, too!)

Something you might want to consider for next year is the idea of building the semesters (or trimesters, or whatever your school calendar is) around one or two major "EVENTS."

Kind of like how malls have "anchor stores" - usually big department stores that ostensibly make it worth walking to the end and then turning around. It's something to build around.

Even movie studios have the idea of a "tentpole" movie during the summer. Something big that everyone (they hope) looks forward to. An "event" that you plan things around.

So similarly, what about structuring next school year's GSA activities around one or two events?

You can create a GSA winter dance and/or a GSA Prom - even teaming up with some other local schools' GSA clubs or the local PFLAG chapter to pull it off.

You can organize a GSA field trip to something like Gay Days at a local amusement park...

You can bring in a speaker to talk to the GSA and the whole school...

You can organize a movie series...

You can shoot your own video...

You can organize a book club to read and discuss some great GLBTQ Teen books - and you can choose which books from the amazing lists here!

There are so many options - talk with your group and brainstorm what YOUR GSA can get excited about. Having a event to build towards for each session of school will help give some focus and contribute some important momentum for each meeting of your club.

And if you find yourself with only this virtual club membership, think about how you can build your year around an event that would be exciting and affirming for yourself. Some goal/experience you can work towards and achieve. You, too, can find a GSA Prom in your state and plan to attend. You can go to a PFLAG meeting. You can travel to a local (or national) amusement park's official or unofficial Gay Days. You can bring in a speaker to where you go to school or work, or you could go see a speaker. You can rent your own movie series. You can shoot your own video. You can create your own book club to read and discuss some great GLBTQ Teen books!

Funny, those lists of possibilities are very similar.

I guess my point is that giving some structure to what you hope to get out of being part of your GSA (real-world and/or virtual) is something I hope you consider.

Have fun dreaming, setting some goals, and planning for next year!

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, May 8, 2009

But will she have to give the fake breasts back? It's hard to be a "Christian Role Model": Miss California's semi-nude photos, and more...


Okay, let's quick catch up:

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, lost the Miss U.S.A. pageant recently - in large part due to her anti-same-gender marriage answer to judge Perez Hilton.

Following her loss, she became a "darling" of the conservative/religious right, and signed on to be a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage’s campaign against same-sex marriage.

This week, semi-nude pictures were published on the web of Ms. Prejean, questioning her "Christian role model" credentials.

These photos seem to be in violation of Ms. Prejean's contract with the Miss California organization, who are already quite angry with her due to her expression of her political views.

"In the entire history of the Miss USA, no reigning title holder has so readily committed her face and voice to a more divisive or polarizing issue," organizers said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened Carrie Prejean has forgotten her platform of the Special Olympics, her commitment to all Californians, and solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs and instead reveals her opportunistic agenda."


Ms. Prejean says the topless photos were taken when she was 17, and that they were simply part of her work as a model.

Her detractors say the shots were clearly taken recently, after her breast enhancement surgery.

The breast enhancement surgery that she had 6 weeks prior to the Miss USA contest. The fake breasts the Miss California Organization PAID FOR.

What???

Okay, really, I like a contest as much as anyone else, and I confess I watch "Make Me A Supermodel," (which has men and women competing) yet I have to say that these pageants (whether or not they call them "scholarship programs") keep women down in our culture - they make women seem trivial, holding up a few as "models" while saying to everyone else that if you don't measure up physically, you're not as worthy of admiration.

An image from the Miss USA website.

Beauty contests are harsh things.

But a pageant that PAYS for a woman to get fake boobs so she can better compete in the next pageant?

ICK - ICK - ICK!!!

I hate everything about that - what it says about our culture (we don't care if the exterior beauty is real or not) - what is says about winning (we don't care about playing "fair" as long as we win) - what it says about hypocrisy - For a competition to be okay with paying for a contestant to get breast implants but not be okay for contestants to have topless photos taken seems to be wanting it both ways - they want the girls to LOOK like a whore, but act like a nun?
Am I the only one that thinks this is absurd?

As much as I dislike Ms. Prejean's wanting to be Miss California and Miss USA - in some way representing me - while she doesn't want me and other GLBTQ people to have equal civil rights, I'm also appalled by a woman who would let an organization pay for her to get breast implants so she could look more the part of the buxom cliche of "Miss U.S.A."

I wonder, now that the Miss California organization is so angry with her, do her newly fake breasts make Ms. Prejean as uncomfortable as they make me - just knowing about them?

And, if she loses her conflict with the Miss California organization, will Carrie Prejean have to give the fake breasts back?

And where, in all this controversy, is Kristen Dalton, the Miss USA winner?

What do you think?

***
Breaking news, per Today's (May 8, 2009) Philadelphia Daily News Tattle Column:
According to TMZ.com, the roots of Carrie's bias against gay marriage stems from her parents, who filed for divorce in 1988 (which must have been about the time she was born). But TMZ says the divorce and custody fights went on for more than a decade and a great deal of the acrimony stemmed from homosexual allegations.
According to a filing from Carrie's dad, in 1996, his ex accused him, in front of Carrie, of homosexuality.
The papers also quote a court-appointed doctor who said, "The mother questioned [within Carrie's earshot] whether [her father] was a homosexual or had a homosexual roommate."
In court papers from 2000, the court-appointed counselor says Carrie's mom "also alleges the father told the girls their stepfather was gay, that all men with mustaches are gay."
And then there's the letter from Carrie's sister explaining the time the girls were visiting dad and saw dad's roommate in bed with another man.
"I don't think it's right for my sister & I to have to live that way," Carrie's sister wrote.


Interesting...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maine Governor signs Same-Gender Marriage Law! Maine becomes the 5th state with Legal Same-Gender Marriage

Now we can imagine that the Farmer and the Sailor
on the Maine Flag are actually a gay couple
- and that they're LEGALLY MARRIED!!!


Wow. We're up to 10%. 5 out of 50 states. Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, and now Maine.

And we'll see where California ends up with the State Supreme Court's ruling on the legality of Prop 8... And on Tuesday of this week Washington, D.C., voted to recognize out-of-district same-gender marriages (though it still has to be approved by the US Congress)

What's really fascinating about Maine's entering on the side of same-gender marriage equality is what John Baldacci, the previously anti-gay marriage Governor of Maine, said in his written statment:


"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said in a written statement. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

And while there still may be a public referendum in Maine (what they call a "People's Veto") to strike same-gender marriage down, for now, we get to celebrate some Progress.

We will get to equality. One state at a time...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10,000 Dresses


By Marcus Ewert, illustrations by Rex Ray

Each night, Bailey dreams of dresses.

Elaborate fantasy dresses, each one different, each one just waiting to be tried on.

But when she tells her Mom:

"Bailey, what are you talking about? You're a boy. Boys don't wear dresses!"

"But... I don't feel like a boy." Bailey said.

"Well, you are one, Bailey, and that's that! Now go away... and don't mention dresses again!"


After her family shoots down her dreams three times, Bailey runs to the end of the block, and at a house with a big, blue porch she meets an older girl, Laurel, who is sitting there with needles and thread and old sheets.

"What are you doing?" Bailey asked.

"Making dresses," said the big girl. "But it's really hard. Mine all come out looking the same!"

"Maybe I can help," said Bailey.


Bailey and Laurel work as a team and create two beautiful dresses made of mirrors, one for each of them.

Laurel tells Bailey that she's the coolest girl she's ever met.

"Hey, do you think you can dream up any MORE dresses?"

Bailey grinned.

"I think I can dream up 10,000!"


This simple picture book melts my heart. The child, born a boy, who is sure she is a girl. The family that can't hear her, that can't be there for her to follow her dreams. How Bailey ultimately finds someone out there who does help her follow her dreams. How she finds, in Laurel, true family.

By tackling gender identity with a transgender child main character, "10,000 Dresses" is brave and ground-breaking and so well done.

The upbeat and funky illustrations hit the right tone as well. While Bailey's facial expressions throughout might have expressed more range, it's clearly an artistic choice and puts our focus as readers more on the fantasy of the dresses and the story itself.

"10,000 Dresses" is truly a picture book I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid. It would have opened my mind up to more possibilities - and for kids, for all of us, that's a wonderful thing.

Namaste,
Lee

ps- add your review of "10,000 Dresses" in comments!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

KT Horning interviews Mayra Lazara Dole about "Down To The Bone" - A Latina Book Month Celebration!

Mayra Lazara Dole, Author


I loved this interview so much that I asked KT Horning (who had the amazing "Worth The Trip" Blog and is in the news here) and the author Mayra Lazara Dole if I could re-run their interview at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" My thanks to them both for letting me share this updated version with you!

Mayra Lazara Dole’s first young adult novel, Down to the Bone, was published [in March 2008] by HarperTeen. It’s a surprisingly funny story about what happens after a 16-year-old Cuban-American girl is publicly outed and ostracized by most of her family and friends. Mayra has a unique ability to make us laugh through tragic circumstances, without making light of them, and she is definitely a rising star in the field of young adult literature. She was born in Cuba and now lives in Miami with her partner, Damarys.

What inspired you to write Down to the Bone?

My inspiration came from my teen experiences, current experiences teens in my focus group expressed, and also from a deeply rooted love for my Cuban heritage/culture and a desire for Miami Cuban homophobia to be exposed so it could be discussed openly. After being chemically injured by pesticides which nearly took my life at the time, I developed MCS and needed to live hermetically sealed, like The Boy in the Bubble, without exposure to any chemical whatsoever. I felt an overwhelming need to leave behind a funny book that inspired and moved others to promote free thinking, love and tolerance, and that would motivate straight, gays, monkeys, whatever… to stomp on hate.


Are there parts of the book that are autobiographical?


Yes. At fourteen, my first love and I were thrown out of high school due to a muy caliente love letter she sent me detailing our first time making love (too juicy to recount!). Much like Laura, I had a boyfriend but my heart beat passionately only for my one special girl. As a teen, I was a mix of Laura and Soli’s personality (I didn’t hook up with everyone like Soli, though). The rest is realistic fiction motivated by emotions ranging from extreme joy to deep loss that teens in my focus group were experiencing.

There are a lot of painful and tragic events that happen in your book. How did you manage to make your book so damned funny?

I haven’t a royal clue! Cubans are a fun, gregarious lot. We could be chopped into pieces after a tragic accident, eyeless, toothless, and pushing in our bleeding liver and we’d manage a final whisper, “Don’t worry. I’m fine. I’ve always wanted reconstruction organ surgery.” In my early teens, my closest friends were drag queens and gay guys. I’m still close with one of my first drag queen friends. We destroy each other via email with outrageous comedy skits that nearly burst our spleens. I do have a pensive, insightful, deep side which Laura also shares. It’s about being both extremes and workin’ it.

I was intrigued by the trans character Tazer, and was secretly hoping that Laura would get together with him. Can you tell us a little more about him?

In my first draft, Laura had fallen for Tazer but as I revised, Laura Rumba’d me into another direction: most Miami Cuban lesbos’ true life experiences (they’d be terrified to be seen with a genetic girl who looks and thinks she's a boy, thus why most lesbians here look femme even if they’re butch under the sheets). In other words, in writing Down to the Bone, I stayed true to my culture. On the other hand, if Laura had been an adult, she’d have probably gone for Tazer, the handsome, sensitive, intelligent playwright. Wouldn’t everyone?

I know I would! Another colorful character was Viva, the mother of Laura’s best friend who took her in. I hope every queer kid has an adult like Viva in their lives. Can you tell us a little bit about where her character came from?

Viva’s loving heart was created from the love gifted to me by my now deceased paternal aunt, Nina. Nina raised my brother and me after my father died and my mother took on three factory jobs. Unfortunately, I was too terrified to come out to her and wish I would have. Once, out of nowhere, she said to me, “No matter what, I’ll always love you, Mayrita.” Down to the Bone is a tribute to her unconditional love. Viva’s quirky personality was inspired by Beba, my funny/wacky/metaphysical mother-in-law. Earlier today, Beba left us 12 consecutive messages on our phone machine of Walter Mercado’s entire astrological forecast for each sign (he’s an infamous sort-of drag queen/ celebrity astrologer Cubans adore). She then left her own voice message, scolding me in Spanish, “You’ve never had a cavity yet, so don’t forget to cut your fingernails on Fridays or you’ll start getting them!” She ended the message in her beautiful, broken English, “Me is gonna go to Miami Bitch’s (Beach’s) gay club wiss your book on Saturday night to sell to la familia” (familia, in Cuban gay circle means, “gays”).

Did you have any difficulty finding a publisher for the book?

At first, yes. I wrote Act Natural!–now Down to the Bone–in Cuban Spanglish and received a barrel of rejections! I quickly deleted the Spanglish, changed the title, and rewrote the novel on fire, with intense vigor and a new set of vibrant characters. Every moment alive counted and I zoomed through the writing while my health allowed, my fingers and brain worked, and with an oxygen tank by my side. Unlike many editors I encounter/ed, I lucked-out that my Harper Collins editor wholeheartedly understood Latina/o culture (she speaks Spanish and is married to a Colombiano).

Your bio on the Harper web site says you have worked as a drummer, dancer, landscape designer, Cuban chef, hairdresser, and library assistant. Which of these was your favorite job?

Hairstylist and landscape designer (like Soli and Laura). Creating “art” while having a blast, truly satisfies me deep, deep, down to the… to the what? To the marrow!

How old were you when you realized you were a lesbian?

I was fourteen, 100 percent heterosexual–what a disgrace!–and crazy about boys when a close girlfriend first kissed me (I still remember where we were standing, her mandarin orange scent, and how I melted). It was so delicious, that I swear, I saw birds flying, heard elephants stampeding, and couldn’t see straight for years thereafter! Our relationship grew in depth until the infamous love letter. I had kissed boys I’d had crushes on but nothing compared to the one with my first love. Due to having been expelled from school, not ever being allowed to see each other again, the ostracism etc., I became terrified to come out, thus I went back into the closet. I was still physically attracted to guys and dated them, but I only longed for my first love. I had a great relationship with an Argentino for a year. Physically and intellectually, I liked him, but emotionally? Nothing. Niente. Nada.

How do gays, lesbians, and trannies in the Miami Cuban community survive the homophobia?

Many Latinas/os are closeted due to internalized homophobia. Your “married-with-kids” Latina friend just might have a secret girlfriend on the side and her lover is dating a man for pretense. Miami is much looser now. We just had our very first Gay Pride Parade! Lots of teens are out and many are bisexuals who don't give a flying fricassee what others think. But traditional, religious Cuban-American and Latina/o teens attending Catholic and Christian schools (very high percentage) are still closeted and doomed to live a lie. Many older lesbians are closeted and married to men or end up living a celibate, lonely life. Survival for many Latina lesbians depends upon lying and never coming out, or so they think. I strongly believe that it's in coming out that we empower ourselves.

When did you officially come out?

When I couldn’t take the homophobia in Miami, I split to Boston for nine years. Most of my haircutting clients called themselves, “Lesbian”–yes, the lesbos followed me everywhere!–and I couldn’t relate. I hated the word. Looking back, I realize that “Lesbian” reminded me of “Tortillera” a word that made me feel severely unsafe and disgusted. I shunned those words until recently. In Down to the Bone, Tortillera is used as both derogatory and powerful and ends in a word of empowerment. A few Miami Cuban lesbians have taken issue. One friend exclaimed, "Tortillera is so disgusting! “How could you have used it in your book?! No one will be caught dead reading it. People will think Cuban lesbians are grotesque!” Insulted? I think so. But hey, she’ll get over it, or she can just write her own book! Writing Down to the Bone helped me come to terms with the fact that it’s important for LGBT's to come out when one feels safe in order to fight for your birthright to be who you really are.


The book is dedicated, in part, to your mother. Has she read it yet?


If my mom reads Down to the Bone she’ll instantly die of a patatĂș! She speaks zero English, has never read a book in her life, and doesn’t have a computer (don’t get me wrong. Mami is brilliant, just not traditionally educated). I dedicated my novel partly to Mami because I adore her and she’s grown tremendously. She now accepts Damarys and me as a couple. This, of course, is beyond miraculous!

What have you heard from teen readers?

I’ve gotten emails from gay Latino and black teens stating that Down to the Bone is the best book they've ever read, that they relate to Laura, and want a friend like Soli. Some quote their favorite scenes which melts my heart. Many express having cried and laughed their heads off. Some proclaim my story is also their own. I've received many powerful, long emails from closeted teens who've only come out to me, or teens who've been kicked out of their house after coming out. They tell me their sad stories and how important my book is to them and it tears me apart. I've received many emails from Miami Cuban lesbians in their thirties, stating that when they came out, they lost their family. My book moves them deeply. I can’t even express how much these responses mean to me.

What are you working on next?

I have many projects going on at once, but the novel I've just finished is TP: Top Secret!

I can’t wait for your next book to come out. When can we expect it?

Thanks KT. That means a lot to me. I’ve finished my next YA novel and am currently searching for an agent. If you know of any, please send them my way. I hope to be published again soon!

Speaking of that bubble, if you don’t mind me asking about your health, are you okay now?

I’m trying hard to heal. Thanks for asking. I still must live sealed, at times, in a specially made glass and metal room. These past few month I've been able to go outdoors using precaution. My immune system can no longer handle even the most benign chemicals until I get stronger. I'm walking now, am able to recline outdoors when neighbors aren't spraying pesticides in their lawns and the builders next door aren't working (they use toxic chemicals that come my way due to wind direction). In a perfect, nontoxic, Green world, I'd be hiking Mt. Everest by now!


Check out Mayra's book, "Down To the Bone!"


Monday, May 4, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Plan A Party to celebrate a school year of Gay-Straight Alliance Meetings, Progress, and Community!

You can make a Rainbow Cake!

Many schools are going to wind down in the next two months for the academic year - now's a good time to figure out when and where to have a celebration!

Think about a movie screening either at school during lunch or at someone's home (Something like "Edge of Seventeen" or "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" or a film you can all agree on!)

And/or how about an ice cream party?

Or go as a group on an adventure - bowling or to a local amusement park or a local pool for a weekend day in the sun...

Ritual is a really important thing that we often overlook in our culture.

Plan to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate that your GSA has been meeting and you have all created a safe space at your school!

And have a wonderful time at the party!

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Separation of Church & American Idol: Is there a right wing conspiracy to vote off Adam Lambert because he's not a "good Christian role model?"

Could the best singer on the show lose because of homophobia?

The top 5

Okay, so there's a lot of buzzing about how Adam Lambert was in the bottom two this week despite blowing everyone away with his performance, and there's quite a bit of speculation about there being some kind of PLOT where religious right (and anti-gay) voters are massing their votes for everyone else to get Adam voted off the show...

(check out here (in comments) and here. - okay, note that the Bill O'Reilly video clip url over on youtube includes the word "Ass." So appropriate. They actually blocked out the lips part of the gay kiss photos of Adam from the internet when they showed them on Fox news!!!! Arrrgh!!!)

Now Matt Giraud was ultimately voted off this week, but what could be behind Adam's near-elimination?

Danny Gokey

Isn't it possible that Danny Gokey is seen as a Christian poster-boy, and Adam is just too...

well, even without coming out and saying it, Adam, with his boy-on-boy kisses and videos where he talks about what he "prefers" is
GAY GAY GAY!


Adam Lambert


Never mind who's the best singer (Danny's good, but IMHO Adam is better) in many ways American Idol is a popularity and role model contest. Just like Miss California not wanting to represent ALL of of the U.S.A. (revealed through her anti-same-gender marriage answer to Perez Hilton's question), there's a role model element to being The American Idol, no matter how much Randy reminds us every week that
"Dawg, this is a singing competition!"
So, Dawgs, what do you think?

Were pro-Adam viewers so confident that everyone else was going to vote for him that he nearly got eliminated due to complacency?

Or is there a right-wing conspiracy targeting Adam because they don't want "The American Idol" - a "star," held up as an "idol" to the world, to be a gay man?

And if there is an anti-gay, anti-Adam plot at work, what do you think we should do about it?