National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today is National Coming Out Day. Whatever your orientation, there are many ways that you can come out in support of civil rights for LGBT individuals and their families. Please consider blogging, updating your Facebook status, making a YouTube video, and Tweeting about your support for the LGBT community.

Adults have a responsibility to tell kids who are being bullied that life does get better. American citizens should honor members of the military who are serving in silence. Those with privilege need to speak up for LGBT people who live in fear in their own homes and communities, and for people who are closeted because they will risk losing their job if they come out. Whatever reason your choose, come out in support of equality!

Despair and Hope

October 2, 2010 § 2 Comments

The LGBT community has been saying for years that LGBT teens are at higher risk for suicide than other teens, and there have been numerous studies to support this claim. I do not recall another time where gay teen suicide has been so prevalent. This September, there have been seven suicides by gay teen boys, each story a tragedy for their families and communities.

Asher Brown, 13, Cyprus, TX

Seth Walsh, 13, Tehachapi, CA

Justin Aaberg, 15, Anoka, MN

Billy Lucas, 15, Greensburg, IN

Cody Barker, 17, Shiocton, WI

Tyler Clementi, 18, Ridgewood, NJ

Raymond Chase, 19, Monticello, NY

In spite of the hateful efforts of “Traditional Values Coalition” to spread misinformation about LGBT suicide rates, these recent suicides speak for themselves about the reality of the pain these teens feel as they are discovering their own sexuality in the midst of cruel bullying. It is heartbreaking for everyone.

In response to the fact of LGBT suicide statistics and these tragic stories, Dan Savage has launched the It Gets Better YouTube site and the Make It Better campaign to support it.

LGBT youth should not have to suffer bullying that leads to attempts of suicide. They should know that they are not alone and that they have resources to help them through. We can make it better, and we have a responsibility to do so.

National Coming Out Day

October 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Musings on being a “professional homosexual”

Since delving into the world of social networking, I have observed people separate their accounts into personal, professional, or political. I have been a little self conscious about my choice of keeping my accounts somewhat integrated. I worry that I’m posting things that my online community won’t be interested in, won’t agree with, or will find inappropriate. Personally, I like to see people in three dimensions, and I prefer to represent myself in that light too.

This weekend, as I was watching the coverage of the National Equality March in Washington DC, I was inspired by the speeches and tweeting my favorite quotes as I watched. For those who follow me because of our professional connection, I wonder if I am perceived as crossing a boundary that they might think is at best a little annoying, and at worst offensive.

My wife and I were were the second couple to be married in 2004 in the Winter of Love. For a while we were quite literally poster children for marriage equality. A very romantic photo of us by the Golden Gate Bridge was blown up and plastered on bus stop billboards across San Francisco that year. We often joked that year that we were “professional homosexuals,” representing the movement for marriage equality.

While we were caught up in an extraordinary historical moment five years ago, my wife and I are  very ordinary people. We struggle to make ends meet and face life’s challenges like any other couple. We love each other and we are privileged to have what many other couples take for granted; a family who loves and embraces us, an employer who respects my relationship with my wife, and a life of relative safety and stability.

There are many same-sex couples who do not have such privilege, so I see it as a personal responsibility to be as out as I possibly can in order to help foster the social change to make the world a safe, nurturing, respectful place for everyone. I may push the boundaries of my professional relationships a bit by putting my whole self out there, but that is the purpose of Coming Out Day.

Moments like this are opportunities for those of us working for equality and civil rights to challenge people in every facet of our lives to recognize the very real ways that we are impacted by discrimination. While I respect some people’s need to draw boundaries between the personal and the professional, I hope that others respect my choice to integrate all of my selves and be entirely me.

Crisis and Opportunity: Making Media Connections Conference

June 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

#mmc2009

I had a fantastic day volunteering at the Making Media Connections conference.  Chicago is the epicenter of civically engaged journalists, techies, and media activists. The world of journalism is experiencing tectonic shifts, being impacted by the recession and trends in technology and social media, and the presentations at the conference was all about how this professional community is responding to those shifts. It is truly at a crisis moment. I have heard that the Japanese word for crisis also means opportunity, which in this case is a very apt translation.

One of the exciting things that came out of this conference was the intersection of different professional worlds coming together that had never had the occasion to do so before. Particularly, I am excited about the non-profit and media community coming together. It makes sense that in this time of crisis and opportunity the worlds of philanthropy, advocacy, and media would connect. Out of this intersection, a creative response is growing in terms of the creation of new tools and innovative ways to use them to create social change.

There is no doubt that social media tools have the potential of being co-opted by corporate conglomerates, and to a certain degree we can only expect that to happen. The panel on media policy that I attended emphasized that we still need to focus on accessibility issues for existing and established technologies (public TV, radio, and print media), and make sure that the public maintains the ability to produce their own content and keep access to a variety of information resources.

However, there was so much optimism about the potential to use social media tools to do good and not evil, it is easy to believe that out of this convergence of activists, community organizers, policy wonks, non-profit leaders, journalists, bloggers, and many others that something really exciting and good is being born. People were able to share their challenges and successes, building collaborative solutions to complex problems.

Community activists of all persuasions need to be vigilant in participating in the process of developing media policy. The issues of net neutrality, low power FM radio, and public access TV should be in sharp focus for all of us.

These are indeed exciting times. Darkness certainly looms as people are being laid off and companies are going into bankruptcy. But hope and inspiration abound as people build their own companies, become consultants, or create innovative jobs in response to the shifting economy. I was thrilled to meet so many optimistic activists and learn about the incredible work they are all doing.

Making Media Connections: The New News

June 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

(#net2chi #mmc2009)

Last night NetSquared Chicago had a special Net Tuesday event to kick off the Making Media Connections conference hosted by Community Media Workshop. This should be a great event that addresses the incredible and fast-moving changes in the world of journalism. While this event has obvious appeal to people in the field of journalism and media communications, every citizen who is interested in journalism’s role deomcratic process will be interested in the contet of this event.

At the Net Tuesday kick-off, we had a preview of a new report that Community Media Workshop is unveiling: The New News: journalism we want and need. This thorough report compiles the results of a survey of news organizations in the Chicago area that are using social media and new technology tools to reach their audience. I believe this report is the first of it’s kind, and no doubt the list will continue to grow.

Tomorrow I will be liveblogging two panels at the conference. You can follow along here. Also follow the hash tag #mmc2009 on Twitter.

Slacktivism, Shmacktivism!

May 22, 2009 § 3 Comments

How Social Media Activists are Changing the World

I have seen and heard a lot of nay-saying lately in the media about social networking tools, to which I feel compelled to respond. Within the last week I’ve encountered at least three different critiques about tools the likes of Twitter and Facebook, accusing thier users of  “slacktivism,” like this opinion piece by John Ridley, who says that People who use Twitter are hypocrites, or the piece in Foreign Policy which claims that the tools foster “feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact.”

To this I say “pshaw!” I can say first hand that these tools have real impact, especially when it comes to community organizing and raising awareness of issues. I work in the nonprofit world, where social benefit organizations are exploring the exploding number of communication tools available to see how they can be used to motivate people into action, whether it is getting out news, inviting people to an event, informing people of volunteer service opportunities, or encouraging folks to make charitable contributions. Getting people engaged with these tools is the whole reason they are so successful.

Last winter, I went to a rally at the Center on Halsted when Fred Phelps and his clan were in town ready to hurl their anti-gay hatred at this wonderful Chicago institution. One of the primary ways the organizers were able to get the word out was through Facebook and Twitter. Over 200 people showed up, and we successfully delivered the message to Phleps & Co that hate is not welcome here.

Right now, marriage equality activists are organizing and communicating with each other about local actions when the Supreme Court decision in California that is announced on Tuesday, May 26th. Through online tools, we are getting the word out and as a result people are going to hit the streets all over the country on Tuesday night.

Next week in San Jose, CA, people from all over the world are gathering for the NetSquared conference, which is all about the use of social technologies for progressive social change. People representing all types of nonprofit organizations that are working for environmental justice, human rights, and world peace are coming together to learn from each other and collaborate. The projects they work on include Handheld Human Rights, which uses technology tools to document human rights abuses in Burma, and PublicStuff.org, a mobile application that enables citizens to make meaningful connections with their local government leaders and hold them accountable to meet needs in their communities.

There’s also the example of the Sunlight Foundation which promotes the creation and use of online tools to improve access to government information. The Sunlight Foundation promotes tools like Filibusted, which allows users to keep track of which senators have used the filibuster to stall debate, and Know Thy Congressman, a widget that convenietly provides very useful information about any congressperson, including their voting record.

Social media is more than just Twitter and Facebook, and though those are wonderful community organizing tools, too, there are so many more under development. Activists all over the world have used and created these tools to raise visibility for their issues. These are not perfect mediums, and they are only as good as the people who use them. 

Finally, as I was writing this post, I learned via Twitter that the prolific nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter wrote a post for Mashable about how social media is changing the nonprofit landscape. Her examples further illustrate the point I am making.

Nay-sayers be darned! Social media tools are helping activists change the world.

Suport Marriage Equality in the Heartland

April 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

Donate to One Iowa in the name of Miss California

Show your support for marriage equality everywhere by giving a donation in the Heartland. One Iowa is Iowa’s largest LGBT advocacy organization who is now on the forefront of the marriage equality movement. The struggle for all of us everywhere is impacted significantly by the ground-breaking civil rights movement there.

You can follow One Iowa on Twitter and become join their group on Facebook.

Meanwhile, watch this great video supporting One Iowa by comedian Kate Clinton. I love her idea to donate in the name of Miss California who shared her opposition towards fairness for LGBT Americans during the 2009 Miss USA pageant.

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