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January 3, 2010

The Top 10 LGBT stories of 2009

Now that 2010 is officially here, I thought it would be interesting to look back at 2009 to see how far we have come as an community.  For a lot of us (me included) 2009 was a horrible year; however, there were some positives that we can embrace.  This top 10 listing was culled from research done at the Bilerico Project blog and writer Bil Browning:

Number 10: Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga & Chaz Bono reveal themselves to the world!

Lambert, Lady Gaga and Bono

Lambert, Lady Gaga and Bono

So what happens when you don’t tuck properly – you get embarrassed (or at the least) you shock your adoring audience.  Thus the country’s revelation that Lady Gaga is bisexual or transgendered.  Did it hurt her career?  Not in the least, as she continues to sell records by the thousands.  Adam Lambert of American Idol fame came out of the closet and also caused quite a stir by simulating a sex act at the American Music Awards – thus confirming the double standard that its okay for straight folks to do it in public but gay folks can’t.  Finally, Chaz Bono came out stating he was beginning his “transition” thus helping to bring the issues of transgendered people to the forefront.
Number 9:  Stonewall Riots – history repeat itself once again.

The police are at it again

The police are at it again

The Stonewall Riots may have occurred in 1969 but that hasn’t stopped history from repeating itself again.  Texas ABC agents and Ft. Worth Police stormed the opening of a gay bar sending one man with brain injuries to the hospital.  Texas ABC ended up firing two of its agents for the incident while the Ft. Worth Police maintained the patron brought the injuries onto himself.  Is police brutality on the rise?  Is police brutality against gay folks on the rise?  Ask many people and they will tell you yes.

Number 8: Can California overturn Prop 8?

It was originally a 2008 story- California voters denying same-sex marriage.  In 2009, attempts were made and failed to overturn Prop 8 with the right hiring top gun lawyers and forming all kinds of new political action groups.   Will a new measure hit the ballots in 2010 or 2012?  Only time will tell.  The most important question to ask is “will the people of California finally realize that gay marriage is not something to be scarred of.”

Is Obama for Gay Rights?

Is Obama for Gay Rights?

Number 7: The Justice Department says DOMA is okay?

Although this created a stir in the gay community and a backlash against President Obama, it’s result comes as no surprise.  DOMA is legal and on the books; so when the Justice Department had to make a statement because of a legal challenge – surprise- they had to defend the current law.  Who would have thunk it!!  Somehow (of course) that defense was translated to Obama doesn’t want to help the LGBT community and all of a sudden, the community is up in arms.  Will DOMA get overturn on Obama’s watch?  Hopefully.  Will don’t ask, don’t tell get repealed?  Probably.  But 2009 was a nightmare for the country and you can only do so much.  I think our community needs to have just a little patience – after all – if McCain was in office – we would never get what we want.

Number 6:  The LGBT print media doesn’t recognize changing times.

The LGBT print media suffered from the same fate as its hetero counterparts.  Not recognizing that the public has steadily moved away (for years) from print media in favor of the more convenient online services.  It is surprising considering that many LGBT folks get their information exclusively online, you would think that publications like “The Washington Blade,” TWIT,” David’s Magazine,” “Southern Voice,” – would realize this and change their strategy.  Nope, didn’t happen and as a result many respected and important voices in the gay community were silenced.  11 papers and counting – not to mention that the advent of the gay book store is suffering as well (my partner and I have always wanted to run our own book store and cafe).  It’s all about the internet now!!

Number 5:  Congress says “yes” to HIV travelers.

When it comes to basic civil liberties for LGBT folks, it seems that the world gets it right before the U.S. does.  It took a while, but Congress this year finally repealed the ban on HIV + travelers to this country.  The ban represented one of the darkest moments for this country as we systemically discriminated against people with HIV while there was no scientific basis for the ban.  The rest of the world admonished us for it – Obama recognized it was wrong and ended it.

Number 4:  A March on Washington Returns!

I remember when I was a field producer in 1993 helping to produce a video for the  March on Washington in ’93.  It was an amazing experience considering I was struggling with coming out to myself.  I wanted to be in Washington in 2009 for this historic march – the National Equality March that brought over 250,000 people to the nation’s capital.  What was extraordinary about this march?  It was originally shunned by many, fearing cost and support.  But a grass-roots campaign and national support from celebrities got the ball running and in 6 short months, the march was put together at a cost south of $200,000.  Far cheaper and faster than any major march for LGBT rights on record.

Number 3:  Activist win the fight in Washington and Kalamazoo – but lose in Maine.

Of course, if you listen to the right – gay folks are out to ruin the nation and convert our children and their was not shortness of rhetoric in the 2009 year.  But a few victories were achieved.  Kalamazoo upheld their law outlawing discrimination against LGBT people.  Washington “upgrades” its domestic partnership law which includes many (if not all) of the benefits and protections afforded heterosexual couples.  Maine on the other hand, overturned the same-sex marriage law – leaving only Civil Unions in place.

Number 2:  And then there was 6?

So you are a gay couple and you want to get married.  A few years ago, you had to travel to Canada or take a trip to the Netherlands.  Not anymore. 6 states have allowed same-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont (despite the Republican Governor’s veto), New Hampshire and Washington DC.  Progress is slow but it’s coming.

Number 1:  Pro Gay Legislation makes history!

President Obama signed into law the first pro-LGBT piece of legislation in United States history when he put his signature on the

A Victory for the Shepard Family

A Victory for the Shepard Family

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The legislation was first proposed a decade before after Shepard, a gay college student from Wyoming, was beaten and tied to a fence to die. Contributor Cathy Renna was one of the first LGBT activists to reach Matthew’s hospital bedside and worked with his mother, Judy Shepard to ensure passage of the legislation. The new law has already been instrumental in forcing an investigation into the death of Puerto Rican teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado.

So there you have it – 10 issues that have made a difference in the live of gay and lesbian people all over the country.  Here’s hoping for bigger and better things in 2010.

Thomas

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September 30, 2009

A little courage in a small Texas town

I  went to college in Texas – San Antonio in fact.  Spent 4 1/2 years there and gladly called it home at the time.  My partner and I called Houston home for 2 years.  Both cities have a thriving if not quaint gay population.  But drive a few hours over to a small east texas town called Tyler or neighboring Lindale – and you get a different tale.  Very conservative, very bible belt and extremely homophobic.  I think I would go so far as to say the very word “gay” is not even utter in single breath in that town (okay maybe I am exaggerating but you get the point) – it isn’t very welcoming to gay people at all.

Tyler Texas - Project TAG

Tyler Texas - Project TAG

In comes the AIDS service organization Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays) who decided to do a small part to introducing this community to the word “gay.”  What did they do – they adopted a highway.  We all have seen the signs, church groups, fraternities, lodges – adopt a section of a highway, clean it up and get their name put on a sign on that stretch of road.  Project TAG sought to do this with the idea of getting the word “gay” out in public in their community.  The hope – to desensitize the area about what is and is not “gay” and to get the community talking.  Will it work…only time will tell.  But I think it’s a great way to not only do a service for your community but to show how  LGBT people have the same civic and community goals as anyone else and oh by the way; they live in your town too!!

Way to go Project TAG – that takes a lot of courage in this little small east Texas town.

Thomas

September 17, 2009

What can the gay community do about climate change?

You can control climate change!

You can control climate change!

If gay people represent 1 out of every 10 people in the population, then it stands to reason that we can make a huge impact in our world’s climate.  Human rights campaigners in London have stressed this week the importance of the gay community to help fight climate change. Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Activist and Campaginer in London told reporters: “There is not much point campaigning for LGBT human rights unless we have a habitable planet on which to enjoy these rights. If global warming results in climate destruction and economic downturn, our quality of queer life will be seriously diminished. In the worst case scenario, human survival might be threatened.”

So if climate change has such a huge impact what can we do about it?  Tatchell has decided to start a campaign in his home country to combat climate change by starting the 10:10 initiative.  In a nutshell, he wants London’s gay population to cut its carbon footprint by 10% – Following the theory that if we are 1 out of every 10 people in the world, then lets cut our consumption by 10%.  It is definitely an achievable goal and one that all gay people can get behind.

Tatchell told reporters when he launched this program …”Cutting our personal carbon footprint by 10% by the end of 2010 is a realistic, achievable target that will make an impact.  It isn’t hugely difficult. I found it a fun challenge and quite easy. It has reduced my energy bills and saved me money. Walking, cycling and not eating meat has also made me fitter and healthier.  We don’t have to wait for the government and business to give us a lead. We can take the initiative ourselves by eliminating energy wastage in our homes, workplaces and neighbourhoods. By our personal example, we can pressure government and business to do the same….”

An example of climate flooding in London

An example of climate flooding in London

Just because this is a London inititiave doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to do this in our own home towns and cities.  What can you do to help reduce climate change:

1)  Change 10.  That’s right – Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 10 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR label and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 20 million cars.

2)  If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials.

3)  Check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflation increases tire wear, reduces your fuel economy by up to 3 percent, and leads to increased emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. If you don’t know the correct tire pressure for your vehicle, you can find it listed on the door to the glove compartment or on the driver’s-side door pillar.

4)  Use public transportation, carpool or walk or bike whenever possible to avoid using your car. Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. Whenever possible, combine activities and errands into one trip.

5)  Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Reducing the amount used means big savings in not only your energy bills, but also in carbon dioxide emissions. Using cold water for your wash saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and using a low-flow shower head reduces 350 pounds of carbon dioxide. Make the most of your hot water by insulating your tank and keeping the temperature at or below 120°.

This by means isn’t everythign you can do but its a start.  If the gay community can get behind this and take the lead, we can defintely do our part.  Way to go Mr. Peter Tatchell for starting this in London, what a great idea for all of us to follow.

Thomas

March 17, 2008

HD DVD vs Blu Ray vs DVD – WTF!!

Okay – unless you have been on another planet, you have probably heard (even though you may not care) – that Blu Ray has won the high definition battle. Hooray some people say…hold the phone – others are saying.

blueraywarover.jpg

Personally I think everyone loses in this war. Let’s forget about the fact that: 1) consumers were screaming bloody murder about having to choose a format, 2) that consumers are slowly (and I do mean slowly) adopting high definition in their homes, and 3) we can even forget the fact that prices are very high for high definition players and the movies. If we forget all of those things – there is one thing that matters – Sony gets to now dictate whatever price they want to get you to adopt the new format of choice.

Now, of course, I can’t blame them for this. After all if you go back in time, DVD players were outrageously high for several years before people could afford them. Fast forward to the present and Blu Ray & HD DVD prices were cut drastically after only one year!! GO FIGURE!! You can bet your bottom dollar that manufactures were not making much money on their hardware or software. So now, you better believe that the Blu Ray folks are going to raise prices little by little in an effort to recoup what they loss when they had to battle HD DVD. That’s why I think we all will lose in this format war that ended last month. I forsee that there will not be an affordable Blu Ray player coming out anytime this year (I mean like sub $200 affordable). That sucks…I love high definition and when a movie or tv show or documentary is filmed, edited and transferred in glorious 1080i or 1080p – the video is too die for….but I will be damn if I will pay $400 for a Blu Ray player and $40 for a Blu Ray movie…ain’t going to happen. And what most people forget is that most movies are not shot in true high def – but rather film that is transferred to high def (unless maybe they are shooting in 4K with the Red One but I digress).

So would I buy a Blu Ray player right now? NOPE. Do we even offer high definition as an option for our customers to buy? NOPE. Will I buy one in the future? Yeah maybe a year or 2 from now when they figure out what profile spec they want to use, 1080p TV prices drop a little more and Blu Ray players drop prices some more – then yeah – definitely will do it. Will we offer it to customers and begin filming in High Def? A year from now – yeah we will be forced too…

But for now, what will I do instead? I did what most people think is crazy. I bought a HD-DVD player, bought a bunch of HD DVD movies at ridiculously low prices to finish out my collection and can now watch movies in glorious 1080p at a price to die for. Sure after May, there will be no more new HD DVD movies – but my player will upconvert all my standard DVDs to near HD quality, I have some great movies on HD (there are over 450 in the western market alone & 800+ globally) and I can enjoy high def now without destroying my pocketbook for the next year or two. When I am done, I expect to have maybe 30 HD DVD titles (maybe more) and a player that would normally have cost me $1100 but instead only cost me around $500. Now to bad a deal!!!

It is just a shame that the only gay movie right now out on High Def (that I know) is Brokeback Mountain!!

Thomas

February 5, 2008

Yes…we can…

One of the reasons I am in this business is to share the great things that people create through video that can be shared with the world.  It’s that creativity that drives me and keeps me going.  One of my good friends from college (who I just found out several months ago was gay) shared this video with me so I wanted to share it with you guys.  I am not here to say who would make a better President or who should win – but I think the message is clear…YES WE CAN ..make a difference…each one of us in this big world of ours.  I hope you like it.

January 30, 2008

Technology and diversity – why don’t they go together

So I am sitting here in the press room of the Photo Marketing Association in Las Vegas (yes another trip to Sin City) and I am looking around at the pre-coverage – the press people who have arrived early, folks who want to attend the technology classes and seminars before the trade floor opens – and one thing stands out in my mind!!  There is not much diversity in these conferences.  Over the last couple of years, I have gotten to attend from the press perspective – 4 very unique technology driven conferences and trade shows in the country (CES, PMA, CTIA and NAB) and all four only have the middle age white guys, the japanese executive and teams from their respective companies, a decent showing among white women but very very few Latins, African Americans or asians (outside of the Japanese contingent).

That bothers me – not only because they are not here – but because it seems to reflect the growing disconnect between the technology gains that are happening in our country and the ability of those gains to reach people of color in our country.  This is readily apparent when you go to any school in suburbia compared to the inner city – the technology disparity is HUGE!!!  I am all for technology making our lives easier, improving our way of life, giving us “new” toys to play with – I just wonder if EVERYONE gets to benefit from these things. 

Two weeks ago, I got to see some amazing technology at the Consumer Electronics Show.  Technology that would definitely enhance our way of life (everything from one computer controlling everything in your home from safety to temperature to TVs bigger than your daddy’s cadillac) – but only a a select handful get to attend this show every year, only a tiny fraction of our society might take the time to read the blogs & tech sites to see what technology is out there and how many of us can afford or will by these new advances?  Will these new advances filter down to every community?  Will every community have some buisness or home that can showcase the wave of the future? 

When the internet first became popular, i always worried that the disenfranchised in our society was not going to have equal access and equal opportunity.  Many are still playing catch up but now I wonder where new technology will fall?  Where is the minority press at these events (BET, Telemundo), where is the gay press at these events (Logo Online, Advocate) – These new technologies (once you get past the marketing glitz and glamour) have great potential in our lives and the future but if our voices are not out there spreading the news and if the technology is not in the hands of the disenfranchised – then we will always be stuck as a society of haves and have nots.

just some thoughts to ponder as I set about my work this week.  By the way – PMA is the Photo Marketing Association International Trade Show – it is the largest digital imaging  and digital camera trade show in the country that focuses on Photography and all of the technology involved in digital imaging.  And how many of you ever heard of the show????

Thomas

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