Tuesday, July 15, 2014
We received, via Facebook, a note in the form of a video link, asking us to take a watch and a listen as a woman took on the myths about transgender kids.
We watched and, well needless to say, we were absolutely blown away by this mom, Debi Jackson, whose letter to her transgender child comes in the form of an open speech to a crowd of people, addressing the inaccuracies that she and her family face every day.
Simply put: this is one rockin' mom. Thanks to her transgender daughter, she has become a fierce political activist for LGBT rights and acceptance. She has also recently started a website for parents of transgender and gender nonconforming children: trans-parenting.com.
Most important? She swiftly blows away the stereotypes that the parents and allies of LGBTQ people are a one-size fits all group: same race, same religion, same political beliefs. No, there is no catch-all. Because every family is different, every parent is different, and every child is different.
And that's good enough.
The film tackles the all too often misunderstood world of transgender. Although Just Gender utilizes some archival footage and stills, it is largely built on a series of original footage and interviews of transgendered persons, their family members and friends, health care experts, community leaders and others who work with the transgender community. The film explores the common myths and misunderstandings about transgendered people. It also explores the confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity, as reflected in the rigid binary view of the world generally held by society. Just Gender also touches on the discrimination, hardships and brutality resulting from those misconceptions and prejudices, including the numerous deaths caused by hate each year.
Just Gender, narrated by musical theater star Bebe Neuwirth, will be screened 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.
"We'll have Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in attendance," SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima said.
"From the City of Miami Beach, Vice Mayor Micky Steinberg will be speaking and issuing a special proclamation and Commissioner Michael Grieco will be in attendance," Lima said.
Tickets are $25 and $100 (including a VIP cocktail reception with Just Gender director George Zuber).
On what would be Judy Garland’s 92nd birthday Tuesday, New York theater and cabaret publicist Dan Fortune announces he is producing a "Night of A Thousand Judys” art auction benefiting Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth.
This year’s auction accompanies an all-star concert to be held June 16 in Manhattan.
“For the second year, we have asked visual artists from different mediums to create and donate an original interpretation of Judy Garland. The works will be sold via silent auction at the event and all proceeds will go directly to the Ali Forney Center,” Fortune says. The online auction is now live.
More from Fortune:
Participants this year include Robert Risko, the longtime Vanity Fair illustrator, Olympia Zagnoli from The New York Times and Samantha Hahn, creator of Well Read Women, in addition to a custom Judy t-shirt by Deer Dana, whose pieces have been worn by Jay-Z and been featured in Vogue, Fader, Elle and more (www.deerdana.com).
Last year’s auction included custom-made pieces by Tommy Tune, Charles Busch, and Robert W. Richards, in addition to rising talent in the art world.
Participating performers so far include Grammy Award nominated jazz star Jane Monheit, R&B/Disco legend Sarah Dash (LaBelle), “Queer as Folk” star Randy Harrison, Tony Award nominee Rory O’Malley from The Book of Mormon, Broadway leading ladies Sierra Boggess (Phantom of the Opera), Alison Fraser (Gypsy), Julia Murney (Wicked) and Jackie Hoffman (Hairspray), pop singer Karen Wyman, jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein and folk-rock singer/songwriter Erin McKeown, plus a special appearance from Austin Scarlett of “Project Runway.”
In previous years, our sold-out concerts were headlined by performers such as Martha Wash, Carolee Carmello, Justin Vivian Bond, Madeleine Peyroux, Tonya Pinkins, Nellie McKay, Telly Leung, Karen Mason, Bridget Everett, Michael Musto, Jackie Hoffman, Howard McGillin, Jessica Molaskey & John Pizzarelli, Ashley Brown, Daniel Reichard, Karen Akers, Paul Iacono, Daisy Eagan, Frank DeCaro among many others.
Last June’s event raised over $20,000 and we’re trying to double that number for 2014. The 2013 show was called “a rambunctious, uproarious, unpredictable all-star concert” by The Wall Street Journal and 2012’s was praised as “stupendous, extraordinary and hilarious” by The Village Voice.
Posted to YouTube, a new "docuseries" from L Studios building on the It Gets Better Project campaign:
At 16, he realized he was different. But it wasn't until 18 years later that he finally found the courage to come out. Meet athlete and role model Jason Collins, a 16-year veteran of the NBA and destroyer of stereotypes.
Featuring: Jason Collins
Directed By: Heather Ross
BY STEVE ROTHAUS
Jhon Barrera, a junior at Homestead Senior High, describes life at the school before students there began a gay-straight alliance club:
"A lot more hidden homophobia," said Barrera, 18, who has been out of the closet since middle school.
"Two years ago there were a few incidents. The typical hate crimes. Derogatory words: 'Faggots.' Throwing it out there and being pretty rude about it," Barrera said. "There were openly gay students who were victimized. A lot of people, including teachers, would try to speak up but didn’t know how to handle it."
Then, Aaron Bos-Lun joined the staff at Homestead High. Not much older than his students, he made the decision to be honest with them about his personal life.
"The highest role of a teacher is the personal model they provide," said Bos-Lun, 25. "For pretty much all the gay and lesbian students, I’m the only openly gay teacher they’ve ever known. It’s good for the straight students to see. Any student, anywhere, should see examples of people being proud of who they are. The kids have responded really well to that."
This week, Homestead High's new gay-straight alliance club hosted Springtime Freedom, a speak-out featuring educator and author Erin Gruwell of Los Angeles, whose life became the basis for the 2007 film, Freedom Writers.
"About 15 or 20 of my students are gay, lesbian or transgender. I was really blessed that I would say for the majority of my students, I was the first person they came out to. I’ve had my students since they were 14 and they’ve been in my life for the last 20 years," said Gruwell, portrayed in Freedom Writers by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank.
"I’ve been blessed to be a part of them discovering themselves, being comfortable with who they are, finding relationships, getting married and actualizing their dreams," Gruwell said of her LGBT students.
Bos-Lun, along with Miami-Dade gay-rights group SAVE, helped raise $10,000 to bring Gruwell to South Florida.
There are about two-dozen GSAs throughout Miami-Dade County, including two middle schools, according to Robert Loupo, executive director of Safe Schools South Florida.
About 400 students, educators and parents filled Homestead High's gymnasium on Wednesday for Springtime Freedom, including teens from gay-straight alliances at Northwestern, Central and Edison high schools.
The Northwestern, Central and Edison GSAs all began this school year.
"This night was a celebration of that collaboration and the foundation to build more GSAs next year," said Bos-Lun, who teaches world literature and reading enrichment.
Odelia Younge and several other Northwestern teachers launched that school's GSA "to show students that the teachers are behind you and we’re going to make it only acceptable to be accepted in our space and classrooms."
"At Northwestern, we have such vibrant students. In order to capitalize on that vibrancy, we need to make it a space all students feel welcome, in a welcome environment," Younge said.
The Northwestern GSA began with about 15 students.
"We’re setting that trend for people who are on the fence about revealing their true selves to everyone else," Younge said. "Once we start garnering that kind of support, the GSA is going to take off."
Bos-Lun, who is studying for a master's degree in education and social change at University of Miami, said he didn't come out until his junior year at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
"I certainly wasn’t going to be involved in a [high school] GSA," he said. "I didn’t say a word about being gay until I was 20."
After he began teaching at Homestead, Bos-Lun cautiously began to reveal his sexual orientation to students.
"I came out fully by the end of first quarter this year. It shows I have skin in the game. Independent of sexuality, it’s made my classroom a safer space for everyone," he said. "I am a gay man and nothing’s going to change that. Do I hide that from the kids and send a message it's something to be ashamed of? Or do we more on with life by addressing it? There’s power in that that works for anyone."
Soon, several boys and girls came out to Bos-Lun. One student sent him three letters.
"She wrote, 'I’m a lesbian. I've never been able to talk about it. I can’t come to the GSA because my mom won’t allow it. When I heard about what you did, it was the first time in my life anyone has ever stood up for me. I feel safer just knowing there's a GSA and that you’re doing what you’re doing.'"
About 50 students participate in the school's GSA.
"It opened up a forum for me to bring up things that I want to talk about. I love gay culture. Obviously, it’s not taught in the curriculum," Jhon Barrera said.
About 15 LGBT students are out at Homestead High, Barrera said.
"There aren’t a lot of openly gay kids in our GSA. There are a lot of straight allies. That is something I wasn’t expecting," he said.
Freshman Bertin Balan, 15, joined the GSA with his girlfriend.
"At first, people were telling me, why go? I was like why not go? GSA isn’t just a gay alliance. It’s gay-straight alliance," he said.
Bertin said he immediately connected with other GSA members.
"They felt like they were alive and felt like being family. I started to like it a bit more. They were saying everything they say in there stays there. We tell each other secrets," he said. "They would just open up to people and people would cry. We just show love to them and make them like our own family."
Bertin said being a GSA member has helped enrich his relationship with his own brother, who is gay.
"I feel good about myself," Bertin said. "Before, I never used to hang with gay people that much in school or out of school. When I just started to get to know everybody in GSA, I realized everybody is just the same. Under everybody’s skin, our blood is red."
He recommends other straight students join their high school's GSA. "It’s great. You’ll love it. It’s like everybody’s family and you’ll get to know people. You won’t judge people by the way they are."
BY BEATRICE DUPUY
As a tireless crusader for education, Marilyn Spiegel always had one thing on her mind: students.
Spiegel, a former teacher, who became the leader of the Miami-Dade’s PTA/PTSA in 1998, devoted her life to fighting for children and against violence.
She made countless trips to Tallahassee to lobby for the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act, which led to tougher anti-bullying policies for public K-12 schools.
For the legislation, Spiegel worked with Equality Florida to provide anti-bullying protections for LGBT students.
Spiegel died Thursday in a family tragedy. She was 69.
Spiegel and her fiancé were fatally shot and her former husband has been charged with first-degree murder.
Her death has left the Miami-Dade County education community shocked and in mourning.
“Marilyn was a fierce advocate,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, a human-rights advocacy group. “A lot of young people’s lives are safer and better because of her.”
Spiegel did not stop her efforts at the county line. She wanted to make changes for all children regardless of race, sexuality or socioeconomic status.
During her three years as PTA/PTSA president of the Miami-Dade County Council, Spiegel attempted to change the image of the PTA from bake sales to lobbying and advocacy for children.
Spiegel also voiced her concerns for private school vouchers.
“She believed that every child should receive a fair education and should have everything our students deserve,” said Eileen Segal, Florida PTA President.
Spiegel continued to advocate for students even when her own three children had graduated from public school.
She was the kind of mother who took everyone in, said Kathy Hersh, a friend and colleague.
“She just spread her wings and took people in,” she said.
Spiegel herself has lived through the Florida education system. Before graduating in three years from the University of Florida with honors, she attended South Broward High School in Hollywood.
When Speigel was not working for children, she could be found on her boat. She home-schooled her children aboard the family boat in 1980 for a year.
Tragedy would happen on a boat 34 years later. Speigel and her fiancé, Harry Carlip, 70, were docked on their boat in Fort Myers when police reported that her ex-husband, Michael Spiegel, killed them.
To keep Marilyn Spiegel’s memory alive, the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs will establish an annual award in her name.
Spiegel is survived by her three sons, Brett, Sean and Dean, along with her three grandchildren and her sister, Susan Homan.
The family requests that donations be made to the PTSA or Equality Florida.
A funeral service will be held at noon Wednesday at Beth David Memorial Gardens/Levitt Weinstein, 3201 NW 72nd Ave. in Hollywood.
Educator Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers Foundation will be special guest at an anti-bullying showcase Wednesday at Homestead Senior High School.
Students have organized the event, which will benefit gay-straight alliances at Homestead, Central, Edison and Northwestern high schools.
Here’s the news release from SAVE, the event’s sponsor:
SAVE to Sponsor Anti-Bullying Showcase & Gay-Straight Alliance Benefit at Homestead Senior High School Featuring the Freedom Writers' Erin Gruwell
HOMESTEAD, FL -- South Florida LGBT-rights group SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone) announced today its sponsorship of "Springtime Freedom," an anti-bullying showcase to be held this Wednesday evening at Homestead Senior High School in South Dade.
The showcase will feature an appearance by Erin Gruwell, the renowned California high school teacher portrayed by actress Hillary Swank in the 2007 drama Freedom Writers, based off of Gruwell's experiences.
The effort, organized by students, is overseen by Homestead High teacher Aaron Bos-Lun. "On Wednesday night we will literally put on a stage voices that are too often silenced," he said. "This groundbreaking event will serve as a model for GSA collaboration, and lay the foundation for our network of safe spaces in high schools next year."
"That so many young people are engaged in the fight for equality fills me with great hope for the future," added SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima. "I am so happy to see the initiative Aaronbegan last year to develop a network of GSA's at inner city schools finally coming to fruition in a big way."
The showcase will be held at Homestead Senior High School (2351 SE 12th Ave, Homestead, FL 33035) and will cost $5 for adults and $2 for students. All proceeds will benefit the Gay-Straight Alliance at Homestead High, as well as the GSA's at Miami Central High, Miami Edison High, and Miami Northwestern High.
BY STEVE ROTHAUS
Aqua Foundation for Women showed support for trans women and men by holding a protest at its own #aquaSOUNDS concert event Saturday night.
"It’s very important that throughout everything that Aqua does, we make it very clear that this is our community and we stand in solidarity with everyone in our community," said Charo Valero, an Aqua Foundation volunteer who works for LGBT-rights group SAVE.
Valero and Aqua Foundation Executive Director Robin Schwartz "organized the demonstration to raise awareness about the lack of rights and protections for people who are transgender," said Pamela Sweeney, another volunteer.
The protest happened after word spread that #aquaSOUNDS headliner Beverly McClellan would in August perform at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, a feminist lesbian event that historically refuses to allow trans people to attend.
Even McClellan wore a "trans rights now" T-shirt at Saturday's Aqua concert.
"Aqua wanted to make sure everyone who was at that concert or anyone heard about it knows for certain, 100 percent certainty, that Aqua Foundation stands with the transgender community," Schwartz said. "It's important everywhere, but here there are no legal protections for them, which is ridiculous. And we need to do something about it."
Schwartz called Saturday's protest "very fitting."
The concert raised money for one of Aqua Foundation's top projects, the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Initiative.
"The whole benefit was for the LGBTQ Community Homelessness Initiative and the transgender community is by far affected the most by homelessness," Schwartz said.
May 20, 2014 in AIDS and Health, Arts, Bisexual, Bullying, Business, Current Affairs, Florida, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Key West & Monroe County, Lesbian, LGBT, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Music, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Transgender, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)
BY LISA LEFF
SAN FRANCISCO -- Isaac Barnett took a bold step last year: He told teachers and classmates at his Kansas high school that the student they had known as a girl now wanted to be accepted as a boy.
His close childhood friend, who also identified as transgender, was ready to reveal his secret, too.
With the administration's blessing, a segment featuring the two friends talking about their transitions aired in the school's classrooms, alongside a basketball team promotion and a feature on the importance of the arts.
"I didn't get any questions or hate or put-downs or anything like that," said Barnett, now 18, adding that they called him Isaac immediately — a drama-free coming-out that would have been extraordinary in schools a decade ago.
With children rejecting the birth gender at younger ages and the transgender rights movement gaining momentum, schools in districts large and small, conservative and liberal, are working to help transitioning youth fit in without a fuss.
California this year became the first state with a law spelling out the transgender student rights in public schools, including the ability to use restrooms and to play on sports teams that match their expressed genders.
Another 13 states prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Dozens of districts, from Salt Lake City and Kansas City to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Decatur, Georgia, have adopted similar protections.
Gallery and trailers: Opening night at 2014 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; Saturday screenings
The 16th annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film festival opened Friday night at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, with a sold-out screening of the Brazilian film, The Way He Looks.
Click here to view and tag the photos from Friday's opening night. Photos by Steve Rothaus / Miami Herald Staff
On tap Saturday:
The Circle, a German film being screened 5 p.m. at Miami Beach Cinematheque, 1130 Washington Ave.
The 10-Year Plan, an American film 5 p.m. at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd.
What Men Like, men's short subjects, 7 p.m. at Miami Beach Cinematheque, 1130 Washington Ave.
BFFs, an American film 7:15 p.m. at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd.
Burning Blue, an American film 9:30 p.m. at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd.
May 03, 2014 in Arts, Bisexual, Bullying, Current Affairs, Fashion, Film, Florida, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, Marriage, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Music, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Television, Theater, Transgender, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)