Memphis Flyer reporter Elizabeth Cooper wrote about a local group of religious leaders who held an equality rally here last week and a gay minister from Chicago who is planning a pro-gay marriage rally in September.
Both the local group and the Chicago minister's efforts are a response to the anti-Barack Obama Coalition of African American pastors led by Memphis minister Bill Owens.
Read the article here.
The local Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter is making a $15,000 donation to the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) on Monday night. An open-to-the-public presentation ceremony begins at 6 p.m. at 892 S. Cooper.
The money will be used to support all of MGLCC programs and services, which are currently being utilized by around 4,500 MGLCC guests.
Earlier this year, PFLAG donated $5,000 to the center's counseling referral program, which pairs LGBT people with counselors who respect every individual regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"For 40 glorious years, [PFLAG has] been educating, supporting and advocating for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons worldwide. PFLAG is one of the oldest and most far-reaching gay rights organizations in the United States, with over 200,000 members and 350 local chapters. But the majority of the work done in the Memphis community to support the causes we are all championing is done by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center," said PFLAG-Memphis treasurer Dee Billmeier.
The University of Memphis is conducting a study of the characteristics of people who are supportive of the LGBT community, and they need research subjects to volunteer.
They're asking LGBT people to identify up to three people who supported them after they transitioned or came out. If those people agree, they'll be given a short survey to identify the qualities of supportive people. The purpose of the research is to determine what qualities people need to do a better job of being supportive of LGBT people in the future.
For more information, email here.
Christy Beck, a researcher at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is conducting a study on lesbian women's beauty standards in relation to their breasts. And she's looking for a few Memphis women to participate.
The study will explore how lesbians view mainstream beauty standards, as well as standards within lesbian subculture. Participants will be asked about their feelings on breast development, sexuality, gender identity, feminist identity, romantic relationships, media messages, and the lesbian subculture.
Participants must be lesbians (or women with same-sex attractions who may not label themselves as lesbians). They must have been living a lesbian identity for at least two years and be between the ages of 18 and 30.
To find out how to participate, email Christy here.
Shipping giant FedEx recently donated their services to another giant — the 54-ton, 1.3-million square-foot AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In late June, the world's largest living folk art began a journey from Atlanta to Washington D.C. for two major exhibitions, and FedEx donated a lead truck to carry the first set of quilt panels 610 miles to the National Mall. FedEx Custom Critical also provided a deep discount for the rest of the shipping from Atlanta to Washington D.C.
Here's a few fun facts about how much work went into hauling the massive quilt, which represents more than 94,000 lives lost to AIDS since the epidemic began:
* It took more than nine months to retrieve all the quilt panels on loan to community groups across the country.
* It took 17,000 hours of staff and volunteer time to identify 48,000 blocks of panels for display, packing those blocks, and loading the trucks.
* It took more than 200 crates to hold all the quilt panels and five trucks to ship each way.
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) may soon be amping up it counseling services, thanks to a $5,000 gift from Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The gift comes with a challenge match of up to $15,000.
The $5,000 gift is to be used specifically for MGLCC's counseling referral program, which connects LGBT Memphians with LGBT-friendly counselors.
Additionally, PFLAG has vowed to match every donation MGLCC receives from now until July 31st, up to $15,000.
PFLAG's Memphis chapter was founded in 1986. It meets on the first Thursday of every month at 6 pm at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library on Poplar. For more information, see www.pflag.org.
UK-based newspaper The Guardian released a colorful graphic on its website today showing which U.S. states are gay-friendly and which are not.
Not surprisingly, Tennessee (and the rest of the southeast) failed on pretty much every account. The graphic shows Tennessee has "no law or is unclear" on protections for LGBT people in schools, housing, employment, or hospital visits. It also shows that Tennessee has a law against gay marriage, and the state has limited rights for LGBT couples wishing to adopt or for for LGBT people victimized by hate crimes.
To see how Tennessee compares with other states, go here.
With the 107th Tennessee General Assembly's adjornment yesterday came big news of the death of a long-running bill aimed at silencing discussion of homosexuality in schools.
State Representative Joey Hensley, the GOP sponsor of the bill, decided not to bring the bill up for a vote due to the "opposition of some people who didn't want to vote on it," he told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the legislation would have forbidden any public elementary or middle school from providing instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. The bill has faced fierce opposition (and even national mockery) over the years, as critics warned that passage could lead to a more hostile environment for LGBT kids and teens.
The bill passed the Senate last year, and it won approval by the House Education Committee this year. But it died before being approved by the House Calendar and Rules Committee, a necessary step before reaching the full House floor for a vote.
A film crew from Los Angeles has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a film about Ms. Venus, a 53-year-old Mobile, Alabama drag queen with Memphis roots.
While in her 20s, Mobile resident Devin Ford met Ms. Venus, and the charismatic queen helped re-shape Ford's worldview. A self-professed "white, straight, Southern, former Evangelical," Ford says she was amazed to see someone as comfortable in her own skin as Ms. Venus. The film will chronicle the pair's relationship and Ms. Venus' life journey.
Ms. Venus relocated to Mobile from Memphis, where she was the only African-American man working the on the Memphis Queen riverboat. Parts of the documentary will be filmed in Memphis as Ms. Venus discusses that part of her life.
The crew hopes to raise $50,000 by Tuesday, May 15th to move further with the project. Currently, they've only shot a trailer for the Kickstarter page. To donate, go here.
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center is bouncing back from the economic woes it faced at this time last year, according to the center's annual report released Friday afternoon.
Last year, the center was faced with possible closure if it didn't raise some serious funds, but the report states, "The overwhelming response to our fundraising campaign, and our renewed focus to increase pledges for automatic monthly giving, strengthened our ability to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Memphis and across the Mid-South."
Of course, the center could still use donations, as a constant flow of funds is needed to maintain operations.
The report lists a few ways the center has served the Mid-South over the last year:
* More than 4,500 people visited the center seeking information, support, and assistance.
* MGLCC provided emergency food, clothing and found temporary shelter for 21 homeless or struggling youth.
* Outflix, MGLCC's annual film festival, drew more than 1,500 attendees who viewed LGBT films from 11 different countries.
* Ongoing support groups take place every night of the week and serve the needs of many different subgroups in the Memphis LGBT community – teens, college students, men and women of color, the transgender community, and men and women of many different age groups
* The center's HIV testing program, in partnership with Planned Parenthood, screened 195 people from all parts of the Mid-South.
To see the full report, click here.
Memphis-based shipping giant FedEx has gradually improved its LGBT-friendly status over the years, most recently by announcing a savings program for National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) constituents.
The FedEx Advantage Savings Program offers up to 26 percent off on FedEx shipping rates for the NGLCC's affiliate members and certified suppliers. The NGLCC represents around 1.4 million LGBT businesses and entrepreneurs in the U.S.
Also, FedEx began offering same-sex domestic partner health benefits to its 225,000-plus U.S. employees in January.
Haywood High School principal Dorothy Bond resigned after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the school district's superintendent over anti-gay comments she allegedly made at a school assembly.
Bond allegedly told gay students they were "not on God's path" and threatened to expel them if they were caught showing public affection for same-sex students.
Haywood County's school board made this statement through its law firm: "The Haywood County Board of Education acknowledges its student body’s right to free speech. Further, the Haywood County Board of Education strives to provide an atmosphere of tolerance and diversity while maintaining high academic standards."
For more on the story, see yesterday's Memphis Gaydar post .
Haywood High School principal Dorothy Bond allegedly said gay students were "not on God's path" and threatened to expel them if they were caught showing public affection for same-sex students, according to reports made to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by students. Now the ACLU of Tennessee has sent a letter to the Haywood County school district superintendent.
The comments were reportedly made at an assembly on February 9th. Bond allegedly also told students that gay people are "ruining their lives," and she said public displays of affection among gay students could result in 60-day suspensions, alternative school assignments, and even expulsion. However, the ACLU claims the school's current policy on public displays of affection is neutral in regard to sexual orientation.
Calls by the Memphis Flyer to Haywood County Superintendent of Schools Marlon King have not yet been returned.
According to the ACLU, Bond has made past homophobic remarks, such as telling a lesbian student that she would go to hell for being gay. Bond also reportedly has incorporated prayers and proselytizing into school events.
The ACLU is requesting that Haywood High School clarify that students have the constitutional right to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The group also wants the district to acknowledge that two students of the same sex are dating, to allow students to express LGBT-friendly political views, and to provide students with an education free from religion.
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) announced today that it will no longer offer free weekly HIV tests after Planned Parenthood informed the center that it could no longer fund the tests.
Planned Parenthood has funded the free service, which was the only regularly-scheduled, after-hours HIV testing offered in the Mid-South, for three years. But the State of Tennessee's decision to pull Planned Parenthood's grants for HIV prevention has left the organization without the funds to support testing at MGLCC.
From MGLCC's news release on ending the HIV testing program:
"Despite MGLCC’s core mission to focus on the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, the HIV testing program offered at MGLCC has always been open to anyone needing a test. MGLCC does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. MGLCC believes that helping clients find out their HIV status and find access to appropriate HIV care is an essential service not only for the individual, but for the health and well-being of our entire city."
Since MGLCC's HIV testing program began, more than 500 people have taken advantage of the free service.
“Our strong collaboration with Planned Parenthood to provide HIV testing has improved the lives of hundreds of people every year," said Will Batts, MGLCC's executive director. "Losing this vital program will put the health and well-being of many Memphians at risk. MGLCC considers the setback to our HIV testing program a great tragedy, but we hope the setback will be only a temporary one.”
MGLCC is working to obtain new funding for the tests. Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee are suing the state for denying the $150,000 in grant money.
Writer/producer/director/activist Del Shores, producer of Sordid Lives: The Series and Queer As Folk, has launched a petition to push the Tennessee Attorney General's office to charge state senator Stacey Campfield with an ethics violation.
The alleged ethics violation stems from an exchange between Shores and Campfield last spring. Shores challenged Campfield to a debate over homosexuality and the Bible. Campfield agreed to a debate, but he said it could only be over his "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would ban discussion of homosexuality in elementary and middle schools. Campfield then requested a $1,000 retainer fee.
"I will happily debate you. I require a $1000.00 [sic] retainer fee and all expenses covered. You can do with the rest all you want," Campfield wrote in a Facebook message to Shores.
Shores then contacted the Tennessee Attorney General's office to file an ethics complaint against Campfield since he was requesting a fee to debate a bill that he authored while serving in the Tennessee Senate. Last August, Shores received an email from Victor Domen Jr., senior counsel for the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, informing him that the complaint had been filed and a formal investigation was being launched.
According to Shores, Domen said on January 29th that the investigation is ongoing: "I'm still working on it. You know how slow and deliberate we can be."
Now Shores is asking equality advocates to sign his petition urging the state attorney general's office to make an official determination so the State Ethics Commission can move forward with filing an ethics violation.
Click here to see Shores' petition.