Articles tagged with: LGBT History Month
Pedro Zamora was an AIDS activist who appeared on MTV’s reality series “The Real World.” As the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive person on a television series, he brought national attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Pedro Zamora (February 29, 1972–November 11, 1994) was an AIDS activist who appeared on MTV’s reality series The Real World. As the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive person on a television series, he brought national attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues.
Zamora was born into poverty in Havana, Cuba, the youngest of eight. The family lived in a small house with a dirt floor.
When Zamora was 8, he immigrated to Florida with his parents and two of his siblings as part of the Mariel boatlift. The family settled in Hialeah, Florida. Zamora’s mother died when he was 13. He threw himself into schoolwork and extracurricular activities. An honors student and captain of the science club and cross-country team, he became one of the school’s most popular students.
Zamora learned he was HIV-positive after donating blood, and he decided to pursue a career as an AIDS activist. At age 19, be became nationally known focus when a front-page article about him appeared in the Wall Street Journal, with subsequent interviews by Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey. He testified before Congress on July 12, 1993 arguing for more explicit HIV/AIDS educational programs, telling lawmakers, “If you want to reach me as a young man — especially a young gay man of color — then you need to give me information in a language and vocabulary I can understand and relate to.”
In 1994, Zamora joined the cast of MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco,” having sent in an audition tape after his friend and roommate Alex Escarano convinced him he could reach more people simply by living in The Real World house than through the exhausting cross-country travel. Zamora beat out 25,000 other applicants. Soon after moving into The Real World loft, he fell in love with another HIV-positive AIDS activist, Sean Sasser, whom he had met at the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The two men exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony in the loft.
In an interview with Hal Rubenstein in the August/September 1994 issue of POZ Magazine, Zamora was asked about why he decided to join the reality show’s cast:
Hal Rubenstein: What made you want to be on MTV’s The Real World?
Pedro Zamora: I thought it would be a great way to educate people. One of the problems I face as an educator is that I can get up and tell my story about not feeling well or having fun, about getting sick or going out dancing, but people can’t really see it, and I thought being on the series would be a great way to show how a young person actually deals with HIV and AIDS. And I also thought, it’s four or five months in San Francisco, how bad could it be?
HR: Did MTV express any reservations or discomfort about your HIV status or give you any direction before they threw you in the soup?
PZ: No. During the interview process they voiced some concerns, but they were related to me and to my welfare. They told me it was going to be a very stressful situation, and they were worried about the toll it might take on my health. And we discussed that my six roommates should know that they are living with an HIV positive person. But that was about it.
HR: Knowing how much stress can compromise the immune system, why were you willing to risk that?
PZ: I thought about it knowing that just being away from my family would be hard for me. But part of the changes I started feeling when I was diagnosed was my increased willingness to take risks. That may sound kind of odd, but I acquired this desire to experience things I hadn’t before. And it’s been very stressful at points. And during the filming, my T-cells have dropped. And I got PCP.
HR: You have AIDS?
PZ: Yeah. About a year ago, my T-cell count dropped below 200, so, technically, I was defined as having AIDS then; but after the PCP, my T-cell count is next to nothing.
Zamora came into personal conflict with housemate David “Puck” Rainey from the beginning of their stay in the house. Rainey mocked Zamora’s Cuban accent, denigrated his career as an educator, and told offensive gay-related jokes. Zamora’s roommate Judd Winick described Rainey as “obnoxious” and “homophobic.” Zamora, feeling his stress from confrontations with Rainey was contributing to his deteriorating health, announced he would move out. The entire cast voted instead to evict Rainey from the house.
However, his health continued to deteriorate through the remainder of the season. The cast moved out of the loft on June 19, 1994, and the first episodes of The Real World: San Francisco began airing a week later, continuing to air through November 1994. Meantime, MTV created a trust for Zamora to pay for his medical costs, because Zamora had no health insurance. On November 11, 1994, the day after the final episode of The Real World: San Francisco aired, Zamora died surrounded by family and friends. His partner Sean Sasser, however, was barely allowed into the room, as POZ Magazine‘s Anderson Jones recounted in an article about Sasser in 1997:
Sadly, Sean did not have an opportunity to meet Pedro’s family until after Pedro got sick, so sick that he could no longer communicate to them the importance of Sean in his life. On TV, it always appeared that Pedro’s parents were in complete support of their son’s lifestyle and choices. “That wasn’t my experience,” Sean says flatly. “I shouldn’t have had to deal with a lot of the stuff that I dealt with in Miami. If Pedro and I were legally married, his family would have understood and respected my right to be there. And, of course, that was an abomination. It was just very hypocritical and unnecessary and I didn’t understand it. It caused even more turmoil around an already desperate and hurtful situation.” He raises his voice. “I was told Pedro did not need to have a lover anymore. And it was very obvious from the start, when he could communicate, that he wanted me there. I have a lot of resentment toward dealing with his family’s homophobia, as well as dealing with him dying.”
It never got any better. After the first couple of confrontations, Sean’s first instinct was to go back to San Francisco. “But whenever I’d go back, I’d go, ‘What am I doing here? I have to go back.’” Sean fought the urge to escape-as the media coverage intensified, he couldn’t walk in Miami without being accosted by bereaved fans — until Pedro’s final day. “Actually, he passed away very early in the morning… he was already gone, you know, the Pedro that I knew,” he says quietly. “Once again, I felt overwhelmed by his family trying to, like, take everything so… oh boy,” he sighs loudly. “And I was allowed to make my way to the bed… to give him a kiss. And I left. That was it.”
After Zamora’s death, he received praise from President Clinton for his leadership in AIDS education and for raising awareness about the disease. In 1995, a street in Miami was renamed Pedro Zamora Way. Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned, an autobiographical graphic novel by Judd Winick, Zamora’s roommate on The Real World: San Francisco, was published in 2000. In 2008, Pedro, a feature film, honored his life.
“A Tribute to Pedro Zamora” was broadcast on MTV, and is available on YouTube. Watch Part 1:
Photo credit: Pedro Zamora. Photo by Ken Probst; used by license through Equality Forum (LGBT History Month).
Virginia Woolf was an accomplished 20th century English novelist and one of the founders of the modernist movement. She published nearly 500 essays and nine novels. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Virginia Woolf (born January 25, 1882; died March 28, 1941) was an accomplished 20th century English novelist and one of the founders of the modernist movement. She published nearly 500 essays and nine novels.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen, she was privately tutored at home and never attended college. She inherited a love of literature from her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, who had an impressive library and was a magazine editor.
Woolf suffered emotional hardships from an early age. When she was 6, her stepbrother began molesting her. The abuse continued into her early adulthood. At 13, she suffered a mental breakdown following her mother’s death. At 22, Woolf suffered a second breakdown when her father died.
Upon recovering, Woolf and her siblings moved to Bloomsbury in London. There she involved herself with the Bloomsbury Group, a cadre of intellectuals who met for discussion of politics, art and literature. She began her literary career teaching at Morley College and writing book reviews.
In 1912, Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a member of the Bloomsbury Group. The marriage was described as passionless, but loving. Together they founded the Hogarth Press and published significant books, including Mansfield’s Prelude, T.S. Elliot’s Poems, and her own book Kew Gardens.
Woolf had a number of close relationships with women. It is believed there was only one sexual relationship, with Vita Sackville-West, on whom Woolf based the protagonist of her novel Orlando (1928). The plot of Orlando span over 300 years (1588–1928), during which Orlando ages only thirty-six years, and changes gender from male to female. Sackville-West’s son described the novel as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.” Orlando was made into a 1993 film with Tilda Swinton in the lead role and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I. From the novel:
For it was this mixture in her of man and woman, one being uppermost and then the other, that often gave her conduct an unexpected turn. The curious of her own sex would argue, for example, if Orlando was a woman, how did she never take more than ten minutes to dress? And were not her clothes chosen rather at random, and sometimes worn rather shabby? And then they would say, still, she has none of the formality of a man, or a man’s love of power. She is excessively tender-hearted. She could not endure to see a donkey beaten or a kitten drowned. Yet again, they noted, she detested household matters, was up at dawn and out among the fields in summer before the sun had risen. No farmer knew more about the crops than she did. She could drink with the best and liked games of hazard. She rode well and drove six horses at a gallop over London Bridge. Yet again, though bold and active as a man, it was remarked that the sight of another in danger brought on the most womanly palpitations. She would burst into tears on slight provocation. She was unversed in geography, found mathematics intolerable, and held some caprices which are more common among women than men, as for instance that to travel south is to travel downhill.
Woolf’s modernist style differed from other writers of the day. It concentrated more on communicating impressions and people’s inner lives than recreating reality. It often included techniques such as stream-of-consciousness writing. Many of her works contain strong feminist themes, such as her book-length essay A Room of One’s Own(1929) where she wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Other works by Virginia Woolf include the novels The Voyage Out (1915), Night and Day (1919), Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), The Waves (1931), The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). She also wrote volumes of short stories, essays, and other works. She is also the subject of numerous biographies and critical essays, and several of her works have been adapted into movies. The Hours (1998), a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, focused on three generations of women affected by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway — including Woolf herself — and was adapted into a 2002 film with Nicole Kidman portraying Woolf.
Over the course of Woolf’s life, she was treated for mental illness. She was likely suffering a mental breakdown at the time of her death. After weighing down her pockets with stones, she drowned herself in the River Ouse in Lewes, England. According to her suicide note, she feared her suffering would not end.
The only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice is from a talk called “Craftsmanship” in a BBC radio broadcast from April 29, 1937 (transcribed here). The text was published as an essay in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942). YouTube user Atthis22 prepared a slideshow of photographs of Virginia Woolf to accompany the audio. Watch:
Image credit: Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902.
Lilli Vincenz is a pioneering gay rights activist. In 1965, she was the only lesbian to participate in the first White House picket. From 1965 to 1969, Vincenz demonstrated each Fourth of July in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. These protests, called Annual Reminders, launched the gay and lesbian civil rights movement. Bent Alaska presents his/her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Lilli Vincenz (born September 26, 1937) is a pioneering gay rights activist. In 1965, she was the only lesbian to participate in the first White House picket. From 1965 to 1969, Vincenz demonstrated each Fourth of July in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. These protests, called Annual Reminders, launched the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.
Vincenz was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up during World War II. Her father died when she was 2 years old. In 1949, after her mother married an American, the family moved to the United States.
In 1959, Vincenz earned bachelor’s degrees in French and German from Douglas College. The following year, she received a master’s degree in English from Columbia University.
After college, Vincenz enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After serving nine months, she was outed by her roommate and was discharged for being gay.
In 1963, Vincenz joined the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW) — joining, she said in an interview with About.com’s Lesbian Life, because there was no chapter of the early lesbian rights organization Daughters of Bilitis there. There she served as editor of the The Homosexual Citizen for a year and a half. According to Frank Kameny, the Mattachine Society’s founder (as quoted in a profile of Vincenz at Gay Today):
The ideology of The Homosexual Citizen can be perfectly summarized in three words: Activist,. Militant. Radical. Those were dirty words in 1966, but that’s who we were. We were the cutting edge of the movement. The Homosexual Citizen reflected our activism–the unifying and protesting mindset on the vanguard of the movement.
Vincenz was in the MSW delegation that held the first meeting with the Civil Service Commission to discuss discriminatory policies toward gays and lesbians.
Then in 1965 we started picketing. April 17th. That was the White House picket. I just felt wonderful. We needed visibility. Because gay people, we were not visible in those days. So we all had dress rules. We looked good. We were protesting the policies of the government in regards to gay people. Because gays were fired then.
In 1971, Vincenz helped launch the Frank Kameny for Congress campaign. This marked the first time an openly gay person ran for public office in the United States.
Vincenz filmed two important gay rights demonstrations: the 1968 Annual Reminder in Philadelphia and the first anniversary of Stonewall, known as the first New York Pride Parade.
From 1971 to 1979, Vincenz hosted a monthly Gay Women’s Open House in Washington to provide a safe setting for socializing and discussing common concerns.
In 1990, Vincenz earned a Ph.D. in human development from the University of Maryland. Vincenz has written for numerous publications and has appeared on television and in film. In 1992, she and her partner founded the Community for Self Development to promote gay-positive learning.
She resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her partner, Nancy Ruth Davis.
In June 2011, Vincenz told About.com,
I’m also doing a lot of music. I have a little group called Ashgrove Players. I play fiddle. My partner and I have been together 25 years. We’ve been doing a lot of cruises. We went to Tahiti in March with Olivia. We’ve been on 14 Olivia cruises. We’re very busy.
The Ash Grove Players played at The Jefferson in Ballston Common, Virginia on January 8, 2010, with Lee Paulson on the accordion; Wilmer Kerns on mandolin; Lilli Vincenz on fiddle; Lisa Robinson on fiddle; Joel Edelman on guitar, and Pete Coleman on guitar. Here they are playing “Ashokan Farewell”:
Photo credit: Lilli Vincenz, cover photo for The Ladder, January 1966. Photo by Kay Lahusen.
Wanda Sykes is an Emmy Award-winning comedian and actor praised for being one of the most entertaining women of her generation. She was the first African-American and first openly gay master of ceremonies for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Wanda Sykes (born March 7, 1964) is an Emmy Award-winning comedian and actor praised for being one of the most entertaining women of her generation. She was the first African-American and first openly gay master of ceremonies for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Her father, an Army colonel, worked in the Pentagon; her mother worked as a bank manager. At a young age, Sykes discovered her passion for making people laugh. She was outspoken and entertaining in high school. In 1986, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Hampton University and began working for the National Security Agency (NSA).
Sykes’s stand-up career began spontaneously at a talent showcase. She quickly made close friends in the comedy world, including rising star Chris Rock. She was a performer and writer for “The Chris Rock Show” and won the 1999 Emmy for outstanding writing for a variety, music or comedy special. In 2002, Sykes won her second Emmy for her work on “Inside the NFL.”
In 2003, Sykes launched her first television show, “Wanda at Large.” On the show, she played Wanda Hawkins, an unsuccessful stand-up comic hired to be a correspondent on a political talk show. Sykes acknowledged, “Wanda Hawkins is basically me personified. We have the same attitude, the same point of view—pointing out hypocrisies in the way we see the world.”
Sykes has starred in “Wanda Does It,” “The Wanda Sykes Show” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” HBO has produced two Wanda Sykes comedy specials, “Sick & Tired” (2006) and “I’ma Be Me” (2009).
Sykes appeared in the feature films “Evan Almighty,” “Monster-In-Law” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” and provided the voice for characters in the animated films “Over The Hedge” and “The Barnyard.” Her first book, Yeah, I Said It, is a collection of comedic essays on current events, family and life.
In 2008, Sykes came out when she announced her own marriage while speaking at a rally for same-sex marriage. In a March 2009 interview, she told The Advocate tells the story of how she met and married her wife:
In 2006, Sykes went on a weeklong, end-of-summer vacation with friends to Cherry Grove, one of two predominantly gay communities on New York’s Fire Island. (“I’m not making that Pines money,” she says of the neighboring, ritzier enclave, Fire Island Pines. “But it’s so nice over at the Pines. Nice coffee shops, gourmet foods, and all that crap over there.”) It was a nasty, rainy day, but on the ferry ride to the island Sykes spotted an intriguing woman. “She had on this black trench coat and was carrying a computer bag,” she says. “I was like, We’re going to Fire Island — what the hell is she doing with her laptop?”
It wasn’t so much the trench coat or the laptop, though, that sparked Sykes’s attention. “She just caught my eye,” she says. And that’s when something happened that she’d never experienced before. “It was like a voice inside me saying, See? That’s what you need, Wanda. That’s what you need.” Sykes’s eyes well up with tears as she tells the story. “She’s beautiful, but there was just this aura about her. We’ve been inseparable since.” Inseparable and protective: Sykes, walking a tightrope, will not say what her wife does for a living. In fact, she tells the whole story of their meeting without once uttering her wife’s name. Later Sykes decided to give us her first name, Alexandra, for the article. “She’s not in show business. I want her to have as much of her private life as she can.”
Two years later, emboldened by the California supreme court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, she and Alexandra decided to make it official. “This was it,” Sykes explains. “We’re in love and we want to spend the rest of our lives together. That’s why you get married.” So they rented a small hotel in Palm Springs and were married in a simple ceremony before about 40 friends and family members. “We had an amazing weekend. I don’t like to talk about it. It was a very special moment for us, for our friends. I like to keep that.” Sykes is happy—and obviously sentimental: “Even looking at the pictures, I just go back to that moment and get all teary-eyed.”
She lives in California with her wife, Alex, and their twins, Lucas and Olivia.
In her “I’ma Be Me” comedy on HBO in 2009, Wanda Sykes talked about what it would be like if you had to come out black. Watch:
Photo credit: Wanda Sykes at a Marriage Equality Now rally in Sacramento, 16 February 2009. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage (wanderinghome on Flickr); used in accordance with Creative Commons license.
Amanda Simpson is the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology in the U.S. Department of Defense. She is the first openly transgender female presidential appointee. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Amanda Simpson (born March 26, 1961) is the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology in the U.S. Department of Defense. She is the first openly transgender female presidential appointee.
Born in the Chicago area, Simpson grew up in Southern California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics, and master’s degrees in engineering and business administration.
As an undergraduate, Simpson trained as a pilot. “I quickly realized this was a way to use all the sciences and technology I had been exposed to in the classroom,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to incorporate my love of flight into my career.” Simpson is a certified flight instructor, and has her airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate.
For 27 years, Simpson worked at Raytheon Missile Systems. She spent 20 years as the manager of flight operations and departed as Deputy Director of Advanced Technology Development. In 2005, she successfully advocated for Raytheon to include gender identity and expression in its nondiscrimination policy.
In 2004, Simpson became the first openly transgender person in the United States to win a contested primary by securing a Democratic nomination for the Arizona House of Representatives. In 2008, she was a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.
Simpson has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Arizona Human Rights Fund, the Tucson Corporate LGBT Coalition, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Before she was appointed to her current position, Simpson was Senior Technical Advisor in the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. As the highest-ranking technical member, she advised on policy issues and monitored the export of weapons technology.
Simpson was appointed by President Barack Obama in January 2010 as a senior technical adviser in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, where she monitors exports of U.S. weapons technology. Her appointment received wide media coverage. ABC News reported:
For Amanda Simpson, believed to be America’s first openly transgender presidential appointee, the job she starts Tuesday in the U.S. Commerce Department is an honor and the culmination of a career dedicated to understanding military technology.
But what gnaws at her, she says, is the fear of being labeled a token who was hired because of her sexual identity rather than on her merits.
“Being the first sucks,” she told ABC News.com. “I’d rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first. I think I’m experienced and very well qualified to deal with anything that might show up because I’ve broken barriers at lots of other places and I always win people over with who I am and what I can do.”
Simpson’s many honors include the 2001 Raytheon Woman on the Move Award, the 2005 Arizona Human Rights Fund Individual Award, the 2010 Louise Young Award, and OUT for Work’s 2010 OUTstanding Individual Award. She resides in Tucson, where she was Grand Marshal of the city’s 2005 Pride Parade.
Amanda Simpson was the keynote speaker for the Transgender Day of Remembrance at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington on November 18, 2010, where she spoke out against transphobia and its consequences — whether coming from a comedian like David Letterman or from within the gay community. Watch:
Photo credit: Official profile photo of Amanda Simpson, Sr. Technical Adviser, Department of Commerce, 17 January 2010. Public work, all rights released.
Dan Savage is an award-winning author, journalist, newspaper editor and political commentator. He launched the “It Gets Better” video project to combat bullying and prevent LGBT teen suicides. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Dan Savage (born October 7, 1964) is an award-winning author, journalist, newspaper editor and political commentator. He launched the It Gets Better video project to combat bullying and prevent LGBT teen suicides.
Born in Chicago, Savage was the third of four children in an Irish Catholic family. He attended Quigley Prep, which Savage describes as “a Catholic high school for boys thinking of becoming priests.”
At 18, Savage came out to his family. After initially having a difficult time, they became supportive. Savage enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theater.
In 1991, Savage’s sex-advice column, “Savage Love,” first appeared in The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle. The internationally syndicated column has been called funny, sarcastic, informative and outrageous.
Savage’s columns were compiled into a book, Savage Love: Straight Answers from America’s Most Popular Sex Columnist (1998). He has also written The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (1999) and The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family (2006) and won a Lambda Literary Award for Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America (2003).
In 2010, reacting to the suicides of bullied LGBT youth, Savage started the It Gets Better Project, which encourages adults to submit videos assuring gay teens that life gets better. As of 2011, the project generated more than 5,000 video submissions, including testimonials from President Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Gunn, Anne Hathaway, Ke$ha and other celebrities. For creating It Gets Better, Savage received a Webby Special Achievement Award, the leading international award honoring online excellence. With his husband Terry Miller, Savage compiled a book based on It Gets Better videos, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, about which Bent Alaska wrote in March. Introducing the book, Savage expressed the frustration LGBT adults have had as they were forced to stand idly by while homophobic parents, ministers, teachers, and kids battered the bodies and spirits of LGBT youth:
The culture used to offer this deal to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: You’re ours to torture until you’re eighteen. You will be bullied and tormented at school, at home, at church — until you’re eighteen. Then, you can do what you want. You can come out, you can move away, and maybe, if the damage we’ve done isn’t too severe, you can recover and build a life for yourself. There’s just one thing you can’t do after you turn eighteen: You can’t talk to the kids we’re still torturing, the LGBT teenagers being assaulted emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the same cities, schools, and churches you escaped from. And if you do attempt to talk to the kids we’re still torturing, we’ll impugn your motives, we’ll accuse you of being a pedophile or pederast, we’ll claim you’re trying to recruit children into “the gay lifestyle.”
That was the old order and it fell apart when the It Gets Better Project went viral. Suddenly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adults all over the world — all over the world — were speaking to LGBT youth. We weren’t waiting for permission anymore. We found our voices.
Savage has been a contributor to Out magazine and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” As a political commentator on LGBT issues, Savage has appeared frequently on CNN and MSNBC.
Savage and his husband Terry Miller, who married in 2005, live in Seattle with their adopted son.
The It Gets Better project got its start when Dan Savage and Terry Miller uploaded a video on September 21, 2010, in response to the suicides of teenagers bullied because they were, or were believed by their peers to be, gay. Watch:
Photo credit: Dan Savage, 12 June 2005. Photo via Wikimedia provided by Dan Savage; used in accordance with Creative Commons license.
Ryan Murphy is an award-winning film and television director, writer and producer. He is best known for creating the television series “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee.” Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Ryan Murphy (born November 30, 1965 ) is an award-winning film and television director, writer and producer. He is best known for creating the television series “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee.”
Murphy grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, in an Irish Catholic family. His mother was a writer. His father was a newspaper circulation director. At 15, after coming out to his parents, Murphy saw a therapist, who said he was just “too precocious for his own good.”
At Indiana University in Bloomington, Murphy worked on the school newspaper and performed with the “Singing Hoosiers,” the university’s show choir.
Starting out as a journalist, Murphy worked for the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly. He began scriptwriting in the late 1990’s. In 1999, he made his first foray into television, creating the teen comedy series “Popular”. He wrote most of the show’s episodes.
In 2003, Murphy created “Nip/Tuck”, winner of the 2005 Golden Globe for best TV drama series. Murphy wrote and directed many episodes and served as executive producer for the show, which ran for seven seasons. “Nip/Tuck” earned him his first Emmy Award nomination for directing.
“Glee”, a groundbreaking musical comedy series created by Murphy, premiered in 2009. In its second season, the show became a pop culture phenomenon and one of the top-rated programs on television among young adults. That season, “Glee” received four Emmy Awards, including one for Murphy for outstanding directing for a comedy series.
For its honest depictions of LGBT characters and story lines, “Glee” also received the 2010 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The same year, Murphy directed Julia Roberts in a screenplay he co-wrote based on the book Eat, Pray, Love. The film grossed over $200 million worldwide. His most recent project, the TV series “American Horror Story”, premiered on F/X earlier this month.
Murphy serves on the National Advisory Board of the Young Storytellers Foundation, a Los Angeles area educational program that brings entertainment professionals into the classroom.
Murphy lives in Los Angeles.
In October 2010, Mediaweek talked with Ryan Murphy about Glee‘s impact on its gay viewers, and his own commitment to gay kids. Watch:
Photo credit: Ryan Murphy at at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego, 25 July 2010. Photo by Gage Skidmore; used in accordance with Creative Commons license.
Constance McMillen became a poster child for LGBT rights after asking permission to bring her girlfriend to the prom. When her school responded by cancelling the prom, McMillen took legal action. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Constance McMillen (born 1992) became a poster child for LGBT rights after asking permission to bring her girlfriend to the prom. When her school responded by cancelling the prom, McMillen took legal action.
As a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, McMillen challenged the prom rules forbidding same-sex couples from attending and girls from wearing tuxedos. When the school cancelled the prom, students responded by harassing McMillen.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit requesting that the court order the school to hold an inclusive prom. The case was settled when a U.S. District Court ruled that McMillen’s First Amendment rights had been violated. The Itawamba County School District consented to a judgment in which it paid McMillen $35,000 and $81,000 in attorneys’ fees.
After the settlement, the school held a prom. Only McMillen and seven learning disabled students attended. Parents organized a separate prom that all other students attended, but to which McMillen was not invited.
The school district agreed to implement policies that would prevent future discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for extracurricular and educational activities. This was groundbreaking for a Mississippi school district.
McMillen’s story received national attention. Glamour magazine named her Woman of the Year in 2010, and she appeared on national television shows including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where she received a $30,000 scholarship. She was invited to the White House and served as Grand Marshal of the New York Gay Pride Parade.
McMillen transferred to a school in Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated in 2011. She enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College to study psychology.
Photo credit: Constance McMillen at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards, 17 April 2010. Photo by Greg Hernandez (greginhollywood on Flickr); used in accordance with Creative Commons license.
Amélie Mauresmo was the World No. 1 tennis player. She won 25 career titles including two Grand Slams. In 2004, she received an Olympic Silver medal in tennis singles. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Ricky Martin is a 5-time Grammy Award-winning pop singer. A professional entertainer since childhood, Martin has sold more than 60 million albums. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Ricky Martin (born December 24, 1971) is a 5-time Grammy Award-winning pop singer. A professional entertainer since childhood, Martin has sold more than 60 million albums.
He was born Enrique Martin Morales in San Juan, Puerto Rico, into a Roman Catholic family. His mother is an accountant and his father is a psychologist.
Martin’s singing career began at age 12 with the Latin American boy band Menudo. After completing high school, he moved to Mexico City, where he signed a solo record deal with Sony.
After two successful Spanish-language albums and a sold-out concert tour, Martin moved to Los Angeles, where he was cast as a singer/bartender on the popular soap opera “General Hospital.”
In 1999, he released his first English-language recording. The self-titled album sold 22 million copies and launched the No. 1 hit single “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”
That year, Martin performed at the Grammy Awards and received the award for Best Latin Pop Album. With his good looks, sexy dance moves and dynamic performance style, he became an international superstar.
Martin is the founder and president of the Ricky Martin Foundation. The foundation works to prevent the trafficking of children. In 2005, he received the International Humanitarian Award from the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In 2006, Martin was honored with the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Award. The following year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2008, Martin had twin sons via a surrogate mother. Two years later, he came out with a post on his Web site, “I am a fortunate homosexual man.”
In 2010, Martin’s memoir, Me, was published. In an interview he said, “I want my children to be able to read the book one day and understand the spiritual journey I had to experience.”
Martin lives in Miami with his partner and his two sons.
On December 3, 2003, Martin was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for his work as a defender of children’s rights, and in October 2011 he was honored with a Leader of Change Award during the Global Conference for Social Change in New York. He prepared a video in thanks for the award, and explaining the work of the Ricky Martin Foundation against exploitation of children and child trafficking. Watch: