Thursday, March 29, 2012

What does Equality & Justice mean to you?

What does equality and justice mean to you?

Whether you're able to join us in Albany or not for Equality & Justice Day on Tuesday, May 8, you're probably involved with the Empire State Pride Agenda because equality and justice are values you hold close.

Take a moment and share with our movement what equality and justice means to you. Download and print our sign "Equality & Justice because..." Fill it out. Take a photo of yourself holding it. Post it on the Facebook wall for Equality & Justice Day or Tweet it at us @prideagenda using the hash tag #ej12.

Your response can be very personal or very broad; it can be words, a drawing, a photo, whatever you think of.

For Pinterest users, we will also be cross-posting these images on our Pinterest board "Equality & Justice because..." and re-pinning images with the hash tag #ej12.

We look forward to seeing your submissions online!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Empowering Myself at the Pride Agenda

Post by Pride Agenda Intern Jeremy Markman. Find out more about interning at the Empire State Pride Agenda.

When I opened up Facebook this past 4th of July and had realized that Joe had killed himself, I was paralyzed. Questions mixed with anger stormed my head. This array of emotions was juxtaposed with a genuine understanding of what initially led him to that dark place. This was another premature gay death on top of too many. At the bottom of all these tragedies appears to be a self-hate that runs deep--so deep, that the individual actually sees opting out of life as a viable solution. The suicide rate and addiction rate among the LGBT population is drastically higher than the population at large. Why is this and what can we do to stop it?

Coming to terms with my sexuality at a young age was not easy, despite the fact that I had a great deal of family support once I came out. I always felt different from my peers and certainly encountered some rough bullying growing up because of my differences. In retrospect, I handled this the best way I knew how. I immersed myself in academics and pushed through. With every “faggot” flung my way I tried to remain tall, even if I was breaking down inside. The seed of shame grew wildly out of control and through the years continued to fester. It isn’t until relatively recently in my life that I have been able to come to a strong sense of who I am, what I am about and really nurture that. It has been such a long process to feel truly proud of who I am and be able to show that to the world. This is not an easy task for so many, especially those who are LGBT and have been beaten down physically and emotionally. To be quite honest, I still can fall prey to that shame, but as I become more aware of it, I am able to not let it overtake me.

In high school, I remember when Matthew Shepherd was killed. This affected many people by the sheer brutality that was inflicted upon this innocent young man. This hateful act affected those of us who identified as LGBT on a deeper level because we realized that this could have easily been one of us. Matthew Shepherd was just the symbol at the time for homophobic injustices that were taking place everywhere. While writing this piece I happened to see that Joe was a fan of the Empire State Pride Agenda on Facebook. This adds another layer to why interning here has so much meaning for me. “Pride” is the operative word, and with that comes empowering oneself. It is about working toward creating policies that support this sense of wellbeing, that have all too often been eroded away in LGBT people.

We live in an America where we have leaders like Rick Santorum who preach hateful rhetoric about being gay. We must be role models and protect our gay youth from ever feeling that they are insignificant or less than. We must make our voices heard and say that anything less than equal treatment and respect is not going to fly. That is why I am doing this work and that is the underlying principle that embodies every word typed, email sent and phone call made. It is about showing support and respect to one another within our community and then making sure we have one another’s back to combat any lingering injustice we face within the larger population. I do this for all the Joes out there who found or continue to find it extremely difficult to live at peace in this world. I want to do my best to help other LGBT people who are struggling to know that they do indeed matter and that they should feel nothing less than entirely proud of who they are. As I continue to lend my hand in this quest, I get closer to fully accepting who I am as well.

New from TRANScribe: "Anonymous in Lockport "

Told by a woman in Lockport, the next story in the TRANScribe Project really underscores why we fight for transgender equality and justice. When in custody, this type of situation can be terrifying and unfortunately is all too common. Nearly one in four transgender New Yorkers who have interacted with police reported harassment by an officer. Here's an excerpt:

...was the most humiliating experience that I have ever had in my entire life of over 50 years. It is something that brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it.

I cannot reveal my real name because I live completely undetected in Lockport. I am afraid that if people ever found out I would lose my home, a home that I have lived in since 2004. I am well-liked but afraid my neighbors and friends would stop talking to me if they knew that I was not a genetic female. I already lost all my friends and family once when I transitioned in 1996 and I am afraid they would retaliate against me for telling about the horrible treatment I received... Read more...

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Greetings from a Pride Agenda Intern

Post by Ruth Michael Lindner

I remember standing among a crowd of happy, smiling faces at my first Pride Parade in 2006. The air buzzed with excitement as the masses of people, free to express themselves and who they loved, moved around. It was a beautiful day, not only because the sun was shining but because I felt so wholly at peace with who I am. I've been lucky, growing up around Albany, spending five years in New Paltz and then moving to New York City. I've also been lucky to have a family who never judged me or questioned whom I love.

I know this is not the case for everyone and this knowledge is part of the reason I wanted to intern with the Empire State Pride Agenda. The work they do to protect and honor the rights of all New Yorkers is magnificent. I think especially of marriage equality in New York. I'm surprised I didn't injure myself jumping off the couch with excitement when I heard the news. I tend to lose my major motor skills when something so profoundly moving occurs. I joke that my partner is "the rock to my roll" because she keeps me grounded and stable. Simply being comfortable enough to say, "my partner," and having protection from discrimination is something few could have fathomed a half a century ago.

Great strides have been made, but there are still a host of issues on the table. Those who know me say that I am a worrier, and while there are moments where the trail seems steep, I know that the LGBT community is strong enough to fight an uphill battle. My mother likes to remind me that in the "big picture" and the "grand scheme of things," changes are happening quickly. And they are. The fight for equality requires a myriad of different people, of varying ages, with different tactics for making change. I see so much beauty in the variety of people sharing this earth. Much like the memories of my first Pride Parade, the collage of people is colorful and vibrant, as it should be.

Working with the Pride Agenda has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I've met people who work all over New York State for this cause, and I am looking forward to the upcoming Pride Agenda events. I know that whatever my future holds, fighting for the equality of the LGBT community will be a part of that.

New from TRANScribe: "One of the Lucky Ones"

Joanne Borden of North Woodmere discusses being "one of the lucky one":
At a very early age, some of us transgender girls were told, "Boys don't do that!" and we believed it. We kept the girl a secret. She was buried in the deepest corner of our soul. I, for one, spent my life hoping for a cure, so I could be rid of what seemed to be a curse. The cure would come: when I started college; when I turned 21; enlisted in the army; when I got married; when I became 30 and at nearly every other milestone in my life. Read more...
Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New from TRANScribe: "Just a Regular Joe"

Bec Collins of Nassau, NY discusses challenges and successes of transitioning on the job:
The general consensus of both my department manager and HR is “so what.” It’s not an issue as far as my employability, and I have been reassured that my gender expression would never be held against me. HR decided to educate my fellow employees about transgender issues and harassment policies. It wasn’t until the company hired a new guy that I ran into some issues.

The general consensus of both my department manager and HR is “so what.” It’s not an issue as far as my employability, and I have been reassured that my gender expression would never be held against me. HR decided to educate my fellow employees about transgender issues and harassment policies. It wasn’t until the company hired a new guy that I ran into some issues. I asked my manager how they were going to handle this, and she told me that he would have to know about my gender status. I told her that I didn’t see why he needed to know. And she told me that if I felt uncomfortable disclosing this information to him, then she would do it. I went into panic mode, but kept my cool. Read more >

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.