Friday, March 25, 2011

League of Women Voters Partners with the Pride Agenda

Any movement needs strong allies that have the ability to lift up issues with legislators, the media and the general public and who will play a key role in helping move legislation through the process to become law in New York State. The passage of the Dignity for All Students Act last year, the Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (SONDA) in 2002 and the Hate Crimes Law in 2000 are all proof of that. Those bills had strong support from our allies and our work this year on transgender civil rights and marriage continues to build on that.

The transgender community and the equality and justice movement to pass the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) recently gained a great ally in the League of Women Voters of New York State. This well-respected organization recently signed up in support of the marriage bill, too.

The League of Women Voters has become an especially important voice and partner working with the Pride Agenda to pass GENDA and marriage. Their eloquent statement to their members can be reviewed here. They have officially made this part of their lobbying efforts during this legislative session and have committed to having their members visit and contact legislators, work with us on in-district meetings in key areas of focus, participate in Equality & Justice Day and in strategic planning efforts. Their commitment will help leverage other women’s organizations, too.

If you are affiliated with or know other organizations that may be willing to make a public statement in support of the passage of the GENDA bill, please let us know. You can also learn more about these and other efforts to increase awareness and work to pass legislation that would protect transgender New Yorkers. You can also attend our upcoming webinar and register for Equality & Justice Day to lend your voice as an ally for transgender equality and justice. Please get in touch with me at ssable AT prideagenda DOT org or our new Transgender Rights Organizer, Grayson Mitchell, at gmitchell AT prideagenda DOT org.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

News round up: Inspiration from New York to the UN!

Encouraging developments within the movement for LGBT equality and justice have been seen both in our own state and around the world this week.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund is bringing a lawsuit against New York City for its outdated and cruel policy that prevents transgender people from obtaining birth certificates that accurately display their gender. The Pride Agenda has been urging this change for years locally and statewide and is sorry to see this become a legal figh, but it’s not too late to change. We ask you to take a moment to leave a positive comment on these articles in the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

The NYPD is considering the beating death of Anthony Callao in Queens an anti-gay hate crime. This follows an incide last month, when Williamsburg resident Barie Shortell was severely beaten by a group of teenagers who also yelled anti-gay slurs. The five days Barie spent in the hospital and the months of follow-up care he will require will likely add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Barie now plans to get involved with teen anti-violence education. A vigil was held last night for Anthony. These tragedies remind us that there is still a long way to go in the fight to achieve equality and justice for the LGBT community.

Mayor Bloomberg has promised to do his part to push Senate Republicans to support the marriage bill.

Also, a heartwarming story was published this morning about Jamestown newlyweds Amber and Katie Allison. The Allisons recently traveled to Connecticut to get married and are now planning a ceremony in Jamestown. The two women submitted a wedding announcement to the local paper, which was published without question. Despite some negative feedback from their community, Amber and Katie welcome the opportunity to change people’s perceptions about the LGBT community.

Finally, on his recent trip to Brazil, President Obama found common ground with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The pair announced that they would seek to establish within the Organization of American States a “Special Rapporteur” dedicated to achieving respect for LGBT individuals, a first-of-its-kind position in the world. The administration also urged the United Nations to address human rights abuses against LGBT people, a marked departure from past presidents and a step towards more international consensus that all people have human rights.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Motivated and ready to work!

Reflections from Grayson Mitchell, the new Transgender Rights/Upstate Organizer

I cannot tell you how honored I am to work with such a dynamic, strategic and professional organization whose mission is one that I hold close to my heart. I am originally from Philadelphia, but moved to Virginia in 2004 to attend college at Mary Baldwin, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I then went on to undertake direct practice work with LGBTQ youth in Richmond, VA. I have a diverse background in LGBT work, mental health, and advocacy. I served on the RICHMOND PFLAG Board, as well as Gay Pride Virginia, and Virginia Anti-Violence Project-among many other community efforts and work.

When I heard there was an opening on the Pride Agenda team, I immediately applied and actively campaigned to join their efforts and make a contribution to education, advocacy and political efforts for LGBT equality and justice here in New York State. My family is originally from here and I am eager to establish myself as a New Yorker.

Ironically, I learned an interesting lesson about the need for protections based on gender expression and identity while traveling up to my interview in Albany. I was detained in the Richmond Virginia Airport because the gender listed on my ID did not match my gender expression and identity. Aside from the humiliation of being detained and missing the last flight to my next destination, I was asked many questions outside of normal protocols or even remotely relevant for any person flying. I eventually made it to Albany the next day but my performance during the interview could have been severely compromised because of the anxiety and embarrassment that I suffered. Had the Pride Agenda staff not worked with me to get me to a hotel room safely and had they not made accommodations for me to recuperate before the interview, that interview might not have gone so well. Even though I was interviewing with an organization that would clearly not discriminate based on gender identity, my ability to be employed could have been compromised by a clear case of discrimination that had a direct impact on my performance.

Clearly there is much to do, and that experience galvanized my resolve to get busy. Now that I am here, I am proud to say that I look forward to working diligently for equality and justice for all LGBT New Yorkers and our families!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Avella Ad Wins National Award!

The Pride Agenda is proud to announce that our Tony Avella for State Senate “Save the Date!” campaign mailing has earned a Silver Pollie Award from the American Association of Political Consultants. We would like to thank political consulting company Blue&Read for their hard work and collaboration on this project. Not only has our messaging been recognized for its creativity on the national level, but it was successful in pushing New Yorkers to vote Tony Avella into office as a State Senator!

The Silver Award-winning “Save the Date!” mailing, front and back.

Lead Organizer Kate McDonough with the “Save the Date!” mailer and another mailer from the campaign.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our opponents are in Albany

There are just three days left after today to take advantage of the early bird registration rate for Equality & Justice Day on Monday, May 9. Sign up now.

As we speak, 1,500 members of an anti-LGBT extremist organization are swarming Albany and arguing against marriage and transgender civil rights to their legislators. Ironically, the so-called "New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms" are specifically targeting the LGBT community and asking legislators to single us out and deny us equality and justice. They're even calling for a state Defense of Marriage Act, even though we're among just six states to have successfully fought off such a blight on our laws.

What will you do to stop our opponents?

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the 1971 March on Albany that saw thousands of New Yorkers from all corners demand fair treatment for LGBT people. They faced harassment and even death threats, but they made their voices heard in our capital and they inspire us to keep marching today. We remember them as we keep working for marriage, transgender civil rights and our fair share of public funding for the health of the LGBT community.

What will you do to honor their memory?

We were disappointed to see a marriage vote delayed in Maryland, and know that when marriage comes for a vote again in New York, we must be ready. We have to do everything we can ahead of time to make sure our legislature votes for marriage and other priorities. Join us on Monday, May 9 for Equality & Justice Day.

We have the majority of New York behind us. We now need our representatives to carry out the will of the people.

P.S. -- Since you will be saving on your early bird registration, can you pitch in and help someone go with an extra contribution to our scholarship fund?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How far we’ve come - First out regent elected

Post by Jonathan Lang, Director of Governmental Projects and Community Development

Responsible for setting educational policy for pre-kindergarten through graduate school and regulating 48 professions that are licensed through the state, the Board of Regents has an incredibly influential role in New York State’s public education system. On Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, the New York State Legislature made history by electing James E. Cottrell, M.D. as the first openly gay member of the Board of Regents. An anesthesiologist, a distinguished service professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal on Neurosurgical Anesthesiology, Dr. Cottrell’s many accomplishments will bring invaluable insight to the Board of Regents as they work to address the many challenges within New York State’s education system.

Last year, the New York State Legislature passed the Dignity for All Students Act, a groundbreaking law that will prohibit discrimination and bias-based harassment in New York State’s public schools. By educating both the students and the school personnel on the importance of diversity and inclusion, the Dignity for All Students Act will create safe and supportive learning environments that protect all students regardless of who they are or who they love. Working with advocates like the Pride Agenda, the Board of Regents will oversee the implementation of the Dignity of All Students Act.

What’s so amazing about the appointment of Dr. Cottrell is that it wasn’t that long ago when the State Education Department didn’t even acknowledge that LGBT students were being bullied in schools! The Pride Agenda has been working since 2001 to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that included explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression by building coalitions, identifying best practices and resources and demanding that New York address the safety and well-being of our young people. Through almost a decade of persistent advocacy, the Pride Agenda was able to gradually make the case for why the Dignity for All Students Act needed to be a top priority for the State Education Department.

The Pride Agenda has done the critical work needed to pass the Dignity for All Students Act and continues to work with other advocates to create hallways and classrooms free of discrimination and bias-based harassment. There’s a lot that still needs to be done but with the election of Dr. Cottrell to the Board of Regents, LGBT students have one more ally to continue the fight for their equality and justice!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Worth a read – NYT shares moving story about being transgender in the workplace

Post by Director of Upstate Organizing Sheilah Sable

The New York Times recently published Brittany Lynn Roche’s brave account of her transition from male to female, making that journey in both her personal and professional life. This story is a vivid depiction of Roche’s transition in today’s workplace and the broad support she received from her colleagues, bosses, and friends.

Though Roche had the support of her employer and colleagues, there is no guarantee that all transitions on the job will be positive. Currently there are no legal protections federally or here in New York State for transgender individuals, underscoring the vital importance of including gender expression and identity in the state’s anti-discrimination laws, to protect individuals from losing their jobs and homes.

A recently published survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality illuminates some of the striking and debilitating inequality faced by transgender people including that 74% of transgender people reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job.

Here in New York, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), protects transgender New Yorkers from discrimination in the workplace, education, credit, housing and public accommodations, enjoys support from 78% of New Yorkers. This bill passed through the Government Operations committee of the New York State Assembly on March 8 with a bipartisan vote of 11-2 and is now on its way to passing the Assembly for the fifth time.

Protecting transgender New Yorkers is literally a matter of life and death, and the New York State Senate should follow the Assembly and pass GENDA in 2011.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pride in the Pulpit Newsletter

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the UCC conference minister for Western New York. At one point during the meeting our discussion turned to how women’s groups can be strong advocates for transgender civil rights. Suddenly, this minister looked up from her tea and said: “I’m going to tell you a story. A transgender woman belongs to our statewide UCC women’s board. Now, our women’s group consists mostly of little old ladies and I was so nervous about how they would react to her joining. The first day that she came to a meeting she was wearing this beautiful sun dress, while everyone else was in sweaters and pants. By the end of the day I discovered that no one cared that she was transgender, all they talked about was the dress!” The Reverend took a sip of her tea and then looked me in the eye. “They all love her and I think that they’d be willing to advocate for her rights. I just have to think about the best way to approach it.”

Sometimes support can come from unexpected people, but it is out there to be found. Every personal interaction a person has with a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person opens their hearts and minds to the LGBT community. Let us now ask these new allies to join us as advocates.

In Peace,
Kate McDonough
Lead Organizer

To get involved with the Pride in the Pulpit program, please contact Kate, kmcdonough AT prideagenda DOT org.

To learn more about our upcoming events, please visit our Program Calendar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kicking off LGBT Health Month!

Post by Jonathan Lang, Director of Governmental Projects and Community Development

The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Human Services Network and the New York State Senate are celebrating March as LGBT Health Month. Today, members of the Network met with media, community members and legislators at a kick-off event and information session in Albany to discuss the healthcare and related needs of the LGBT community. A disproportionate number of LGBT New Yorkers suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and a lack of social support. As one of the Network’s goals, a culturally competent healthcare system will go a long way in helping LGBT individuals secure the services they need. State funding has been absolutely vital to Network organizations, many of which have suffered from the economic downturn and must fight to continue providing their services to those who need them the most.

Senator Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan), the only gay member of the Senate, also presented Network members with a Senate resolution commemorating LGBT health Month at an event in Albany on Tuesday morning.

Network organizations have often been asked to do more with less, but now the demand is exceeding the resources and we are faced this year with the need to cut back, and thereby allow more individuals to fall through the cracks of the healthcare system.

“Funding from the state remains a critical source of support for many Network organizations, with over half of them reporting that more than three quarters of their operating budget was made up of state dollars,” said Chad Putman, Board President for Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc., a Network member.

“A 2009 needs assessment showed that LGBT communities face a huge array of health-related problems. LGBT New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by a host of issues including mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, social isolation and hate violence. In addition, LGBT communities are often placed at a severe disadvantage due to the lack of culturally-competent healthcare and social services,” said Wendy Stark, Executive Director of Callen-Lorde. “While Callen-Lorde and other Network member organizations throughout the State work tirelessly to fill these gaps, the large numbers of uninsured LGBT New Yorkers, coupled with declines in funding, create tremendous challenges for us all.”

Stay tuned for ways to get involved in LGBT Health Month and promote good health for you and your community.