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I’m coming out: as living near poverty level

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50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson in his State of the Union message declared “an unconditional war on poverty.” (White House Press Office photo by Arnold Newman)

I’m coming out. Not as queer — everyone knows I’m lesbian. I’m disclosing something even more personal: my income is low. I’m one of many in the LGBT community who live in or near poverty. Why am I telling you this? Because 50 years ago, Lyndon Johnson in his State of the Union message declared “an unconditional war on poverty.”

“We shall not rest until that war is won,” Johnson told Congress on Jan. 8, 1964. “The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

Decades later, the “war on poverty” is still ongoing. This struggle is particularly intense within the LGBT community. Yet, you rarely see people like us in movies or on TV. Our faces seldom appear – our voices aren’t often heard in the media. Say “gay,” and many will think of Cameron and Mitchell of “Modern Family” planning their wedding; the upper-middle class lesbian couple raising their kids in “The Kids Are All Right” or wealthy gay men and power lesbians spearheading queer fundraising galas.

I’m a fan of “Modern” and of “Kids,” and I don’t mean to disparage LGBT fundraising. But, if you looked beneath the glossy media surface into our community, you’d find people from eight to 80 – your relatives, parents, children and friends  – struggling with poverty and income inequality.

I write this not to seek pity but to encourage us to care about what many of us would rather not have on our radar screens. Poverty isn’t sexy. It doesn’t walk down the red carpet like a star at an awards show. Yet millions of us in the LGBT community and our families feel its impact.

Many Americans, especially people of color and other marginalized groups, have been hurt by unemployment, lack of health insurance, discrimination, lack of affordable housing and education. Take women. Nearly 42 million women live with economic hardship, according to a new report on the status of women, co-authored by Maria Shriver of NBC and the Center for American Progress.

“These are not women…  wondering if they can ‘have it all,’” Shriver writes in the study, released on Jan. 12, “… they and their families can’t prosper and that’s weighing the U.S. economy down.”

The LGBT community, historically and now, has been among the groups hit the hardest by poverty.

“As poverty rates for nearly all population increased during the recession, lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans remained more likely to be poor than heterosexual people. Gender, race, education and geography all influence poverty rates among LGBT population, and children of same-sex couples are particularly vulnerable to poverty,” according to a June 2013 report from the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

Among the study’s findings:

• African-American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of heterosexual black Americans.

• Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children of a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent of children living with married straight couples.

• And 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of married heterosexual couples.

Transgender people are among those most impacted by poverty. According to the National Transgender Survey, 90 percent reported having been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace; and nearly one in five had been homeless during periods in their lives.

There are myriad reasons why poverty in the LGBT community is so extensive. Despite the great progress that’s been made in winning our equality, many of us still experience employment and other forms of homophobia-based discrimination. A number of us encounter hardship because of age or disability, racism or transphobia.

The war on poverty won’t be easily won.  But let’s keep fighting the battle.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.


‘Modern Family,’ ‘Normal Heart’ win Emmys

(Image courtesy Academy of Television Arts & Sciences)

(Image courtesy Academy of Television Arts & Sciences)

LGBT themes were common again this year in the winners’ circle at the Emmy Awards. The 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were handed out Monday night at the Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif. Seth Meyers hosted.

“Modern Family” won Outstanding Comedy Series (beating “Orange is the New Black” in the process) and HBO’s adaptation of the AIDS classic “The Normal Heart” won the Outstanding Television Movie prize. Although four of the “Normal Heart” actors were nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category, Martin Freeman won for “Sherlock: His Last Vow.” This is Emmy darling “Family’s” fifth win in the category.

Gail Mancuso won in the Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for “Modern Family” as well. Ty Burrell won the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award as well for the same show.

Out actress Jane Lynch (“Glee”) won Outstanding Host for a Reality Program for NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night.”

The Wrap has a full list of winners here.


Several gay actors, shows among Emmy noms

Several gay actors and shows are among this year’s Emmy nominees announced this morning.

(Image courtesy Academy of Television Arts & Sciences)

(Image courtesy Academy of Television Arts & Sciences)

Among them are:

• “Modern Family” for comedy series
• Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) for supporting actor/comedy
• Jane Lynch (“Glee”) for supporting actress/comedy
• Michael Douglas (straight but nominated for playing Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra”) for lead actor in a miniseries or movie
• Matt Damon (also straight but playing gay in “Candelabra”) in the same category
• “Behind the Candelabra” for miniseries/movie
• Zachary Quinto (“American Horror Story: Asylum”) for supporting actor miniseries/movie
The 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sept. 22 on CBS with ubiquitous gay host Neil Patrick Harris hosting. Harris also helped announce the nominees this morning. Go here for a full list of nominees.

‘Family’ night again at Emmys

Michael Douglas in his Emmy-winning role as Liberace. (File photo courtesy HBO)

Michael Douglas in his Emmy-winning role as Liberace. (File photo courtesy HBO)

As has come to be fairly usual, gays scored big Sunday night at the Emmys. Hit comedy show “Modern Family,” featuring a gay couple as just one more clan in the bunch, won its fourth consecutive win for best comedy series and also scored an Emmy for best directing.

And HBO’s uber-gay “Behind the Candelabra,” the Steven Soderbergh-helmed Liberace biopic, won three awards: best miniseries or movie, outstanding director and lead actor for Michael Douglas, who played the gay entertainer with Matt Damon as his young lover. Elton John sang a song dedicated to Liberace at the ceremony.

“Breaking Bad” won best drama. Ubiquitous gay actor Neil Patrick Harris hosted. USA Today has a recap here. All the winners are listed here.


Pastor criticizes gay weatherman’s wedding

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage

Sam Champion weds Rubem Robierb in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Ida Astute)

PENSACOA, Fla.—A Florida minister on Sunday criticized “Good Morning America” for airing portions of Sam Champion’s wedding.

“When they showed Sam Champion marrying a man on ‘Good Morning America,’ I just about fell out of my chair,” Pastor Gordon Godfrey, Jr., of Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, said.

Godfrey also spoke out against the ABC sitcom “Modern Family” during the 34 minute sermon.

Champion, who came out in October, married his long-time partner Rubem Robierb in New York City in December. “Good Morning America” co-anchors Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer and Josh Elliott were among those who attended the wedding.


Year in review: Gay is ‘The New Normal’

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Adam Lambert (right) became the first openly gay musician to have an album debut atop the Billboard charts. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


The old activist slogan “We are everywhere” proved true for arts and entertainment headlines in 2012. LGBT individuals and issues were omnipresent in the media this year, with very little controversy.

Here are some of the biggest moments from television, music and movies.


Gay dads are “The New Normal.” NBC’s gay-themed sitcom has sharply divided audiences but it’s still kicking around. Bryan (openly gay Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a gay couple who want a baby. Single mother Goldie (Georgia King) decides to become their surrogate, which doesn’t sit well with politically incorrect grandmother (Ellen Barkin). The series could come back for a second season, although let’s hope if it does it’s better written.

“Modern Family” stays way gay. Still TV’s funniest and most awarded sitcom — and possibly its gayest, now in its fourth season on ABC — “Modern Family” doesn’t skimp on the interplay between male couple Mitchell (openly gay Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), whose adopted young daughter has provided more comic fodder.

“American Horror Story” queers and scares. From Ryan Murphy of “Glee,” who’s gay, comes this scary, twisted series. Its fall/second season follow-up “Asylum” is more popular than its first, with plenty of gay and lesbian touches and out performers such as Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson.

“Partners” breaks up. Michael Urie, who’s gay, of “Ugly Betty” starred in this comedy as one half of a straight/gay best friend bromance. Louis (Urie) and Joe (David Krumholtz) are lifelong friends and now co-workers, but new people in their life (including Brandon Routh as Louis’ boyfriend) have changed the dynamics. Unfunny and forced, it has already been canned by CBS after a few months.


Frank Ocean comes out. Hip hop/R&B artist Frank Ocean came out at the beginning of the year about falling in love with a man, though he does not like to label his sexual orientation, and got little to no flack for his announcement. In December he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for “Channel Orange.”

Adam Lambert tops Billboard charts. Adam Lambert became the first openly gay musician to have an album debut atop the Billboard charts. Released in May, “Trespassing” had both ballads and his traditional dance-until-you-drop music.

Madonna delights LGBT fans. After a successful performance at the halftime show of the Super Bowl this year, Madonna’s long-awaited new album, “MDNA” dropped in March. The immortal one came to Washington and the audience was packed with LGBT fans.


Enjoying “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” One of the year’s best films, this adaptation of the Stephen Chbosky novel about an outcast and the new crowd he falls in with was well cast, with Logan Lerman as the main character whose new best friend Patrick (Ezra Miller) is gay. The likes of Emma Watson, Dylan McDermott, Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack and Melanie Liskey shone, but Miller (who came out as queer earlier this year) was the standout.

“Pariah” brings visibility. Out director Dee Rees turned her acclaimed short film into a feature, detailing the coming out of 17-year-old, poetry-writing Alike, played wonderfully by newcomer Adepero Oduye.  Bold and beautifully shot, it is one of the few films with African-American lesbians.

“Keep the Lights On” wins raves. Ira Sachs’ heavy-hitting tale of a love affair between a filmmaker and young man with a drug problem started the year winning raves at Sundance and ended the year shocking many by getting a number of Independent Spirit Award nominations alongside some heavyweight motion pictures.

“Any Day Now” worth waiting for. Out actor Alan Cumming, in one of the finest performances of his career, stars as a gay man/drag queen by night in the ‘70s who tries to get custody of a teenager with Down Syndrome, who lives down the hall and whose mother is unfit. Based on a true story, it’s heartbreaking stuff.