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Maya Angelou remembered as ‘extraordinary human being’

Maya Angelou, gay news, Washington Blade

Maya Angelou (Photo by Damien Salas)

LGBT rights advocates continue to celebrate the life and legacy of writer, poet and actress Maya Angelou who passed away at her North Carolina home on Wednesday at the age of 86.

The National Black Justice Coalition noted Angelou “never shied away from embracing her LGBT brothers and sisters.”

“On the Pulse of Morning,” the poem she read at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, specifically mentioned gays.

Angelou in 2000 spoke at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Atlanta. She later lobbied members of the New York Senate to support a same-sex marriage bill that lawmakers ultimately struck down in 2009 — gays and lesbians began to legally tie the knot in the state two years later.

PFLAG in 2009 also honored Angelou during its first-ever Straight for Equality Gala.

“PFLAG will always cherish the memories of the time that we had with her and the lifelong lessons she taught us about the quest for equality and the bold courage to love,” said PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby.

Rev. Meredith Moise, an ordained lesbian minister of color in Baltimore, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that Angelou’s 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing” is one of the first books she read as a child.

“She was an inspiration to me personally and to millions globally,” said Moise, noting the way she told stories in the African tradition. “She was an extraordinary human being whose example lights the way for others towards the path of liberation.”

President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and HRC President Chad Griffin are among those who also paid tribute to Angelou who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being,” said Angelou’s son, Guy B. Johnson, in a statement posted to his mother’s website that officially announced her death. “The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., who testified in support of marriage rights in Maryland in 2012, described Angelou’s passing as a “tragic loss” on Wednesday during an interview with the Blade at his Prince George’s County church.

The Maryland Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate said “our country is better” because of her example.

“Her spirit continues to live within all of us and we want to continue her commitment to civil and human rights and freedom and equality for all people,” said Coates.

29
May
2014

A different vibe at new Pride venue

Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Pride benefitted from flawless weather all weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gorgeous, sun-splashed June 14-15 weekend and a new location and format for this year’s Baltimore Pride highlighted the annual event, which has been operated by the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore for more than three decades.

Saturday’s parade changed its route by a few blocks and began three hours earlier than in the past. Sixty units marched — down slightly from last year — and included candidates in the gubernatorial race, the mayor of Baltimore, a wide range of organizations and corporations, a bevy of drag title holders and a gay activist from the Ukraine—Bogdan Globa—marching with PFLAG. D.C.’s Different Drummers added the beats to go along with cheers from the crowd.

“This is a great day to celebrate who we are, where we have been and how we got here,” Heather Mizeur, a Democratic candidate for governor and lesbian, told the Blade.  “We’re trying to make a difference, not trying to make history, yet I expect to become the first ever woman governor in the state.”

The lieutenant governor candidate running with her opponent Anthony Brown, Ken Ulman, also marched in the parade with one of his daughters alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. No one representing the Doug Gansler campaign was present over the weekend. The Democratic primary takes place on June 24.

The festival that immediately followed the parade shifted to the Mount Royal and Midtown-Belvedere areas. The move this year from the block party confines of W. Eager and N. Charles Streets, which had previously been the site for more than a decade to the more spread out area where the annual ArtScape festival takes place was decided because the crowds have become too large for the previous locale, according to the GLCCB. Last year, there was pressure placed on the GLCCB from the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association and local business owners and residents to curtail the sanitation problems, underage drinking and other related issues emanating from the overcrowded block party.

In effect, the block party component of the two-day event had been eliminated in favor of a two-day festival. Though there had been a good deal of apprehension from members of the LGBT community concerning the move, organizers estimated about 15,000 attended the parade and festival on Saturday. A smaller and more laid-back crowd assembled on Sunday.

Lorena DeLeon and her partner Amy Eisenberg from Baltimore likened the event to Los Angeles Pride. “The location of the beer garden is fabulous, right next to the dance area,” says DeLeon.

This year, drinking was supposed to be confined to two fenced-in beer gardens.

Darryl Lewis of Catonsville complained that “the beer garden does not have enough trash baskets and the portable toilets are not near the beer garden.” He said he learned that was the vendor’s logistical decision.

Though the theme for this year’s Pride was “We are Family,” the family feel wasn’t as evident on Sunday compared to previous years when the event took place at Druid Hill Park.  There was a significant drop-off in couples with children this time.

Kelly Neel, executive director of the GLCCB said she received much positive feedback.  “Everything is going fabulously. People are having a blast on the stage, and they like the parade route.”

Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

2014 Baltimore Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

16
Jun
2014

Frederick Center to honor LGBT ally

Lois Jarman, gay news, Washington Blade

Lois Jarman (Photo courtesy Jarman)

The Frederick Center is honoring Lois Jarman with Frederick’s 2013 LGBTQ Ally of the Year Award on Jan. 12. She will receive this award “because of her tireless efforts over the last decade on behalf of the LGBTQ community of central Maryland,” according Brian Walker, chair of the Frederick Center board.

Jarman founded the Central Maryland chapter of PFLAG in 2006, where she continues to be the chapter president. She has also been co-producer of the “A Little Song, A Little Dance” annual World AIDS Day benefit in Frederick for a dozen years, raising tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Positive Influence (a past Frederick-based HIV support organization), Baltimore Pediatric AIDS Fund, AIDS Response Effort out of Winchester (which now covers central Maryland), and various LGBT organizations.

Jarman has also been a resource for hundreds of LGBTQ students by being a visible ally in the local high school system and other educational institutions.

“This annual award allows us to recognize the efforts of a single person,” said Walker. “But this ceremony allows many community allies to gather to celebrate the work they have done collectively over time, and to hear first-hand how much it matters to the LGBTQ community.”

The event will take place between 3-6 p.m. at the home of Peter Brehm and John Michael Day, 318 West College Terrace in Frederick. A suggested donation of $15 for individuals and $25 for couples would benefit the Frederick Center. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit thefrederickcenter.org.

07
Jan
2014

‘We are afraid’: Ukrainians say new gov’t remains homophobic

Ukraine, Bogdan Globa, Olena Hloba, gay news, Washington Blade

Bogdan Globa and Helen Globa (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Helen Globa, co-founder of Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBT Ukrainians whose name means “reinforcement” in Latin, found out that her son, Bogdan, was gay when he was in high school after she found poems on his computer.

She said she spent the next eight years “suffering” as she tried to learn more about homosexuality while trying to hide “what was happening” in her family. Globa told the Washington Blade during a June 13 interview at PFLAG’s Northwest Washington offices with her son that a psychologist in the city of Poltava told her she had to change her attitude “towards the situation.”

Globa told the Blade that she and her psychologist frequently discussed how other parents respond to their children’s homosexuality. She said it was her son who ultimately came up with the idea of her organization that she co-founded last year.

“Eight years of suffering and research is just a waste of precious time,” said Globa.

Globa and her son, who is the executive director of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian LGBT advocacy organization, spoke to the Blade during an eight-day trip to D.C. and Maryland that ended on June 18.

They met with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), officials at the White House, the State Department, the U.S. Peace Corps and LGBT rights advocates from Spectrum Human Rights and other groups while in the nation’s capital. The Globas also participated in a protest outside the Russian embassy in Northwest D.C. on June 12.

Globa, gay news, Ukraine, Washington Blade

Helen Globa, on right, marches in the annual Baltimore Pride Parade on June 14. (Photo courtesy of PFLAG)

They marched in the annual Baltimore Pride parade on June 14 with a PFLAG contingent.

“For us it’s an advocacy trip,” Bogdan Globa told the Blade.

Maidan protests ‘not about LGBT’ rights

Bogdan Globa, now 26, in 2008 became the first openly LGBT person to testify before a parliament in the former Soviet Union when he spoke against a bill that would have banned so-called gay propaganda in Ukraine.

“After his speech in parliament, I didn’t sleep for a week,” said Helen Globa, discussing concerns for her son’s safety. “I was just waiting and praying.”

The Globas were among the hundreds of thousands of people who protested in Kiev’s Independence Square — known as Maidan —against then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject an agreement that would have brought Ukraine closer to the European Union.

The protests began last November, but Bogdan Globa told the Blade through his mother who interpreted that “radical parties” would have attacked him and other LGBT rights advocates if they had come into the square with rainbow flags.

“It’s not about LGBT,” he said. “We stood with the European flag or the Ukrainian flag. We didn’t stand with the rainbow flag or something else and we didn’t say ‘rise for LGBT.’”

Bogdan Globa was carrying tires for makeshift barricades in the Maidan on Feb. 19 when police opened fire on protesters and killed more than 100 of them.

Helen Globa, who had moved to Kiev from Poltava in 2012, was unable to travel to the square because authorities had closed the Ukrainian capital’s subway and she did not know her way without it because she had just moved to the city from Poltava. Helen Globa was also sick.

The Siberia-native who studied in Uzbekistan told the Blade she received “hostile” text messages from her friends and former classmates in Russia that asked her why pro-European Ukrainians wanted war and said they “may be the reason for the Third World War.”

“I was just trying to explain to people, but they didn’t listen,” said Helen Globa.

Meanwhile, she was worried about her son who told the Blade that he didn’t realize the extent of the violence that had taken place in the Maidan on Feb. 19 until he returned home later that night.

“The Maidan was taking place in a very large space,” said Bogdan Globa. “You saw just pieces and bits of something happening. You realized and you could see the whole picture when you got home.”

The Globas said the ongoing violence and escalating tensions between pro-Russian separatists and militants and Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country have had a significant impact on the region’s LGBT residents and their supporters.

Bogdan Globa’s organization has an office in the city of Donetsk.

He said the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic that has declared itself independent from Kiev has banned so-called gay propaganda to minors in the region over which they claim jurisdiction. Bogdan Globa told the Blade members of a pro-Russian paramilitary group earlier this month attacked those who attended a gay party that took place at a Donetsk nightclub.

Helena Globa said that many of her organization’s members who live in eastern Ukraine will not travel to meetings, events and other gatherings because of the deteriorating security situation.

“It has a very negative influence on our work,” she told the Blade.

Putin is a ‘dictator’

Ukraine’s LGBT rights record remains poor compared to other European countries.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have noted anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain widespread in Ukraine. Bogdan Globa experienced anti-gay bullying and harassment while in high school and at a local university so he decided to move to Kiev in 2005.

“Poltava is very homophobic,” said his mother.

Parliamentarians since 2012 have considered two gay propaganda measures similar to the law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June, but they have not had a final vote. The lawmaker who sponsored the most recent bill is no longer a member of the Ukrainian Parliament because he is from Crimea and the Kremlin annexed the strategic peninsula in March.

“Putin is a dictator,” Bogdan Globa told the Blade, pointing out that Crimea should return to the Ukrainian “homeland.” “It’s very complicated to have a positive attitude towards him.”

Olena Shevchenko, a Ukrainian LGBT rights advocate, told the Blade in April that lawmakers who introduce “repressive” bills only “give legitimacy to such violations.”

Ukrainian parliamentarians in March with the apparent approval of European officials in Brussels approved an anti-discrimination measure that did not include sexual orientation.

More than 100 LGBT rights advocates in May 2013 participated in Kiev’s first Pride march that took place without violence, although protesters attempted to disrupt the event. Then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft publicly supported the event, while activists from Germany and Sweden are among those who took part.

Bogdan Globa told the Blade that President Petro Poroshenko, who took office earlier this month, will not improve the situation for LGBT Ukrainians.

“The government’s still homophobic,” he said.

His mother remains far more optimistic about her country’s future.

She told the Blade that stores now have a variety of foods and products for sale, compared to those during the Soviet-era outside of which she had to stand in long lines to simply buy butter and eggs. Helen Globa said she has also seen some positive influences on Ukrainian society from Europe and the U.S.

“There has been progress,” she said. “It takes time, but sooner or later we’ll see a better place for living in Ukraine.”

Helen Globa conceded she remains afraid for those who live in Russia.

“I don’t think [the Kremlin] should ignore the needs of their people for so long,” she said. “People have a lot of needs, including LGBT rights and freedoms.”

Bogdan Globa shared his mother’s concern, noting he feels the Kremlin’s LGBT rights crackdown is an attempt to deflect attention away from the country’s economic problems. Bogdan Globa told the Blade that LGBT Ukrainians are afraid the same situation will happen in their country.

“We are afraid,” he said.

23
Jun
2014

New website for trans youth

trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade, trans youth

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new website, trans*youth@md, has been established to answer legal questions posed by trans youth and their parents. The site was created by FreeState Legal, Inc. in partnership with local Maryland chapters of PFLAG. FreeState provides legal services to low-income members of the LGBT community.

The website, which is still under development, offers such resources as: laws about legally changing name and gender; the steps to change name or gender on official documents, like Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, and passports; rules about signing up for Selective Service if one is trans; and civil rights. However, the website does not provide information about the medical or psychological aspects of transition, although it displays links to additional resources that might be able to provide some answers.

“We want to help parents figure out what they have to do, what they can do to protect their children,” Catherine Hyde, the transgender coordinator for PFLAG- Howard County and a member of PFLAG’s national board of directors, told the Baltimore Sun.

29
Jan
2014

HoCo candidates to speak at PFLAG forum

Allan Kittleman, gay news, Washington Blade

Allan Kittleman, a pro-gay Republican running for Howard County executive, will join his opponent Courtney Watson at a forum next week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Courtney Watson and Allan Kittleman, who are vying to be the next Howard County executive in November’s election, will participate in a forum sponsored by the Howard County Chapter of PFLAG on July 8. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia.

Watson, a Democrat, and Kittleman, a Republican, have been supportive on LGBT issues and will explain why they would be best for the county’s LGBT citizens. A Q&A session will follow their presentations.

All PFLAG meetings are free, confidential and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, visit pflagmd.org.

01
Jul
2014

PFLAG celebrates Valentine’s Day

PFLAG, Baltimore, Baltimore Pride Parade, Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, gay news, Washington Blade, celebrate

PFLAG marches in the Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Howard County and Westminster chapters of PFLAG will celebrate Valentine’s Day by hosting dances as part of their monthly meetings. The Howard County chapter will hold its dance on Feb. 11, billed, “A Night for All Ages,” from 7:30-10 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia.

The Westminster chapter will host its dance—also for all ages—on Sunday, Feb. 16 from 5-9 pm. at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 17 Bond St., in Westminster. At both events, snacks, music and games will be offered and will be adult-supervised. The chapter suggests a $5 donation for adults and $2 for students.

For more information visit pflagmd.org and pflagwcc.org for Howard County and Westminster, respectively.

07
Feb
2014

Pro-LGBT candidates face off in Howard

Blade_logo_460x470It’s not often you see a Republican and a Democrat tout their pro-LGBT bona fides during a political debate but that’s exactly what happened at a PFLAG-Howard County forum in Columbia on July 8. It was the first post-primary forum of the campaign in the county.

Republican Allan H. Kittleman, a former state senator who is vying to succeed Ken Ulman as the next county executive and his opponent, Democratic Council member Courtney Watson, shared their visions for the county on a wide array of issues.

In a civil discussion, both candidates contrasted their views and records in front of more than 60 in attendance. Kittleman reminded the audience of his long-standing relationship with PFLAG and that several members helped sway his views toward supporting marriage equality.  He said fairness and equal rights are his main priorities as taught by his father, and these values transcend political parties. “I had been the only Republican to show up at PFLAG picnics,” he pointed out.

Watson also asserted her relationship with PFLAG and the LGBT community ever since she was on the county’s school board. Her son was a classmate with the transgender child of a member of PFLAG and encouraged Watson to support trans rights. As such, she helped craft a countywide non-discrimination bill based on gender identity in 2011.

After fielding questions that were submitted online regarding such topics as housing, economic development, education, budget and county services, the question of LGBTQ homelessness was raised pointing out that LGBTQ youth comprise a disproportionate percentage of homeless youth in the county. Watson indicated that 32 efficiency units for the homeless are underway. She added that organizations such as Grass Roots and mental health crisis units need to be part of the solution.

Kittleman responded that the LGBT community needs to be part of the conversation.

“I will form an LGBT advisory committee, which will meet regularly to keep me as county executive informed of all the related issues,” he said. Kittleman also wants a similar group to work with the police. He cited his work on passing Grace’s Law as an important step in combating cyber bullying, especially against LGBT youth.

Watson pointed out that PFLAG has already done excellent work with the police department. She added that, “the school system is putting out guidelines and training materials for all teachers and administrators regarding trans kids.”

 

15
Jul
2014

Dumped by her own community on Valentine’s Day

A Valentine's Day dance benefitting PFLAG banned a formerly-lesbian couple because one partner is female-to-male.

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14
Feb
2014

Maryland LGBT youth at risk: report

Aaron Merki, FreeState Legal Project, gay news, Washington Blade

‘There is much work to be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ youth,’ said Aaron Merki, executive director of FreeState Legal Project. (Washington Blade file photo by Steve Charing)

The Youth Equality Alliance (YEA) issued a report on Aug. 12 titled “Living in the Margins: A Report on the Challenges of LGBTQ Youth in Maryland Education, Foster Care, and Juvenile Justice Systems.”

The report found that LGBTQ youth are at a heightened risk of entering the “school-to-jail pipeline.” Public institutions and systems—primarily the education, foster care, and juvenile justice systems—are among the toughest environments for LGBTQ youth. YEA’s report briefly outlines the challenges facing LGBTQ youth as they navigate these three systems, and proposes specific recommendations for addressing these challenges.

The bullying problem that often affects LGBTQ students begins a spiral that places these youth at risk. Often school personnel fail to address the needs of the bullied victims, and they are routinely suspended, expelled and criminalized, pushing them into the juvenile justice systems.

Statistics from GLSEN put the problems in perspective. For instance, 64 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in their schools because of their sexual orientation, and 44 percent because of their gender expression. Approximately one in four LGBTQ youth are kicked out or run away from their living situations.

“This statistic is disproportionate and shocking,” said Ingrid Lofgren, a Skadden Fellow at the Homeless Persons Representation Project, at the unveiling ceremony of the YEA report held at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s main branch.

Jabari Lyles, who is with the Baltimore Area chapter of GLSEN and a member of YEA, added,  “People have to wonder what is going wrong when they hear that as many as one-third of LGBTQ youth never finish high school and up to 40 percent of our homeless youth self-identify as LGBTQ.”

Dijohn Thomas, a Baltimore area youth advocate, pointed out at the Pratt Library presentation that while in school he was picked on for being gay by his principal and teachers.  “People fear what they don’t know,” he said. “They need education.” He added, “Foster homes are the worst place to be in. I was attacked, beaten up and things were stolen from me.”

The report presents an array of recommendations that would entail mainly policy, regulatory and legislative changes as well as mandatory training for direct service professionals and administrators and the conduct of needs assessments. YEA urges that the office of the governor, state government agency directors, legislators and political candidates read this report and decide what initiatives they will champion to improve the outcomes of these youth.

“When youth enter spaces in which they are to be supervised as well as protected by adults, they expect that professionals will be knowledgeable about individual youth rights and needs, as well as sensitive, respectful, and effective in their interactions with all youth,” Diana Philip, policy director for FreeState Legal Project, told the Blade. “LGBTQ youth in Maryland are no different.”

Formed in May 2013, YEA is a statewide coalition of various service providers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and individual advocates that seeks to identify policy and regulatory solutions to problems faced by LGBTQ youth in Maryland. Members include ACLU of Maryland, The Public Justice Center, Equality Maryland, PFLAG, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Homeless Persons Representation Project, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Star Track and the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

“Although the Maryland LGBTQ community has recently secured several new rights, including marriage equality and the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, there is much work to be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ youth,” said Aaron Merki, executive director of FreeState Legal Project, one of the founding members of YEA, in announcing the report’s release.

The work to achieve the goals and adopt the recommendations in the report is expected to take several years. To view the full report, visit freestatelegal.org/what-we-do/policy/.

19
Aug
2014