How Should The Mental Health Community Treat API LGBTs With Mental Illness?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 24, 2013

How Should The Mental Health Community Treat API LGBTs With Mental Illness?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

When treating mental illness, is there a difference between people with mental illness and who also happen to be LGBT, or people with mental illness because they are LGBT? It may be a distinction without a difference, but if there were a difference, would it affect the healing method? We asked that question of ourselves after attending the “Community Information Meeting” hosted by the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (BHCS).

We know there is a higher incidence of mental illness among LGBTs than heterosexuals. The most cited theory to explain this excess is minority stress. Constantly living in a hostile environment marked by stigma, prejudice, and discrimination causes mental health problems. Mental stress is an environmental cause and the person suffers from mental illness because he or she is LGBT.

API Family Pride’s mission is “to end the isolation of Asian and Pacific Islander families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members through support, education, and dialog.” The work we do focuses on acceptance of API LGBTs by their families so that they are less isolated and have a safe place to take refuge from a hostile environment. Additionally, we, along with many others, work for recognition, acceptance, and respect for LGBTs in the larger community. It may be said that we work to remove minority stress and so prevent mental illness.

BHCS invited us to their meeting to encourage us to apply for a grant. It manages an Innovations Grants program to solicit community proposals from which to learn truly innovative practices and devise healing strategies never tried before. Two rounds of funding have already taken place and the meeting we attended launched the third round. There are two target populations for this third round, one of which is “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, two spirit clients or customers.”

BHCS used information from a 95-page report about LGBT lives in Alameda County, Making the Invisible Visible, to formulate “learning questions.” A learning question is a question that BHCS expects the successful grantee to answer and for which the grantee must produce a desired outcome. For example, “how would BHCS work more effectively with families who have an [LGBT] member with a serious emotional disturbance or serious mental illness?” is a learning question and its desired outcome is a program design to implement the answer to the question. The LGBT target group has five learning questions.

The question we asked in the beginning is not answered by any of BHCS’ learning questions. It is clear that BHCS just recently recognized that LGBTs with mental illness are a distinct group with unique needs. In contrast to the questions for the other target group (adults and older adults with serious mental illness who are isolated and withdrawn), the LGBT questions all had this “How do we . . .” tone, whereas the questions for the other target population were of the “Can the use of . . .” variety. This is an observation, not a criticism.

We did not apply for the BHSC grants. We are really not set up to carry the administrative burden to administer such a grant, but more importantly, we don’t have any experience how to deal with mentally ill LGBTs. However, the meeting gave us more questions for which we need answers and shone yet a different light at what we do. If our work lies in the prevention part of mental illness, how fruitful would it be to build relationships with those who operate in the actual mental illness part? How would what we learn change what we do? More needs to be said about this, perhaps in an upcoming blog.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

Do We Still Have To Publicly Recognize Private Acts Of Courage?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 17, 2013

Do We Still Have To Publicly Recognize Private Acts Of Courage?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

At this time of year we are deep into planning our Annual Presentation Banquet. This year’s Banquet will be on June 15 in the ballroom of the Whitcomb Hotel in San Francisco. It is our ninth Banquet and we are amazed, has it really been that long? Other LGBT events have a longer history, but our Banquet depends on API LGBTs who publicly want to honor their parents and family who stuck by them. Without them, there would be no Banquet. Since our first Banquet, our community has made such phenomenal progress that when we started planning for this ninth one, we wondered if it is still a rare occurrence for API parents and family to stick by their LGBT children.

Could you have imagined nine years ago that the United States Supreme Court would hear two LGBT landmark cases; that twelve states would allow same gender marriage; that the majority of Americans would favor LGBT rights; that movie stars, sports heroes, and television personalities would come out of the closet and become role models; that movie stars, sports heroes, and television personalities would become allies lending their influential voices? The progress our community has made and the visibility we have gained ought to make accepting parents and family far more common than when we organized our first Banquet.

Family acceptance is indeed more common, but it is still special because acceptance and respect occurs at many levels. Laws and celebrity role models and allies are necessary but insufficient elements to change the national conversation. They lead the way and give glimpses of a brighter future, but to resolutely change our national conversation requires a change in fundamental cultural assumptions. And it seems to us that that conversation is often interrupted by violence and tension and moves forward only with hope and the belief that goodness always prevails.

To honor API parents and family who did not reject their LGBT children is still a wonderful tribute because coming out and accepting are intensely personal experiences regardless of what goes on in the wider world. We have accumulated portraits and stories of over fifty API heroes from the eight previous Banquets. We take those portraits and stories—our Wall of Pride—on the road and everywhere we exhibit they evoke lively conversation, quiet contemplation, and questions about the people in the portraits. It has become the symbol of what it really means to be an API family.

Maybe in the future, we can just celebrate the perseverance API family values without singling out that which should be a matter of course, but not yet, not yet.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

To All Moms: Happy Mother’s Day

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 17, 2013

To All Moms: Happy Mother’s Day

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. As far as traditional holidays go, this one is not that old. Anna Jarvis is credited with starting Mother’s Day as we now know it in 1908. A few years later she regretted having started the tradition because its commercialization was so blatant that to her profit seekers had obliterated the intent of Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis had lost control of the celebration and spent her later years trying to abolish the holiday she created.

We are certain that in addition to rampant commercialization, Anna Jarvis also did not foresee the change in family itself: same sex heads of household, one mother, one father, two mothers or two fathers. A friend told us in jest that the only thing wrong with having two mothers is that on Mother’s Day you have to buy two presents.

Mother’s Day is intended for families to honor their mothers, but for API LGBTs relationships with parents are not that straightforward. Some LGBTs celebrate the day with extra fervor because their mothers supported them and cared for them without reservation. During our Annual Presentation Banquet, where we honor API families who continue to support and honor their children even after they come out, we listen to testimony about mothers who continued to love and work hard for their LGBT children. For some it was not an issue, for others it was at first a struggle. There is testimony of parents who sought help from others, read books, and asked questions. Sometimes it took a long time, but for these mothers final understanding resulted in rediscovered love.

For other API LGBTs Mother’s Day is a sad day because their mothers cannot accept their sexual orientation or identity. Some wonder if they are bad children because they are LGBT children and that that is the cause for the rift between mother and child. It must be difficult for a mother also, torn between love for a child and duty to a cultural norm or religion. We know of a mother who loves her son but is devoutly religious and who desperately wants her son to go to reparative therapy so she and he can get back together. We heard a story of a mother who cannot accept her daughter’s lesbianism, but will not reject her because “where would she go?” The mother feels miserable and hopes that her daughter can change. One person told us that her family emigrated from an Asian country. His parents worked very hard to make sure their children gained the advantages needed to get ahead in their adopted home. When he came out he felt he also had to work very hard to regain their love; he never did.

It is sad that after all the advances we have made, some (or even many) API LGBTs still have to improvise a surrogate family because the one that is naturally theirs refuses to accept them just because of who they are. At the same time, our annual banquet honors families that are living examples of how it should be for API LGBTs.

Regardless of how it is today, we project a future where a contrary sexual orientation or identity won’t matter. So we wish a happy Mother’s Day for all the moms out there.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

Asian Community: A Source Of Strength, An Obstacle For Acceptance

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

May 3, 2013

Asian Community: A Source Of Strength, An Obstacle For Acceptance

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Belinda’s mother recently passed away. She was 91 years old and ailing so her death was not unexpected. Still, there was grief, sharing memories, and solemn eulogies. Her large family and many friends came to the service, the burial, and the 40-days celebration. At all three gatherings people came forward to share stories how this matron from the Philippines touched their lives. People remembered her dispensing advice during difficulties early in a marriage, helping out with their young children, cooking for fiestas, and just being there when she was needed. For one she was a second mother, another called her Ate.

Belinda’s parents came to Union City in 1960. They were part of the original Filipino families who settled there. These original five shared among them a common set of beliefs, values and traditions. That is the definition of a community and that is what they built. A community where they can speak the language easy on the tongue, teach children values from home, and honor traditions taught from birth. An Asian community is a safe space from which to venture forth and a source of strength to learn how to make the American dream come true.

The stories we heard are tangible expressions of a truth we have long known: engrained in the character and values of all APIs is their ethnicity and culture. APIs grow up with a strong sense of belonging to family and community. From the community they derive their identity, their sense of interdependence, and expectations of mutual aid.

But there is another side to this tight social structure, one we encounter all too often in our work.

Although APIs may not be any more homophobic than other racial and ethnic groups, homophobia is part of what they bring with them. Homophobia, the tight social structure, traditions of family loyalty, and reticence to openly discuss sexual matters all conspire to make “coming out” difficult. The stigma of homosexuality may bring shame and isolation to their family and API LGBTs fear that “coming out” will deprive them of their family’s support and love. Too many “stay in the closet” and become isolated. Even when they come out, their families fear being ostracized by their community and they themselves “go into the closet” and also become isolated. We believe that homophobia caused isolation contributes to mental and physical health problems experienced by API LGBTs and their families and constrains their full assimilation in their adopted land.

The strong family ties that some scholarly texts say is at the root of our success as immigrants is also, sadly, an obstacle in the journey to LGBT acceptance. Nothing worthwhile is ever one-dimensional, but there are times we wish that this Asian strength could help in us make parents and families understand that to be LGBT is to be normal.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

Paving The Way

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 26, 2013

Paving The Way

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Roll back the years to, oh, say 1970, and imagine what it was like. You are Asian, where do you go? Back in those days, there was overt racial prejudice, usually unpunished. Taunts, gestures that tug eyes into a mock epicanthic fold, cruel ostracizing, and even physical violence.

What if you are Asian and LGBT? Now you really have nowhere to go. You are out on the margin, so far out that you are invisible not just to the larger community, but also to the Asian community. You are even invisible to other Asian LGBTs because there aren’t any; few are out of the closet. Those who are feel the sting of near total isolation.

1970 Is for us the beginning of a life together. We are expecting our first child and life is good and promises to become even better. As immigrants, we believe that success hinges on becoming American: buy a home in the suburbs, go to baseball games so we can talk about it at work, speak English without an accent, and always work a little harder and better, that way they will have to respect and accept you. We don’t know that somewhere out there children are discovering that they don’t fit in the slot ordained by a society that demands conformance. We would be at a loss what to do should one introduce him- or herself to us.

Since those innocent (ignorant?) times one of our sons came out and we were amazed to discover that there was this whole invisible community existing all around us, but of which we were totally oblivious.

Back in 1970, or around that time, a few brave Asian LGBTs confronted fortress homophobia and formed small communities. At first they just wanted space to be among themselves and talk and share stories. But some wanted more and became activists. And so it began, a movement that ultimately opened the eyes of others around them and forced people to see what had always been there. Like snow clinging to a rock rolling downhill, the efforts of those first few gathered an irresistible momentum. Asian LGBTs are not invisible anymore.

Our son, when he came out, benefitted from the efforts of those early heroes, whose names many will never know. Although he experienced homophobia and felt safe in only a few cities, he belongs to a generation of LGBTs who further the work that was begun before he was born. And we benefitted. There was information out there for us to study and there were Asian LGBTs to help us understand. What at first was a tragedy turned into what it was before he came out: a blessing. All three of our children are fabulous.

Last Saturday, at its Lunar New Year Banquet, Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community honored one of those pioneering heroes. Crystal Jang received the Phoenix Award. In her acceptance speech, Crystal took us back to those early days and as we sat and listened, we realized how difficult it must have been to not fit in. And we know the debt we owe her and the other heroes. Thank you, Crystal.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Title (bold)

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

March 1, 2013

Title (bold)

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Movie makers name has made some award winning movies. His latest in “Beyond the Hills.” Award winning movie makers do a lot of interviews and when he discussed his latest he made the quote that caught our eye.

Movie maker’s quote.

Apply to LGBT and Chritians.

Apply to boundaries of behavior. Society needs rules, what is right what is wrog. But society’s rules change and in this society rules allow for more tolerance.

Where will it stop? Bestiality, child molesting? No that harms. There is an assumption here that adults make adult decisions and are allowed to make adult decisions as long as it does not harm anybody. This harms.

 

 

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

High Concept Statements: Searching For The Essence

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

February 8, 2013

High Concept Statements: Searching For The Essence

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Here is an exercise you should do. Pick something you are doing right now, something important, and describe it with one sentence, as short as possible. Could you do it? You’ll leave a lot of things out, things you think are so important that they shouldn’t be left out, but what this exercise forces you to do is to consider the essence of what you are doing.

We are doing the exercise right now. For a variety of reasons, we wanted to get back to when we started and first began thinking of what exactly API Family Pride should be doing. We knew there was a need, but we had to articulate the concept to anchor our efforts and not spread ourselves too thin. Eventually our efforts resulted in our mission statement which is a good summary of why we exist and what we do. But since that time almost twenty years ago, the understanding of why we do what we do is sharpened by experience. So we asked ourselves, is there a better way to convey to anybody who wants to know what we are all about?

We sat around the table and brainstormed. After a surprising amount of time going over this, we realized that the title of our blog best captures the essence of what we do: API Family Pride keeps families together. The statement expresses what Hollywood calls our “high concept.” It explains why we exist. Once we have a “high concept” statement we can use it to decide where to concentrate our scarce resources and to derive short statements for specific projects or collaborations.

For example, we are updating our film Coming Out, Coming Home and have to raise money to pay for it. One way is to apply for grants. We have to convince possible donors that updating the film is important and worthy of their support. We needed a statement that captures what the film is about and at the same time relates to our “high concept” statement. Here is what we came up with: “Extraordinary stories of API families with LGBT children, who struggled with ancient homophobic taboos and managed to keep their families whole.”

Another example, we value coalitions with API communities and organizations. We all must work together to leverage our respective resources. All of them are important and fill a need, but all have limited resources. Where should we spent most of our time and energy: Out4Immigration or API Equality—Northern California? For us that question translates into: which of those two organizations is closest to our “high concept” statement? It does not mean that one is less important than the other, it means that our alignment with one of them should be greater than with the other. The greater alignment receives more of our support. And we do this across the board.

We find that applying our “high concept” statement to allocate resources and to decide what projects to participate in is easier than to use our mission statement. It must be used with caution, however, because the “high concept” statement is more abstract than the mission statement and thus misses some of the aspects of what we do, such as, support, education, and dialog. As a first order decision point, however, it is very useful.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride, www.apifamilypride.org

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Success Is Not For the Reason You Think. Does That Matter?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

February 1, 2013

Sometimes Success Is Not For the Reason You Think. Does That Matter?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

We are making a film. Actually, we are updating an existing film, but the plans for the update are sufficiently different from the original that it might as well be a new film. We are talking here about API Family Pride’s Coming Out, Coming Home. The cost of making films astounds us, roughly $1000 per minute, so we will have to do some serious fundraising. Fundraising means convincing people that what you do is necessary and worthwhile so that they gladly contribute. This blog is not about fundraising, but in preparing to persuade people to donate, we went back to the history of our film. We discovered something interesting.

The history of API Family Pride starts with the making of that film. It started with a response to a complete lack of API family participation during the 1994 PFLAG National Convention held in San Francisco. Active API LGBTs had wanted to organize a workshop or panel discussion with parents of API LGBTs. No parents signed up, although in the end two sets of parents were persuaded to participate.

The activists who tried to organize the workshop or panel concluded that nobody came because PFLAG’s model for support—public disclosure—is contrary to a well validated, fundamental API value: no public disclosure of private shame. Thus the idea was born to create a film that APIs could view in the privacy of their homes to stimulate discussions that would help parents understand their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity and help API LGBTs explain to their parents who they are. We made the film and its success is beyond doubt: close to 3000 copies have been distributed mostly by word of mouth because we don’t do marketing.

The success, however, cannot all be attributed to the original reason we made the movie in the first place, because that reason flies in the face of another well researched and fundamental API value, namely, discussing problems is avoided and discussing problems about sex are simply not done. So we asked, what do the people who ask for a copy use our film for?

Citing studies means generalizing and stereotyping. There are API parents who publicly discuss their “shame,” our film is about them. And we have met API parents who talk about sex at home. Still we asked ourselves two questions: how many of the 3000 films distributed were used for starting discussions, and what were the other copies used for? We came to a tentative conclusion that one big reason API LGBTs ask for the film is to show their parents that they are not alone. A consequence of not airing private shame and not discussing problems is that nobody in the community knows that there are common problems. Our film shows that being LGBT is not just a white phenomenon.

Whether our conclusion is right or not, our film is being used and people who have used it have expressed their appreciation for its existence. Our new film will continue that.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

When Did LGB Wander Away From T (Or Maybe Why)?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

25 January 2013

When Did LGB Wander Away From T (Or Maybe Why)?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Maxwell Ng wrote this blog. His reference to City Hall below is to Boston’s City Hall.

Max wrote a previous blog for us (November 9, 2012). We introduced him to you then, but just in case you missed it, we enjoy introducing him again.

Maxwell Ng is an American Asian transman who has lived in Boston for almost 15 years. He is the Vice-Chair of the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition (MTPC), a founding member of the Trailblazers, the Boston based softball team for trans and gender variant people, and serves on the Steering Committee for QAPA (Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance). He is passionate about visibility for Queer Asians, and strives to bring the issues that impact our enriched communities to the forefront. In his professional life, he works as an architect.

——————–

A few weeks ago John and Belinda poised the question, How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?

It’s kind of a funny question to ask, since Trans* people are and have been the backbone of the Queer Civil Rights movement.

During Barack Obama’s speech during his inauguration, he passionately linked three locations together: Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement, Selma, the birthplace of the black civil rights movement, and Stonewall, the bar that is often cited as the birthplace of the LGBT civil rights movement.

Note that I said the birthplace of L-G-B-T civil rights. I did not say gay civil rights.

NPR, has since graciously offered a quick history lesson to any who didn’t understand the President’s three references. But in all the synopses of the Stonewall Riots, the “historic” voice was so narrowly presented that anyone reading/listening can easily deny the richness that sparked the next 40 years of civil rights activism. The people who rioted for FIVE DAYS were transvestites and bull daggers and drag queens and cross dressers and nancy boys and fags and faeries and butches and femmes and people like you and people like me. Some of them were on the fringes of society, and yes, it can be argued that some of them were on the fringes of queer society. But they were there and they were the reason why City Hall plaza flies a rainbow flag, and why Pride is celebrated in June.

People often like to separate out the T from the LGB community. I understand. I am a self-identified transman, and I can tell you that my own personal journey of identity has been focused around gender and NOT sexuality; a key distinctive difference. However gender expression is such a crucial and HISTORIC piece of the queer rights movement, and safeguarding gender identity is not just protection for Trans* people. It’s protection for everyone who does not fit the image of Suzy Homemaker of John Q. Public. It protects butch lesbians and effeminate men and everyone who isn’t David or Victoria Beckham. So as we go forward and divide up among our respective Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts, let’s try to remember that it was once “us” versus “them”. And as I sit here wrapped in the comfortable blanket that those brave souls fought to provide for me, I ask you to remember the cataclysmic movement where we defined our spirit of unity and defiance TOGETHER in the face of opposition.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Where There Is A Need, Giving Circles May Be The Answer

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

January 18, 2013

Where There Is A Need, Giving Circles May Be The Answer

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

This Sunday, in a formal ceremony, API Family Pride will be awarded a grant to help pay for a film project. The grant is awarded by the Red Envelope Giving Circle. We are grateful for the grant and proud that they believe in what we are doing enough to trust us with their gift. But we wondered what is a “giving circle?” We began looking things up and the story that emerged makes us proud to be part of the LGBT API community.

A giving circle is a group of people who use charity and creativity pooling funds to make grants. They are sometimes called “social investment clubs.” Giving circles are organized around a common interest and are an effective way to seed fund organizations to effect change. That is the general definition, but how did they start and why?

First this.

LGBT APIs are invisible. There are no blips on the government’s social services radar identifying them. LGBT APIs are hidden among the other, larger or better-known groups. For example, research surveys focused of APIs typically do not ask about sexual orientation and gender identity. Research surveys focused on LGBTs focus on the general LGBT populations and if people of color are tracked at all, it is usually black and hispanic populations.

API LGBTs’ invisibility also means that the large philanthropic foundations are not seeing them either. On this, the statistics are abundantly clear. In 2009, LGBT groups received 0.2% of all foundation giving in the U.S. Of that small amount, 10% went to LGBT communities of color and of that 0.7% went to API organizations. Not much, is it? In fact, the total amount comes to about $650 thousand.

Not being seen does not mean not having problems. All the problems that beset other marginalized groups also pertain to API LGBTs, plus problems that usually do not pertain to other groups, immigration, for example. Not being seen does mean being isolated and combined those two characteristics mean that the social problems facing API LGBTs do not elicit effective responses.

There is a beacon of light. API LGBTs see themselves and they see their own needs. If nobody comes to help, they will help themselves. In the late 1970s, the first API LGBT groups began to form in America’s large urban centers. At first they were co-gender and multi-cultural, but soon they evolved into separate L and G and T and culture specific groups. This is why we are so proud to be part of this movement: where there is a need, a support group will form to respond to that need. API Family Pride is a response and the community we support validates our response with their generosity.

Most of the local support groups are small and all-volunteer and narrowly focused. Good for local needs, but inefficient for building a larger movement for social change. Effecting social change requires leadership, infrastructure, and capacity for civic engagement and all that requires funding. This is where the giving circles come in. They are part of the community, they raise seed money from that community to fund what we call “leveraging” strategies: linking to allies, linking to mainstream LGBT organizations, linking to faith based organizations, in short, making API LGBTs visible. The goal is to coalesce small API LGBT support groups into a broader movement for real social change. It is magical.

NOTE: The data for this blog comes from an Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy report entitled: Missed Opportunities: How Organized Philanthropy Can Help Meet the Needs of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander Communities. The report is no longer available on their website.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

Why Not Build An LGBT Monument In San Francisco?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

January 11, 2013

Why Not Build An LGBT Monument In San Francisco?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Let’s built an LGBT monument in San Francisco. It would honor the contributions to American life made by LGBTs and all that was done by LGBTs and their allies to force America on its promise: liberty and justice for all, and, yes, equality. It would memorialize those who suffered a lifetime of harassment, those who were unjustly persecuted, and, sadly, those for whom the strain and despair became too much to bear.

Why not a monument? Barcelona has one, so does Amsterdam, so do a number of other cities. The one in Barcelona is a triangular, gray granite slab etched in pink. Seemingly embedded in rectangular bricks, the triangle is located in Ciutadella Park. That was a compromise with the Catholic Church who objected to its original, planned location, the square in front of Gaudi’s fabulous Sagrada Familia basillica. The triangular slab is slightly tilted toward the viewer and has an inscription in Catalan that, in English, reads: “In memory of gay men, lesbians, and transsexual people who have suffered persecution and repression throughout history, Barcelona 2011.”

Amsterdam’s monument consists of three pink, equilateral triangles which themselves form the corners of one larger triangle. Each side of the three triangles measures 30 feet; the large one they form is about 120 feet on each side. One triangle is at street level, one triangle is about two feet above street level and to reach the third a visitor takes a few steps down from the quay because that one seems to float on the waters of the Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal).

When it comes to symbolism, the “homomonument” in Amsterdam has it all over the others we have seen and read about. The triangles are pink, because during the Nazi occupation, LGBTs had to wear pink triangles in the concentration camps. A badge of shame, turned into a badge of honor. The street level triangle has the inscription: “Such an immense longing for friendship,” a line from a poem by a gay Dutch writer. That triangle points toward Anne Frank’s home. The triangle on the water points towards the National War Museum and the podium triangle points toward the Dutch COC headquarters. COC is the oldest LGBT organization in the world. Started in 1946, its acronym is for its Dutch name: Center for Sports and Leisure, a “cover” name to hide its true purpose.

The startling characteristic of the monument, however, is that, unlike other monuments, it does not stand by itself; rather, it both adds to its surroundings and at the same time is part of its surroundings. If it weren’t for the triangle that seems to float on the water, it is possible to not notice it (we didn’t at first). To us it symbolizes that LGBTs are part of our world while at the same time confronting us with the reality of “not yet, not totally.” The monument is unique, simple, and profound.

So, why not a monument in San Francisco? What better way to pay homage to all that work, over so many years, upon which we now are confidently building a future of equality, but know we yet have some ways to go.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

Can Progress Be Measured By Monitoring The Meaning Of Words?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

January 4, 2013

Can Progress Be Measured By Monitoring The Meaning Of Words?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

Our first blog of the new yearis about ‘language.’ We want to begin a periodic conversation about the way the meaning of words describing or relating to the LGBT community has changed and is changing still. We hypothesize that progress of thecommunity’s struggle for total acceptance may be measured by the change in words used when people talkand papers print stories about LGBT people. In her admirable studyIntolerance: A General Survey,Lise Noel states that language reflects the hierarchical relationships of a society, and those who dominate use language as one of the ways to keep invisible those being dominated.It wouldn’t betoo far fetched to postulate that as a hierarchy changes, the language that reflects that hierarchy changes as well.

Example: Discovering That A Common Expression Is Actually A Slur

Back in September, the Toronto Blue Jays suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar for three days because he wrote a homophobic slur on his eyeblackpatches, those black smears athletes sometimes apply under their eyes to reduce the sun’s glare. Mr. Escobar’s habit is to write little messages on them. He was suspended because that day his message was “tu ere maricon.”

Mr. Escobar was stunned, not at the suspension, which he readily accepted, but that his message was offensive. He said the word is used so often and so casually that it no longer has a meaning. But all words have meaning. It is like the “that is so gay” expression which isalso so often and casually used, that those who use it, mostly teenagers, don’t think it is offensive.

This is the point that Lise Noel makes: expressions that have their origin as homophobic slurs are used so often and, yes, so carelessly, that they become part of daily conversation, and the people for whom those expressions remain deeply offensive become invisible. Mr. Escobar’s suspension is a step at reversing that process. It is a message that says: “Hey, that thing you just said, it demeans a group of people you didn’t know you were demeaning.”

Example: The Meaning Of Words

Reporting on the 2002 murder of Gwen Araujo, who was a trans, the local newspapers used the terms “transsexual” and “transgender” interchangeably and sometimes threw in “transvestite.” LGBT advocacy groups called the papers on their erroneous practice explaining that there is a difference between sex and gender. The paper changed its policy and henceforth referred to Gwen Araujoas “transgender female.”A paper changing its editorial policy because it finally discovered that words they were misusing have real meaning, that is progress.

Meanings Change

In the September 2012 issue of Advocate, Trudy Ring writes:

Transgender” has replaced “transsexual” as the preferred term over the past couple of decades, in recognition that gender is more than anatomy and that not all transgender people undergotransition surgery (which used to be called “sex-reassignment surgery” and is now generally called”gender-reassignment surgery” or “gender-confirmation surgery”).

As their true identity evolves, different people will use different terms to describe themselves. The task is to monitor words used in the context of normal conversation and note the evolution of their meanings.

Elie Wieselthought that words, just likebeings or objects, have shadows that surrounds them. A newspaper changing its policy on what word to use dispels part of that shadow, and an explanation of the meaning of a word shines a light on those who were in the shadow.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

 

Regardless Of What The Pope Says, Same Sex-Marriage Will Soon Be Real

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

December 28, 2012

Regardless Of What The Pope Says, Same Sex-Marriage Will Soon Be Real

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

First this.

We believe in love. We believe in same sex marriage. We do not believe same sex marriage results in the end of the world.

Now this is what the pope said to the Vatican bureaucracy on the Friday before Christmas.

He said: gay marriage destroys the “essence of human nature.”

Also:

People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.

And, citing France’s chief rabbi, he also said:

A new philosophy of sexuality has taken hold, whereby sex and gender are “no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society.”

Question: How Can A Leader Of Millions Be So Wrong?

In the matter of same sex marriage, the pope has lost his audience. Eleven countries allow same sex marriage and eight have pending legislation to do so. The Dutch Secretary of State severely criticized the pope’s comments and gay rights groups have called the pope dangerously out of touch.

But the pope is not dumb and even if he is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, he is surrounded by advisors, all those cardinals and bishops and monks, who help him grapple with important issues. How then, we must ask ourselves, is it possible for a collective Vatican intelligence to voice attitudes as offensively homophobic as that Christmas speech?

Answer: He Is Preserving Dogma

It must be difficult to be a pope. His is the task to safeguard a set of principles laid down as incontrovertibly true by authorities from the past and, in some instances, the distant past. His whole life is dedicated to learn, understand, refine, and teach that dogma. Read again the citations above and note the obstinate adherence to assumptions shown to be false. Sexuality may be an element of nature, but society does not choose it for us, and doctors cannot tell it from birth.

There must be this realization in the Vatican: if they allow the thread of modern sexuality to be pulled any further, it will eventually unravel their entire intellectual edifice. Maybe, he has a brain trust working overtime to reconcile recent scientific findings with ancient dogma. Probably not, more likely the pope struggles with the idea how much to allow changing social realities to change fundamental principles of the Church he all his life has accepted as true but now maybe are not.

Somewhere the Vatican lost sight that logic does not apply to what they do, what they do is called a belief system, not a logic puzzle. And unconditional love is the rock on which this belief system rests. We wish the wise men in the Vatican would get it.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

 

Will The Supreme Court Make 2013 A Year That Goes Down In History?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

December 7, 2012

Will The Supreme Court Make 2013 A Year That Goes Down In History?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

The Supreme Court is going to rule whether California’s Proposition 8 is constitutional. The announcement was eagerly awaited and when it came, our community celebrated and the media began speculating on the outcome expected sometime around next June. Many of our colleagues in the fight for social justice believe that the ruling will be in our favor.We are not as sanguine and wondered what would happen if the Supreme Court upholds the ban on same sex marriage. We started reading.

There Are Three Major Ways The Decision Could Go

The hoped for outcome is for a majority of those nine judges to write that denying LGBTs the right to marry, or even denyingLGBTs the right to call their union marriage, is unconstitutional. This is a dramaticstep and those 31 states that now have written into their constitution that marriage is only between a man and a woman, would have to strike those clauses.

The second outcome is for the Supreme Court to find that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional but only on the particulars of the case. This means that it would only apply to California, leaving laws opposing same-sex marriage in other states intact. The third outcome is a ruling that upholds Proposition 8. The result would be that each state may pass legislation banning same-sex marriage.

What Are The Consequences Of Each Outcome?

We believe in the law, but sometimes the law runs behind social justice. If such is the case, and we believe such is the case with same-sex marriage, then work and sacrifice are required to change the law. It is what countless others have done before, for example, Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King. In this light, the only consequence of the three outcomes we sketched above is TIME. If Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, then state laws banning same-sex marriage are null and void. If the ruling is narrow and applies to California only, then more time is needed to make the other states see the light. If Proposition 8 is upheld, then even more time is required to achieve social justice.

The weight of public opinion is shifting in favor of same-sex marriage and sooner or later there will be laws to enshrine that right for everybody. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision merely determines the sooner or later.

Regardless Of Outcome, Our Work Continues

With or without a law the intense work to change hearts and minds continues. If there are laws that allow same-sex marriages, or no laws that forbid it, the work goes toward making the law come alive. If there are laws that prevent same-sex marriage, then the work goes toward establishing those laws, state by state if we have to. No doubt, the end result of all our work would be quicker with an endorsement from the ultimate arbiter of the land.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

 

How To Convince Some Parents That Diversity Includes Sexual Diversity

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 30, 2012

How To Convince Some Parents That Diversity Includes Sexual Diversity

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

The election is over and our LGBT community scored impressive advances. The “ship of state” is on the right course. Still, not everyone likes the voyage the ship is undertaking. There are people, still too many, who are opposed and stubbornly refuse to come on board.

A Mother Has A vision

A divorced mother and her gay son have not been in close contact for a while. It is a situation both regret and the mother decides to do something about it. She invitesher son for lunch.The son agrees glad that his mother wants to begin the process of understanding him as a gay son. He asks API Family Pride for a Circle. A Circle, or Family Circle, is a gathering of API LGBTs and accepting API parents of LGBTs who can answer from experience the questions some parents have when they start their own journey of understanding and accepting. We have done several of these and the results have been encouraging. This one was not. The mother wanted to meet her son only to tell him that she had a vision wherein God told her that to be gay is wrong. Her son came with his partnerto introduce to his mother, the mother came with reparative therapy sign-up sheets so that her son could begin his conversion and conform to the vision shown by her God.There was no coming together.

A Father Does Not Listen

In another instance, a requested Circle never got off the ground. Parents of an API gay man came to visit their son here in our Bay Area. The man told his parents he was gay with devastating results. He asked for help. We began contacting people to form a Circle and proposed some dates, all to no avail. The father adamantly refused to meet with anybody: not with other LGBTs, not with parents from LGBTs, not even with accepting parents from his country. The father cursed his luck and fate to have a gay son and hoped no other parent would have to experience his agony. How could life continue when he got back home? He gave his son instructions on what to do—“refrain from nasty activities”—and wanted proof that his instructions were being followed. He had faith in God and trusted that his God would make everything all right. And so the father raged and the mother cried. And the fumes of his anger obscured from him his son’s pain.

Honesty And Willingness To Listen Are Key

A Family Circle needs a willingness to come together and an openness to hear what the other has to say. Both are necessary, but if either is not, then we need to do something else to keep a family together. It is a complicated business for there are paradoxes at work: God’s unconditional love has some conditions after all and if those conditions are not met, then a loving God tells some parents to castoff their child.We need a wayto penetrate that impenetrable wall of righteousnessand convince APIs that their LGBT children are not sinners, but part of the rich sexual diversity that exists everywhere.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 23, 2012

We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

We hope that your Thanksgiving was as satisfying as was ours. We had a quiet dinner and let our thoughts and conversation go over all the blessings granted us and for which we give thanks.

We are thankful that Obama was re-elected. We don’t judge how good a president he was or will be, but we are certain that the alternative would have been a disaster. Our re-elected President ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, told his Attorney General not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, made LGBT rights a component of US foreign policy, and came out four square for marriage equality.

We are thankful to witness a real change in attitudes. After 32 straight defeats at the ballot box, people in four states affirmed marriage equality. The margins may have been narrow, but who would have thought even twenty years ago—the time our son came out—this was even going to be on a ballot.

We are thankful for API parents who overcame their own fear and confusion and took on the difficult work to learn and understand and accept and respect their LGBT children. They come and help us to convince other parents when they allow us to use their example of rock-hard love and deep appreciation of API family values.

We are thankful for churches that are accepting. It shouldn’t be but it is hard work to live the true Christian dogma of unconditional love. Their clergy preach a glorious gospel of inclusion and welcome in God’s house LGBT’s rejected by other clergy clinging to a narrow vision of God’s love.

We are thankful for new friends who introduced us to a whole community that thrives in spite of adversity. Friends who showed us that to live life runs about the same for everyone: learn, work, forge relationships to last a lifetime, and raise children.

We are thankful for funders who generously gave API Family Pride money enabling us to build capacity, infrastructure, and leadership. Their largesse makes us visible and allows us to keep doing what we are doing, namely, keeping API families together.

We are thankful for our private donors. Often their gifts are from a budget straining under other, urgent demands; often they come with a note: “We love what you’re doing. Please keep it going.” Our donors are our partners; their gifts not only keep the lights on, but also give us feedback showing us we are doing work that fills a need.

We are thankful for volunteers who come and give of their time and talent every time we ask. Their gifts are precious. They are shining stars in our firmament.

We are thankful for our network of organizations and community groups that help us bring the message of equality and justice to all who must hear it, especially community leaders and politicians at all levels.

We are thankful on a personal level for our children. They are all doing what they want to do and they are all safe and they are all fabulous. As they grow into their careers and tell us about it, we stay up to date with the world.

We are blessed.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

 

How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 16, 2012

How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

She looks straight into the camera, calm and confident, sunglasses shoved on top of her head, hoop earrings with stones, a checkered shirt, long hair in a ponytail, and even in a black and white on newspaper print, her lips show glossy. But her name is on the list that will be read during the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Oakland, because she was transgender and murdered because of that.

She was Brandy Martell, murdered in Oakland this year on an April Sunday morning. Her murderer fired once at her genitals then put two bullets in her torso. They are still looking for him, even though the police have made this a “Priority One” investigation. Oakland’s police department has a 41 percent murder resolution rate and Brandy Martell’s murder is one of 109 Oakland has suffered so far this year. We may never know the cause of a rage so great that the murderer came back with a gun after he had already left just to kill someone born with genitals that did not conform to who she was.

They should have a “Pull Out All the Stops” category for murders like this one, because Brandy Martel is also one of 38 transgender persons to be murdered since last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. The list of murdered transgender persons that is read during that somber ceremony of remembrance has over 700 names on it. What can we do, what must we do, to stop this ferocious attack against human beings who merely want to present themselves to the world as who they actually are.

We are parents of a gay child. His coming out sent us on an expedition into a different world, one whose geography we are still learning. We use the term LGBT and studied what each of those letters mean and thought we knew. Then, one day, during the Prop 8 campaign, a transgender MTF asked us where she fits in all the slogans and press releases. We stopped short and realized that the T in LGBT is rarely included in any conversation. There are close to 700,000 transgender persons living in America. Attacks on them have a savagery all their own; a savagery that makes it futile to generalize other than to ask why. They are trying hard, have been trying for a while, to become part of everybody’s conversation. We haven’t been listening, we should listen and act.

Each year the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a few days before Thanksgiving. It is a stark juxtaposition: a day remembering all who were murdered, alongside a day set aside to give thanks for all our blessings. Maybe remembering is coupled with thanksgiving for not having been beaten or maimed or killed. How are we going to change this?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

 

Trans Awareness Week

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 9, 2012

Trans Awareness Week

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

This week’s is a guest blog.

Maxwell Ng is an American Asian transman who has lived in Boston for almost 15 years. He is the Vice-Chair of the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition (MTPC), a founding member of the Trailblazers, the Boston based softball team for trans and gender variant people, and serves on the Steering Committee for QAPA (Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance). He is passionate about visibility for Queer Asians, and strives to bring the issues that impact our enriched communities to the forefront. In his professional life, he works as an architect.

————————

It’s Trans Awareness Week (TAW) across the country; that means communities everywhere are busy holding educational and social events. This week of events culminates with an event called Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR): a candlelight vigil where we remember and memorialize people AROUND THE WORLD who have died for being Trans or gender non-conforming. TDOR started here in Boston, after a woman by the name of Rita Hester was murdered in Allston just for being who she is: a Trans woman of color.

When I was still a baby queer, I like so many others trying to figure out identity, searched high and low for community. I had been exposed to the lesbian and gay community; a community that has become it’s own culture, complete with genre music, media icons and cruise ships. As compelling and as shiny as this world of unicorns and rainbows is, it was not where I belonged.

What I found instead, was TDOR, and let me say, it was a stark difference. TDOR is not a glitter clad parade down Main Street USA. There are no Dykes on Bikes or Go-Go boys. It is NOT a celebration. It is a somber, solemn event, where the names of murder victims are read from a frighteningly long list. And as dark as this event can be (there is often weeping involved) it continues to be one of the largest events for the Trans community: a time to be with friends and loved ones, and time to recognize our fallen.

I like to remind people that gay pride in the USA was catalyzed by the Stonewall Riots in NYC. On that fateful night in June of 1969, a group of drag queens and butch dykes had the gall to fight back. They took a stand and said they would not be targeted any longer for their gender presentation or identity. The modern gay civil rights movement owes it’s start to Trans and gender non conforming people who were getting abused, killed and persecuted.

TDOR is in all our roots. Please remember. To find a TDOR event in your neighborhood, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org

Sometimes Acceptance Is Immediate, Sometimes It Takes Awhile

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 2, 2012

Sometimes Acceptance Is Immediate, Sometimes It Takes Awhile

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

A Mother TellsHer Story.

The summer after he graduated high school, my son moved to Southern California. The idea was that during the summer he would look after his younger cousins while his aunt and uncle went on a trip. Come fall, he would enroll in college. He never did enroll, because he found a job he fell in love with, is still doing it, and now is nearly at the top of management.

He and I have a very good relationship and he phoned me often. And more and more in our conversations he talked about how different from everybody else he felt. I had known this from his youth, of course, but now there seemed to be a new urgency to his questions. The breakthrough insight came when during a stormy night with lighting and thunder one of two girls he was sharing an apartment with became frightened and came into his bedroom and huddled on his bed. “Mom,” he said, “I didn’t feel anything. I think I may be gay.” He was scared, confused and asked for advice. I told him to talk to a priest. He did. The priest told him that regardless how he felt, he was still God’s child.

That, too, is how I feel. He is my son, God gave him to me and he will always be my son. God did not make him bad, just different and why should I love him less for that?

Her son tells his story.

As long as I can remember I felt different. I didn’t know what it was, but I just felt off somehow. My father was a person who had specific ideas of what it means to be a man. I did not match any of his ideas. He loved sports, he umpired little league, and expected me to also love sports. I did not. I remember evenings sitting in my bedroom with my mother watching a show on a tiny TV, while downstairs my father and older brother watched their sports on the big screen.

Being a man means not being a sissy and my father often said to me that I was a sissy, a mama’s boy. I once overheard him saying to my mother that instead of one daughter, he actually had two. And it wasn’t just my father, my older brother, my aunts and uncles, all are (but maybe now hopefully were) homophobic and homophobic slurs are part of the vocabulary I grew up with.

When I was finally able to give a name to who I am and really understood what that means, I knew I had to come out to my family, aunties and uncles included. It didn’t go well, their reaction was as expected. For me, though, it was a great relief to finally know who I am, tell my family who I am, and tell the world and live openly as a gay man.

My father succumbed to the diseases that afflicted him during the last years of his life. I was with him constantly during the final weeks. It was the first time ever that we spent time so closely together and we forged a bond that had not existed before. The last time he went into the hospital he shared a room with a gay man. I don’t know what they talked about or what the man said, but when I visited him, my father and I totally reconciled. At the end of his life my father fully accepted and honored me.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org

 

What Is Success? How Is Progress Measured?

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

August 31, 2012

What Is Success? How Is Progress Measured?

By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA

How do you measure progress in the campaign to end homophobia? Do you count the number of laws passed that prohibit discrimination against LGBT people? The number of rights gained? Should we weigh laws and rights by their importance? Is the right to marry worth three statutes against discrimination? We believe that a legal framework is an absolutely necessary but ultimately insufficient tool to gain social justice. Passing a law is a small first step, but then comes making it real. Laws must be implemented and implementation in this case requires a willingness to spend treasure and effort to affect profound cultural changes.

Why Worry About Measurements?

We ask ourselves this question—about what to measure—so that we can track how effective we really are and to find and concentrate on those initiatives that appear to work best. To change the world one person at a time is a nice sound bite, but is silly; besides, it is now so over-used as to be annoying. It is more effective to find what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “tipping point” and cause a chain reaction.

Are Schools Safer Than Before?

In our last blog we noted that schools are still not a safe place for LGBT students to learn. Are schools safer than before? Maybe, but that is scant encouragement for the many teenagers still harassed and bullied. Were schools ever a safe place for those who are “different?” Should we, in order to make it safe for LGBT students, devise interventions that make it safe for all protected characteristics (sex, ethnicity, race, national origin, religion, color, and disability)? If so, does it make sense to measure progress for just LGBT students? Or is being LGBT sufficiently different from the other protected classes that it should have its own interventions and measurements for progress.

Is Corporate America A Safe Place For LGBT People?

At the other end of the spectrum from high schools, corporate America is also not a safe place for LGBT people. In a July 25 article, the Wall Street Journal reported “there isn’t a single openly gay chief executive officer in the Fortune 1000.” Human Rights Deputy Director Deena Fidas is quoted: “Being gay in the corporate world is still far from being a ‘nonissue.‘ Companies can still legally fire a worker for being gay in 29 states, for one, and many subtle biases remain in the workplace.” A diversity consultant claims that he knows at least ten closeted gay CEOs.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a non-profit from San Francisco with a vision to create “workplace equality for all inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and characteristics,” is working this issue. The path toward their existence, which is on their website, is an indicator that they might just be effective in creating that safe workplace.

Until We Really Know What Works, Try Things We Think Will Work

We don’t know what works best because we don’t know how to measure what works best. We do know the end point, namely: success is when America’s prevailing conversation no longer includes derogatory content against LGBT people. Until we know how to get there, let’s keep trying whatever idea comes to mind, apply it to whatever societal segment we are concerned about, and make it happen.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org