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On #SpiritDay, My Hopes for My Children’s Future and Our Future

October 16, 2014
2 children, Dayton and Saunder, wearing purple and a "be you." hat holding a sign that says #SpiritDay

My children, Saunder and Dayton

As the parent of two kids, taking action to end bullying is important to me because I want every child to be able to be who they are, freely and without fear of ridicule or violence. And I want my kids and their classmates to feel empowered rather than intimidated while at school. I want them to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want them to know that their words and thoughts can be just as hurtful as physical violence. I want to teach my kids to be bold and courageous and speak out when they see others bullying or being bullied. I want my kids to have self confidence and happiness. I want them to be kind and tender people. I want to prevent youth suicide and reduce the instances of violence in our young people.

Most of all, I want my kids to be free to explore every possibility within themselves without barriers and bring their full selves to the table.

Be courageous, be you.

Julie Childs, Executive Assistant to the Executive Director

2015 Transgender Leadership Exchange-Apply by October 15

October 14, 2014

For four years, National LGBTQ Task Force has hosted an annual Leadership Exchange for LGBTQ leaders from across our movement. We have retreated and contemplated our values, honed our analysis of power and privilege, developed skills for managing teams and generally gathered together in solidarity for one another’s experiences and needs in the vastness of this LGBTQ movement.

Apply Now to 2015 Transgender Leadership Exchange

What I love most about this space is the culture that we create – respectful and co-creative, inclusive and curious; I have such a tremendous amount of respect for the culture we create and I believe strongly in the hope it gives each of us that we might help manifest this type of culture back in our home communities and organizations.

In 2015, the National LGBTQ Task Force will launch a Leadership Exchange exclusively for people who identify as transgender and genderqueer. This group of leaders will participate in a learning community that will offer peer coaching, opportunities for self-reflection, story sharing, skill development and action.

The Trans Leadership Exchange centers on 5 values:

  1. Personal Power and Transformation –Through the exploration of values, we will explore more ways of being self-aware, centered and true to our own desires.
  2. Build Relationship – working in this movement can be challenging and even isolating at times. How can we support one another and develop a sense of community with other leaders who have shared meaning with us about our lives and our work?
  3. Power, Privilege, and Oppression: discussing how social identities (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, age) shared and best practices in communication skills for engaging across lines of significant difference.
  4. Organizing Skills – organizing people and money, and distinguishing between leading, managing and supervising.
  5. Movement Building – recognize different strategies and tactics for achieving political change in the LGBTQ movement and how to foster a more collaborative and generative LGBTQ movement.

Who Should Apply?

Trans and Genderqueer identified leaders working in the LGBTQ movement are welcome to apply. This includes campaigns and community organizers, policy advocates, faith leaders, higher education and community center professionals. Trans and Genderqueer leaders from other social justice movements (such as immigration rights, reproductive justice, and economic and racial justice) are also welcome to apply. This program is tailored for leaders with a wide range of professional or volunteer experience.

The Task Force is committed to creating multi-racial, gender diverse, accessible spaces in our leadership programs. The Trans Leadership Exchange is available at low or no cost to all accepted participants, based on a sliding scale. No one will be turned away for financial reasons.

I welcome inquiries about the program. Please contact Evangeline Weiss, Leadership Programs Director at the Task Force: eweiss@thetaskforce.org, 919-236-3049.

Applications are due by October 15, 2014–Apply here now!

Cómo Aprendí A Mentir y Elegí Vivir Mi Vida

October 14, 2014

Jorge Amaro escribe el blog “Salir del Closet”

[Este editorial fue publicado originalmente en La Opinion el 10 de octubre en la observancia de “National Coming Out Day."]

A la tierna edad de cuatro años aprendí la importancia de mentir. Mis padres, tías, tíos, primas, primos, vecinos, y compañeros de escuela me exigían: “¿tienes novia?” Ellos insistían en que me sentía atraído por una chica—a la misma vez insinuado que era la única manera de comprobar mi masculinidad. Y aunque era demasiado joven para entender el concepto de la identidad y sexualidad, sabía que no me llamaba la atención las niñas, y que la única manera de evitar de ser presionando era mentir.

El mundo ha cambiado drásticamente en los últimos 25 años. De niño, no había ninguna persona lesbiana, gay, bisexual, transgénero y queer (LGBTQ) como modelos que se mencionaban en los medios. Hoy en día, el cantante gay Ricky Martín se escucha en la radio mientras continúa encabezando las listas de éxitos, la actriz y activista transgénero Laverne Cox aparece en la portada de la revista TIME, las películas de la directora abiertamente bisexual Angelina Jolie son vistas por millones de personas en la gran pantalla, y la comediante lesbiana Ellen DeGeneres rompe el récord del internet de la foto más compartida en las redes sociales.

Ahora más que nunca, las personas LGBTQ están decidiendo vivir sus vida con orgullo y auténticamente. Y aunque hoy vivimos en una sociedad que apoya más a las personas LGBTQ, nosotros continuamos enfrentando obstáculos formidables en todos los aspectos de nuestras vidas: en la escuela, en la vivienda, el empleo, la asistencia de salud médica, en nuestras congregaciones religiosas, en la jubilación y en los derechos humanos fundamentales. Por ejemplo, a pesar de la acción que toma la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos el lunes pasado que amplió el derecho al matrimonio a las parejas del mismo sexo a 30 estados, en cinco de esos estados (Indiana, Oklahoma, Pensilvania, Utah y Virginia), sigue siendo perfectamente legal que un empleador despida a alguien por ser LGBTQ.

Todavía hay mucho trabajo por hacer para garantizar la justicia, la libertad y la igualdad para todos. Al celebrar el “National Coming Out Day,” un día en el que animamos a personas LGBTQ de salir del closet y vivir sus vidas con autenticidad y celebrar su identidad, también es importante que nos comprometamos nuevamente a derribar todas las barreras que impiden a la gente de ser sus verdaderos seres. También es importante entender que el trabajo para asegurar la igualdad para todos, no sólo depende de la comunidad LGBTQ, pero también requiere el apoyo de las personas heterosexuales.

Salir del closet significa vivir mi vida como persona abiertamente gay. Afortunadamente para mí, diciendo a mis padres que soy gay no causo ningún problema; diciéndoles que soy ateo causó un lío. Esperé en decirles que soy gay tanto tiempo porque me había acostumbrado a vivir una mentira. Por muchos años fui maltratado simplemente por ser percibido como hombre gay, y aunque negué mi orientación sexual, todavía fui intimidado, acosado verbalmente, y atacado físicamente. Tenía demasiado miedo y no quise averiguar lo que significaba vivir abiertamente gay.

Ya no soy ese niño de cuatro años que siente la necesidad de mentir sobre su identidad. Pero hasta la fecha, para demasiadas personas LGBTQ, vivir la vida auténticamente no es una opción. En nombre de ellos, y millones más en situaciones similares, les invito que me acompañen en el trabajo de crear una sociedad que celebra y respeta la diversidad en la identidad y la expresión humana.

Jorge Amaro, National LGBTQ Task Force, Media and Public Relations Director

Op-ed: Why This Major Organization Is Changing Its Name

October 14, 2014
tags:

Being your authentic self is a revolutionary act for millions of LBGTQ people.
[this Editorial by Rea Carey originally appeared in The Advocate on Wednesday, October 8]

One of my early memories of feeling like I was fully and deeply me was during elementary school when my little tomboy self climbed up a tree in my Denver neighborhood and just hung out thinking about a girl I had a crush on. I felt strong in my body, climbing branch by branch; looking back on it, I realize I felt something that wasn’t what I knew girls to be or what I knew boys to be, rather something in between; and, of course, the freedom to think about the girl. And I was deeply happy in all of my identities. That’s how it feels to be fully you. To be all of you.be you. The National LGBTQ Task Force

There’s an identity revolution going on in our nation right now. It’s a revolution that shows up in the way people share the many aspects of their identities through social media. It’s apparent when we challenge assumptions others have about us and what issues we care about — like white citizens working on immigration reform or gay men working on reproductive justice or LGBT people working on voting rights. It’s apparent when actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox appears on the cover of Time magazine. We have come a long way in making visible the many ways we live our lives and pursue our passions.

I am seeing a real palpable hunger in LGBTQ people’s hearts not just to be out, but to bring their entire selves to every aspect of their lives: to be you without fear, without persecution, without discrimination, whether you’re L, G, B, T, or Q. But there is also a deep hunger for more change with millions of us still facing formidable barriers in every aspect of our lives: at school, in housing, employment, in health care, in our faith congregations, in retirement and in basic human rights. And while we have yet to win full marriage equality — that fight isn’t over — we must also look beyond marriage to continue the work that speaks to the many things we are as LGBTQ people.

For these and many other reasons, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is changing its name and upping its game to tear down any remaining barriers to full freedom, justice, and equality for all LBGTQ people. We want to create a world where you can be you, without barriers. Our new name is the “National LGBTQ Task Force,” our tagline is “Be you,” and our vision is a society that values and respects the diversity of human expression and identity and achieves freedom and equity for all.

The barriers we face today are far-reaching and they impact LGBTQ lives from childhood to retirement.

At school, LGBTQ students are still being bullied and denied an education for simply being themselves.

At work, LGBTQ employees are being fired for who they are and love. And the likelihood of your being fired is much higher if you are an LGBTQ person of color and higher still if you are a transgender person of color.

At places of worship, welcoming people of faith are being defrocked, excluded, and shouted down by opponents of LGBTQ equality.

In our immigration system, more than 250,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants desperately want to stay here and pursue their dreams.

On the streets, thousands of homeless LGBTQ people need decent housing.

At medical centers, despite progress in the implementation of Obamacare, LGBTQ people aren’t getting access to the specialized care they need.

In retirement, LGBTQ seniors are going back into the closet in fear of being discriminated against.

But we imagine a different world. A world in which each person can be fully themselves. Be fully free.

Being you is to be able to walk down the street holding hands and not fear that you will be hit over the head with a bottle.

Being you is to be able to live in any state you want and be legally recognized and honored as your children’s parents.

Being you is to be able to enter a voting station as a black transgender woman and not worry that anyone will question you because of the color of your skin or because your ID card doesn’t match what they see.

Being you is about being able to claim and stand proudly in all of your identities, not having to choose one over another, or denying any part of yourself.

We live in an exciting time where we have the power to define the future we want — and so much of that future is connected to creating a world where every LGBTQ person can be themselves without any barriers. What would it feel like to be fully you?

Let’s seize this moment, let’s be ourselves fully, and let’s make a future together that’s worthy of our struggle.

by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

 

Apology to Bisexual Community

October 13, 2014
TaskForce FB profile w be you

In raising multiple personal perspectives during Bisexual Awareness Week, we published many items — one which was a blog called “Bye Bye Bi, Hello Queer.” It was one of the blogs published on Bisexual Awareness Day. Having listened to a wide array of feedback on the timing and content, we recognize that this blog offended people. For this we sincerely apologize. It has been removed. Our commitment as we move forward with our partners in the bisexual community is to continue to raise awareness of the realities and history of the bisexual community and bisexual people’s lives.

Biphobia: Not in My Name

September 30, 2014
Unicorn Kitten says... Bisexuals are NOT Transphobic

A lot gets done in my name as a trans non-binary person. I choose to label as Bisexual, despite the many different clamoring voices all insisting I shouldn’t. Most often this takes the form of biphobia masking as “complexity of language” and” trans inclusion”. The idea that the word bisexual somehow reinforces the western gender binary, and thus is harmful to trans people like myself, is such a common way biphobia is expressed that it currently is next to “Photograph” by Nickelback on my personal list of things I can’t stand to hear any more.

This idea isn’t rooted in the idea of complex language but biphobia. When people talk about how words reinforce the binary it is ONLY ever in regards to bisexuality. I have been to many LGBT spaces where this has come up. “We need to drop the B” or in a personal context “Oh I don’t use bisexual because it reinforces the binary.”

You know what never ever comes up after? How words like “gay” and “lesbian” are also reinforcing a gender binary. Nobody ever says “We need to change our name from “The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to something more inclusive because gay and lesbian reinforce the gender binary” or “I don’t call myself a lesbian because it isn’t trans inclusive”

That is how I know this is just biphobia masquerading as “inclusive language”. Only bisexuals have to change, only our words are bad. Even though the bisexual community defines itself as “attraction to same/different genders or more than one gender” this binary, cis only men and women definition biphobia is constantly imposed from outside the community by cis people doing it in the name of people like me.

Aud Traher headshot

                 Aud Traher

If you feel the need to pick apart, ditch or otherwise get rid of the word bisexual you are harming transgender, genderqueer and non binary people who identify as bisexual. In the bisexual trans community this has become such a toxic poison that it causes people to become depressed, anxious or to self harm. Imagine being told that how you define yourself is harmful. That you are, like your label, bad and unworthy. I know seeing such arguments and statements have brought me back to a place of immense pain and internalized biphobia and transphobia. As a bisexual this is just another form of pain that I have to deal with. It hits the same open bleeding area that is from lesbian and gay biphobia–harmed self-righteously by those who should help us.

I’m never surprised that the same people who advocate for the elimination of bisexual and for ABB (Anything But Bi) terms to replace them in the name of trans inclusion rarely do actual work with the transgender and genderqueer/ non binary communities. The Transgender Violence Tracking Project was created by a bisexual transgender woman and is run and staffed by many bisexuals, including myself. I can nearly always count on support from the bi community as a trans person. The history of friendship between the Bi and Trans communities goes back decades, back past Stonewall even.

If you want to support trans people like me don’t erase me or speak over me or cause me harm out of self-righteous biphobia. Look into yourself and deal with that internalized biphobia and then help others get over theirs. Don’t advocate for the destruction of a community in the name of “saving” it.

And, especially don’t do it in my name.

Aud Traher is a gender non conforming transgender bisexual identified person who lives in Pennsylvania and prefers they, them, their personal pronouns. In 2013, Aud was honored to be an attendee at the LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House. A prolific writer, Aud operates evenaud.wordpress.org and is currently working on a coming out book for bi teens and young adults while also interning at Quist, a mobile app that displays events from this day in LGBTQ history.

Reflecting on Inclusion: A New LGBT Jewish Resource Guide

September 25, 2014

It’s 3:49am. Gabriel, my four-month-old, is crying in his nursery. My partner and I roll over, look at each other, groan. What does it mean to be the best parents we can be in this moment? Allow Gabriel to learn how to soothe himself because we know he is safe, warm, and has a full belly? Or follow our instincts by going up and rocking him back to sleep? We have no guide book. As parents of two children under the age of three, my partner and I are constantly making decisions like this that collectively will shape our children’s lives.

In my role as National Program Director of Keshet, I help Jewish congregations every day make decisions that will shape the lives of their LGBT members. And while, like parenting, these decisions must always first come from a sense of love and trust in each other, I am proud to announce that there is now a guide book to support Jewish congregations in their efforts to create inclusive institutions for LGBT people and their families:

Screenshot 2014-08-27 14.59.31

“Kol B’mishpachat Elohim / All in God’s Family: A Jewish Guide for Creating Allies for Our LGBT Families,” is a multimedia curriculum created by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources, Keshet, COLAGE, and Family Equality Council.

The High Holidays are the perfect occasion for the release of a new resource. At this time of the Jewish year, during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we enter into a period of reckoning for all the choices we have made over the past year. We do the work of teshuvah, commonly translated as repentance and literally meaning “returning” – returning to our best and purest selves. We struggle to return to the people we want to be, the people we know we can be. We reflect on how whether or not we have shown up for others, whether or not we retreated from ourselves, and whether or not we did the right thing rather than the easy thing whenever we could.

Doing the work of LGBT inclusion in our congregations is doing the work of teshuvah – it’s an ongoing process of reflection, reckoning, and making change to better meet the mark. We can honor our accomplishments even as we strive for improvement. LGBT inclusion is not a box to simply check, not something that is achieved in a single training session. We may have developed an inclusion statement for our website. But did we train our staff in how to be more inclusive in their work? Did we create opportunities for community conversations about inclusion and LGBT themes? Did we make bathrooms available for people of all genders? Did we do enough?

There are no quick fixes. Rather, coming together to enact our values for a more inclusive community is a process, a practice that we carry over time. It involves reflection, teshuvah, consistently returning to the values that characterize our communities at their best.

Catherine Bell with her children

Catherine Bell with her children

This is not only a job for me — it’s also personal. As part of a queer family, I want my children to grow up knowing that the essential components of family are love and respect, not one mom and one dad; I want them to know that they have the spaciousness to experience and express their gender and sexual orientation however it evolves over their lifetime. And as part of a Jewish family, I want my children to participate in Jewish community that celebrates and teaches about embracing all people, all families, all genders, all kinds of love.

It’s our hope that Kol B’mishpachat Elohim will support Jewish congregations in pursuing the holy work of LGBT inclusion in Jewish congregations, and will ultimately help all Jewish families – LGBT and straight – experience the richness of a truly inclusive community.

And although there is no guidebook for us as parents, my partner and I will continue our own struggle to make the right choices — time and time again — for our children. But hopefully it won’t always have to be at Four in the morning.

 by Catherine Bell, National Program Director of Keshet

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