19 Years Later: A Memorial Tribute To Matthew Shepard….

Matthew Shepard, in a family photo carried in his father’s wallet.

For LGBT History Month and on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard‘s death, I wanted to share this memorial I gave on October 15, 1998, in Amherst, Massachusetts‘ Town Commons. A few of the references may be dated, but the truth remains the same.

I never met Matthew Shepard in life, but I feel I know him in death. His passing hit me like the death of an old trusted friend. His loss to me is palpable.

Matthew hoped to dedicate his life to advancing the cause of human rights for all people. His uncle, R. W. Eaton, said that Matt was “a small person with a big heart, mind, and soul that someone tried to beat out of him.”

I come to you tonight with both good news and bad news, and I will save the good news to the end. The bad news is that what happened to Matthew Shepard is nothing new. We see hate-motivated violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and other targeted social groups on the rise.

Pick up any of our publications and each week you will see stories of brutal and senseless attacks. Groups of young males wielding baseball bats and guns at anyone who looks “different,” and men waiting outside women’s spaces attacking women on their way home. Recently hitting the national spotlight we witnessed the brutal attacks on Rodney King in Los Angeles, the barbarous slaying of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas, and the fierce rape and murder of 7-year-old Cherise Iverson in a Las Vegas casino bathroom.

And these are simply the most extreme examples of hate-related violence in general and so-called “gay bashing” specifically. I am here, then, to restate a simple truth — the killers of Matthew Shepard live in a society that promotes intolerance, for gay bashing comes in a great many forms:

Whenever hate mongers like Fred Phelps and his followers threaten to picket and protest the funerals of gay and lesbian people, including Matthew Shepard, and people who have died of AIDS, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever university students, like those at Colorado State University, spray paint a scarecrow at their homecoming parade with vicious epithets in reference to Matthew Shepard, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever the political and theocratic right produce newspaper and television ads that promise “conversion” and “escape” from the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” in the guise of Christian love and understanding, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever politicians like Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott proclaim in the media that homosexuality is a disease in the categories of kleptomania and alcoholism, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever the U.S. Senate and other legislative bodies refuse to confirm a nominee for public service, like James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, simply on account of their sexual or gender identity alone and not on their actual qualifications, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever so-called religious leaders like Pat Robertson blame natural disasters on city governments that have enacted laws protecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever mainstream religious denominations condemn homosexuality with one breath and actively obstruct frank and honest sexuality and AIDS education programs in our schools with another, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever any young person is tossed out on the street when family members become aware of their sexual or gender identity, that’s gay bashing.

whenever any person is ridiculed, isolated, confronted, or attacked for not conforming to rigid constructions of gender expression, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever hate crimes legislation is drafted without including the documentation of violence directed against lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, and transgender people, branding this as nothing more than the granting of “special rights,” that’s gay bashing.
Whenever professors in our universities and teachers in our schools exclude the stories of our lives, our experiences, and our accomplishments in the classroom, that’s gay bashing.

Whenever any one of us is taught to hate ourselves each one of us is demeaned, and that certainly is gay bashing, and we have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity, and with all the love that we are capable of.

Today we still live in a society that proclaims we don’t have a right to exist, but exist we do, everywhere, in all walks of life.

For as we all know, we are the students, professors, teachers, guidance counselors, day care workers, parents — and still some people and groups attempt to prevent us from having contact with the young people of our nation. And because of their insensitivity and fear, the gay bashing continues.

We are the social workers, psychiatrists, workers at homeless shelters and rape crisis centers — and still some people and groups blame us for the break up of what they call the “traditional American family.” And the gay bashing continues.

The reality is that we are holding up this culture. If all the lesbians, bisexuals, gay males, and transgender people suddenly left our jobs, this country would literally crumble.

Referring to Matthew Shepard’s shattered body, his uncle cried: “It’s like something you might see in war.” Yes, we are fighting a war: a war against ignorance, which is literally killing our people. And amidst this crisis, segments of our country perpetuate a process of collective denial by refusing to acknowledge the mere existence of this war in its attempts to silence us. But silent we are not, and silent we will never be again.

There is an old tradition in our western states of ranchers killing a coyote and tying it to a fence to scare off other coyotes, and to keep them from coming out of their hiding places. That’s what Matthew Shepard’s killers did to him. They smashed his skull and tied him to a fence as if he were a lifeless scarecrow, where he was bound for over 18 hours in near freezing temperatures.

The message to the rest of us from these killers is quite clear: stay locked away in your suffocating and dank closets, and don’t ever come out.

But the good news that I alluded to earlier is that no amount of intimidation will ever lock us away again.

Lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, transgender people, and our loving and supportive heterosexual allies are coming out in greater numbers than ever before, as witnessed in the large outpouring of grief, anger, and love over this past week. As marginalized people, we are pushing the boundaries unwilling any longer to accept the repressive status quo.

In coalition with other disenfranchised groups and allies, we are refusing to buckle under and to assimilate into a corrupt and corrupting system that forces people to relinquish their integrity and their humanity.

One year before the death of another of our slain leaders, gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk recorded a will that was to be played in the event of his assassination. In it he stated that he never considered himself simply as a candidate for public office, but rather, always considered himself as part of a movement: a liberation movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people — and a liberation movement for all people.

Each time Harvey spoke in front of a crowd, he urged people to come out everywhere and often: “Tell your immediate family,” he would say, “tell friends, neighbors, people in the stores you shop in, cab drivers, everyone.” And he urged heterosexual people to be our allies, to interrupt derogatory remarks and jokes, to support us and offer aid when needed. If we all did this, he said, we could change the world.

Well, in his brief time with us, Matthew Shepard also changed lives. His caring soul transformed the people he met. Though his attackers may have succeeded in devastating his body, they did not and will never succeed in destroying his gentle spirit, or in extinguishing the heart of a community and a movement for social justice, for Matthew’s spirit continues, inspiring a people, a nation, a world.

We can take solace in the words of Judy Shepard, Matt’s mother, when she tells us: “Go home, give your kids [and I would add, all your loved ones] a hug, and don’t let a day go by without telling them you love them.”

For Matthew, and Judy, and for all of us, I do believe that love WILL conquer the hatred. Matthew, thank you for the riches you have left us. We will continue the struggle in your name to make the world a safer and more supportive environment for all its people.

Matthew, may you forever rest in peace.

Editor’s Note: In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act , and on October 28, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld – LGBTQ Nation

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It Took Bryan Fuller 14 Years To Get A Clearly Gay Character On TV….

Bryan Fuller at Outfest

Bryan Fuller endured over a decade of being “hetwashed.”

The gay producer revealed that, until Starz’s American Gods, he had not succeeded in putting an out gay character on television. This is not for a lack of trying. At the Thursday opening of the Outfest Film Festival, where he was being honored with the Outfest Achievement Award, Fuller said gay characters on shows he created or cocreated — Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and Pushing Daisies — had been routinely turned straight by various forces in Hollywood.

“The first show I created was called Dead Like Me. And it was about a young woman named George who was dead and becomes a grim reaper. As a proud homosexual, I wanted to represent queer characters,” Fuller told the audience at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. “George’s father was gay. And as a product of a gay person who bred despite better instincts, George’s life was a greater miracle, and that she lost it so young, an even greater tragedy. Mandy Patinkin’s monologue would write itself. Except it didn’t. The studio and the showrunner made the character straight, and I was powerless to stop them.”

This trend continued in Fox’s Wonderfalls (2004), a series he cocreated with another gay man, Todd Holland. In this show, Fuller said he planned for a Republican lesbian character played by Katie Finneran to “discover she got pregnant when she scissor sisters her girlfriend after she had sex with her ex-husband. It would write itself. Except it didn’t. We couldn’t show lesbians kiss, much less imply they had sex, much less scissor sister sex with semen.”

Fuller used the term “hetwashed” to describe how a character’s gay identity on NBC’s Heroes (2006-2010) — a show he briefly worked on as a producer — was erased, after the actor’s management threatened to pull him from the series. He noted that the actor would late come out.

After being “thwarted” by Hollywood multiple times, Fuller decided to create what he called his “gayest” show, Pushing Daisies, another series featuring a woman with a masculine name, Chuck, who comes back from the dead. “You didn’t know how gay Pushing Daisies was because the gay was never sexualized. It was simply queer,” said Fuller, who credited gay icons like Kristin Chenoweth, Swoosie Kurtz, and Beth Grant for “saturating every fiber” with queerness. (Chenoweth introduced Fuller Thursday evening and presented him with the award.) Fuller said Pushing Daisies was “systemically gay, aesthetically gay, but not narratively gay.”

In NBC’s Hannibal (2013-2015), Fuller said he succeeded in homoeroticizing his lead character, Hannibal Lecter, adapted from the Thomas Harris novels. But he did not manage to “homosexualize him.”

But finally, Fuller was able to feature gay characters in American Gods, the acclaimed Starz series adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. In the series, there is groundbreaking episode of television — a love scene between two Middle Eastern men: Salim (Omid Abtahi) and the Jinn (Mousa Kraish). The latter is a genie, in keeping with the fantastic premise of the series. The pair have sex in a moving and passionate encounter, which achieves an almost religious quality, in part thanks to stunning CGI effects of stars, space, and fire. Fuller called it a story “about a demigod giving a man permission to be himself.

“Telling Salim’s story isn’t the gayest thing I’ve ever done on TV. It’s the most human. Yes there were boners and anal penetration and flaming ejaculation. But it wasn’t pornographic, it was art,” Fuller proclaimed.

“It was our achievement as a creative community, because telling his story, Saleem’s story, met with no corporate obstacles, no personal obstacles, it was simply told as vividly as we could tell it with total support,” he concluded. “Good for us. Now that’s a queer achievement.”

Daniel Reynolds – The Advocate

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The Babadook As An LGBT Icon Makes Sense. No, Really….

This year’s LGBTQ Pride Month has found an unlikely mascot: The Babadook.

Yes. The top-hat-wearing, pop-up-book-writing demonic figure from the eponymous 2014 Australian indie thriller.

It started as an apparent error on Netflix. A Tumblr user who has since deleted their blog posted a screenshot of the streaming company’s “LGBT Movies” page. Prominently featured: “The Babadook.”

From there, it became a running gag to insist the Babadook was gay.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. As people geared up to celebrate, they started making and sharing fan art.

It began as a joke but, in the greater context of the Babadook himself, LGBT history and so-called gay icons, it actually makes sense.

“Someone was like, ‘How could “The Babadook” become a gay film,’ and the answer was readily available,” said Karen Tongson, an associate professor of gender studies and English at USC. “He lives in a basement, he’s weird and flamboyant, he’s living adjacently to a single mother in this kind of queer kinship structure.”

The Babadook is creative (remember the pop-up book) and a distinctive dresser. Instead of living in a proverbial closet, he lives in a literal basement. He exists in a half-acknowledged state by the other people in his house. The family is afraid of what he is, but finds a way to accept him over time.

“For many LGBT people, that’s what it feels like to be in your own families sometimes,” Tongson said.

Naturally, there are counter-arguments: The Babadook never says he’s gay. He never displays physical attraction to another person. But historically, fictional characters haven’t needed to say “I am gay” out loud to be read as gay or to become gay icons.

“So many LGBT people have been barred from seeing themselves represented in popular culture, so we’ve had to project ourselves into so many of these figures,” Tongson said. “There are ways to read into the character itself and the structure of how this ostensibly monstrous thing becomes incorporated ultimately into a family.”

Michael Bronski is the author of several books about LGBTQ culture and history, including “A Queer History of the United States” and “Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility.” He’s also a professor in the studies of women, gender and sexuality department at Harvard.

In terms of gay icons, he said, the community has adopted plenty of people who weren’t openly gay or gay at all. In the 1950s, it was Judy Garland. Her place in gay culture was so well-known that referencing her out loud became a code word to indicate that you were part of it, Bronski said: You might ask another man, “Are you a friend of Judy’s?”

In the 1960s, it was Barbra Streisand, who unapologetically embraced both her gay fans and her Jewish identity. “She was proud of who she was,” Bronski said. In the ’70s, it was Bette Midler and Cher, then Madonna in the ’0s and ’90s, and Lady Gaga in the 2000s.

And now, the Babadook.

“In this moment, who better than the Babadook to represent not only queer desire,
but queer antagonism, queer in-your-faceness, queer queerness?” — Michael Bronski

Bronski said a longstanding connection exists between the horror/fantasy genres and queerness. Frankenstein has been read as an allegory for a gay man, hunted down and ostracized by his community for who he is. The Phantom of the Opera hides both himself and his forbidden, unrequitable love. In a popular 19th century novel that predated Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” both the vampire and the victim were women.

Modern horror and fantasy have continued the tradition: In the second “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, Freddy Krueger — who was murdered by parents for being a child molester, a crime that has been conflated with gayness — appears in the shower with a naked teen boy in what Bronski sarcastically called a “completely not-coded gay subplot.”

In 2003, Bronski says he caught flak from a British tabloid for writing an article about the queer allegories in the “Harry Potter” books — in particular, how Harry Potter lives in the closet and has to hide who he is because his family disapproves. Oh, and the name of school he was going to be sent to: Stonewall High.

At the very first official gay pride parade, in New York City in 1970, activist Donna Gottschalk held up a sign: “I am your worst fear, I am your best fantasy.”

Referencing the sign, Bronski said it’s still at least partly true: “In some way, gay people, queer people, are the worst fear for heterosexuals, as well as on some level, the best fantasy — the sheer pleasure of not being on the inside, of not having to control everything you do and think and say to fit norms.”

Bronski said the sign, and the embrace of the Babadook, represent “a sort of queer affiliation to monsters.” Tongson, the USC professor, agreed: For “people who lived with a lot of their love and their passion in the closet, or who felt demonized in the broader culture, it’s very easy to find points of identification with monsters.”

And in the current political climate, when many LGBTQ people feel their rights are under attack, embracing a literal demon can feel like a way of reclaiming power and agency.

“In this moment, who better than the Babadook to represent not only queer desire, but queer antagonism, queer in-your-faceness, queer queerness?” Bronski said.

“The Babadook” is still streaming on Netflix, though it’s no longer categorized in the “Gay & Lesbian” section. As to whether the Babadook himself actually identifies as LGBTQ, the closest thing to an answer comes courtesy of the film’s official Facebook page, which weighed in after someone criticized adding the rainbow overlay to the profile photo.

Jessica Roy – Los Angeles Times

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Meet The Gay Man Who Won America Her Independence….

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

To appreciate the contributions Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-94) made to the American Revolution, consider this: Before his arrival in Valley Forge in 1778, the colonies were on the path to defeat. Without his leadership, our modern America might still be the British Colonies.

The Sodomite Soldier:
Before von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, the Revolutionary Army was a loosely organized, rag-tag band of men with little military training or discipline. The military fumbled through the beginning of the war for independence lacking training and organization. Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress knew that, without help from additional seasoned military experts, the colonies would clearly lose.

Since Washington himself was the best the colonies had, they looked to Europe for someone who could train the troops. To that end, Washington wrote the colonies’ representatives in Paris, among them Benjamin Franklin, to see what he could come up with. Franklin, a renowned inventor, was treated as a celebrity in the French court. This would be pivotal in achieving his two major objectives in France: winning financial support for the American Revolution and finding military leaders who could bring a semblance of order to the Revolutionary Army.

Franklin learned of a “brilliant Prussian” military genius, Lt. Gen. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who had a string of successes across Germanic Europe. But there was one problem. He’d been asked to depart many of those states and countries because of his “affections for members of his own sex,” according to biographer Paul Lockhart’s The Drillmaster of Valley Forge.

This became urgent in 1777 when von Steuben literally escaped imprisonment in what is now Germany and traveled to Paris. There, Franklin was interviewing candidates to assist Washington back in the colonies when his fellow Colonial representative Silas Deane brought von Steuben to his residence for an interview in June.

During the process, Franklin discovered von Steuben’s reputation for having “affections” with males and the issue became pressing, as members of the French clergy demanded the French court, as in other countries, take action against this sodomite, whom they considered a pedophile. They had decided to make their effort a crusade and run him out of France.

Lockhart’s biography tells of von Steuben’s being summoned from Paris for Karlsruhe, at the court of the Margrave of Baden, for a military vacancy. But, Lockhart notes, “what he found waiting for him at Karlsruhe was not an officer’s commissioner but a rumor, a horrible, vicious rumor” that the Baron had “taken familiarities with young boys.”

Those allegations were fueled by von Steuben’s close ties to Prince Henry and Frederick the Great, also “widely rumored to be homosexual.”

Benjamin Franklin: Smuggler & Scandal Fixer:
Von Steuben returned to Paris, and Franklin had a choice here — and he decided von Steuben’s expertise was more important to the colonies than his sexuality. While it can be debated how much a part Franklin played in the recruitment of von Steuben, one cannot doubt that one of the most informed people at the French court would know of the allegations against the baron. With that knowledge, and with von Steuben about to be jailed, Franklin, along with Deane, wrote what must be the nation’s first example of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as they mutually signed a recommendation letter to Gen. Washington that embellished von Steuben’s military expertise and titles and suggested he had been recommended by various princes and “other great personages.” Most surprisingly, it remarked that “his distinguished character and known abilities were attested to by two judges of military merit in this country.”

The judges of character that Franklin referred to were two of the four involved in the plot to bring von Steuben to America, along with Franklin and Deane, and personal friends of the baron: Pierre Beaumarchais, author of the “Figaro” plays and an arms dealer who supplied arms for the ship von Steuben eventually sailed on, and Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, the minister of war under Louis XVI.

What the letter didn’t mention was that he was about to be arrested and appear before judges in France.

Franklin, working with Deane, decided von Steuben’s “affections” were less important than what he, Washington and the colonies needed to win the war with England. Deane learned of von Steuben’s indiscretions — and that the French clergy was investigating — from a letter to the Prince of Hechingen, which read in part:

“It has come to me from different sources that M. de Steuben is accused of having taken familiarities with young boys, which the laws forbid and punish severely. I have even been informed that that is the reason why M. de Steuben was obliged to leave Hechingen and that the clergy of your country intend to prosecute him by law as soon as he may establish himself anywhere.”

The proof of Franklin and Deane’s knowledge lies in the letter to Washington recommending von Steuben and their quick action to secure the baron from France. So in September 1777, von Steuben boarded a 24-gun ship named Heureux — but, for this voyage, the ship’s name was changed to Le Flamand, and the baron’s name was entered onto the captain’s log as “Frank.” And he was on his way to the colonies.

Baron von Steuben Whips the Men Into Shape:
Washington and Franklin’s trust in von Steuben was rewarded. He whipped the rag-tag army of the colonies into a professional fighting force, able to take on the most powerful superpower of the time, England. Some of his accomplishments include instituting a “model company” for training, establishing sanitary standards and organization for the camp and training soldiers in drills and tactics such as bayonet fighting and musket loading. According to the New York Public Library, (“The Papers of Von Steuben”) these were his achievements:

February 1778: Arrives at Valley Forge to serve under Washington, having informed Congress of his desire for paid service after an initial volunteer trial period, with which request Washington concurs.

March 1778: Begins tenure as inspector general, drilling troops according to established European military precepts.

1778-79: Writes “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States,” which becomes a fundamental guide for the Continental Army and remains in active use through the War of 1812, was published in over 70 editions.

1780-81: Senior military officer in charge of troop and supply mobilization in Virginia.

1781: Replaced by Marquis de Lafayette as commander in Virginia.

1781-83: Continues to serve as Washington’s inspector general, and is active in improving discipline and streamlining administration in the Army.

Spring 1783: Assists in formulating plans for the post-war American military.

Washington rewarded von Steuben with a house at Valley Forge, which he shared with his aide-de-camps Capt. William North and Gen. Benjamin Walker. Walker lived with him through the remainder of his life, and von Steuben, who neither married nor denied any of the allegations of homosexuality, left his estate to North and Walker. There wasn’t much else to claim, as the baron was in debt at the time of his death, according to both Kapp and Lockhart. His last will and testament has been described as a love letter to Walker and has been purported to describe their “extraordinarily intense emotional relationship,” yet that line was not in the Kapp biography of 1859.

Both North and Walker are featured in the statue of von Steuben in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

John Adams’ Son’s ‘Unsavory’ Relationship with the Baron Von Steuben and with whom he slept was long a matter of discussion — from Prussia to France to the United States. Yet he never publicly denied it. The closest he came was to ask Washington to speak on behalf of his morals in a letter to Congress so he could get his pension. And why did he ask Washington?

Since his arrival in Philadelphia to assist the Revolution, von Steuben had financial issues caused by a Continental Congress that often didn’t keep its funding promises, a challenge compounded by his own personality: Von Steuben at times could be cold and aloof, which was problematic when diplomacy was needed with an important member of Congress. He also had a tendency to live and spend extravagantly, especially on his uniforms, which were often emblazoned with epaulettes and medals of his own design.

Adding to that were the constant rumors about his sexuality, which by 1790, reached one of the revolution’s first families, the Adamses of Massachusetts.

Charles, the son of John and Abigail Adams — the second president and first lady of the new union — was what today would be called the black sheep of the family. Early on, Abigail considered him “not at peace within himself.” His biggest problem was alcoholism but, as revealed in letters among the various members of the family, the Adamses had other concerns.

As John Ferling wrote in the biography John Adams: A Life, “There are references to [Charles’] alleged proclivity for consorting with men whom his parents regarded as unsavory.” One of these men was von Steuben, who, as Ferling writes, many at the time considered homosexual.

Charles had become infatuated with and adored Von Steuben. It is clear from the family letters that the Adamses were concerned about a relationship between Charles and the baron. Von Steuben’s sexuality was an open secret, one that he himself never challenged, other than to ask Washington to defend his moral character.

The Nation’s First Underwear Party:
The baron is a puzzle. At first, I really didn’t like him: The man himself was pompous, cold and theatrical, and his uniforms and title were stage props for an officer who didn’t even speak English when he got to Valley Forge. But I respected him for what he did to help Washington’s ragtag army to defeat the British, eventually leading to the creation of our country. His knowledge created the first sense of military discipline in the colonies. My appreciation for him came from his most recent biographer, Lockhart, whose book, The Drillmaster of Valley Forge, offers a complete look at von Steuben’s work.

There is one story in the book that could be considered rather scandalous in today’s terms: Von Steuben most likely threw the first underwear party in the United States military, at his house in Valley Forge.

As Lockhart writes, “The Baron hosted a party exclusively for their lower-ranking friends. He insisted, though, that ‘none should be admitted that had on a whole pair of breeches,’ making light of the shortages that affected the junior officers as they did the enlisted men.”

Apart from this humorous anecdote, it’s hard to question von Steuben’s importance — especially as Washington’s last official act as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army was to write a letter to the baron.

George Washington Says Goodbye:
Sent from Annapolis and dated Dec. 23, 1783, Washington wrote:
My dear Baron: Altho’ I have taken frequent opportunities, both in public and private, of acknowledging your great zeal, attention and abilities in performing the duties of your office; yet I wish to make use of this last moment of my public life, to signifie [sic] in the strongest terms my entire approbation of your conduct, and to express my sense of the obligations the public is under to you, for your faithful and meritorious services.

“I beg you will be convinced, my dear sir, that I should rejoice if it could ever be in my power to serve you more essentially than by expressions of regard and affection; but in the meantime, I am persuaded you will not be displeased with this farewell token of my sincere friendship and esteem for you.

“This is the last letter I shall ever write while I continue in the service of my country; the hour of my resignation is fixed at 12 this day, after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomack, where I shall be glad to embrace you, and to testify the great esteem and consideration with which I am, etc.”

The nation that von Steuben helped found has memorialized him with numerous statues, including those at Lafayette Square near the White House and at Valley Forge and Utica, N.Y. (where he is buried) and German Americans celebrate his birthday each year on Sept. 17, hosting parades in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

It was von Steuben, a gay man, who played a giant role in not only the creation of our military, but the idea of military academies, a standing Army and even veterans organizations.

If George Washington was the father of the nation, then von Steuben, a gay man, was the father of the United States military.

By Mark Segal

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Orlando United Day Will Honor Pulse Victims….

Monday, church bells will chime, the rainbow flag will unfurl, and Orlando will attempt to heal from an enormous blow. As the city prepares for the one-year mark of the mass shooting at Pulse, leaders plan to sound a message of unity and hope in the face of tragedy and pain. “We’re going to put together a beautiful tribute,” says Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan. “We’re calling it a day of remembrance.”

The day comes a year after gunman Omar Mateen started shooting patrons inside Pulse, an Orlando gay bar, in the early hours of June 12, 2016. Mateen would be killed by police after a lengthy standoff, but 49 others would die as well, making the attack the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

The city of Orlando and Orange County, Fla., have declared June 12 Orlando United Day: A Day of Love and Kindness. In addition to a series of events sanctioned by the city, including a ceremony at Lake Eola Park where the named of the 49 people killed in the attack will be read, there will be a several private events.

The Dru Project

Organizers of the Dru Project, named for victim Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen, will host an official launch party for the organization on the eve of Orlando United Day. Leinonen founded a gay-straight alliance at his high school, and the Dru Project will honor his memory by creating curricula to share with schools across the state and by raising money for “Spirit of Drew” scholarships to those representing a desire for unity, inclusion and love. “We are doing everything we can to honor Drew,” says Brandon Wolf, vice president of the organization and a friend of Leinonen’s. “This is only the beginning.” The launch party will take place at the Abbey in Orlando from 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

Private Vigil

At 2:02 a.m., exactly a year after the shooting began, a private vigil will be held inside of Pulse. Club owner Barbara Poma says this event will be primarily for families of the loved ones and survivors of the attack. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs will be in attendance alongside select community leaders, but members of the public, including the media, will not be in attendance for this event. Sara Brady, a spokeswoman for Poma, says this event will be among the most personally important to those closest to the shooting. The names of each of the victims will be read aloud, and those invited to the event will be allowed to stay until around 3:30 a.m.

Inspiration Orlando

A mural that may soon be traveling the country will be officially unveiled near the Pulse nightclub Monday. Pennsylvania-based muralist Michael Pilato and artist Yuriy Karabash have been working with Pulse survivor Christopher Hansen and other artists on a work that will celebrate the lives of both those lost and those who continue to fight for the community. The Inspiration Orlando mural includes pictures of victims, and Pilato says he worked closely with families to make sure the lost are represented as loved ones want them remembered. “Sometimes we have them smiling, but a family will want them to look more serious,” he says. “We will paint an image 20 times until the family feels we have it right.” Pilato feels a certain kinship to the parents, as his daughter Skye died of an asthma attack at 19; he says her memory was a big part of why he took the trek to Orlando to create this work of art. Hansen, who also is depicted in the mural, says the work provided tremendous healing and catharsis for him. “With stories of heartbreak and disaster and trauma, this shows we are going to get through this and turn tragedy into triumph,” he says. Hansen would like to travel the world with the mobile mural and share the experience. The art will also have an augmented reality components, where digital storytelling will supplement parts of the story.

Sea-to-Sea Flag

A section of the famous Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag, originally draped on the Orange County Administration Building five days after the attack, will make its return to the iconic Orlando structure Monday. Jacobs requested the flag, which she referred to as a “sacred cloth,” to fly again in tribute to the shooting victims and in support of freedom lovers worldwide.

49 Bells

The 49 Bells project has called on churches around the world to chime their bells 49 times at noon Monday in honor of the victims killed in the attack. Several Orlando area churches will be among those sounding at noon, including the Reformation Lutheran Church, located just blocks from Pulse. The families of several victims have been involved in the effort. “As parents, we don’t want our children to be forgotten, and most importantly, we would love the support of spreading love, not hate, as a message for humankind,” says Mayra Alvear, whose daughter Amanda died in the attack.

History Center

The Orange County Regional History Center will present an expanded exhibition of images and items collected at the de facto memorial site set up at Pulse or sent to the city of Orlando. Curated pieces from the One Orlando Collection include community artwork and signs of international support. A digital collection of the many makeshift memorials and tributes to victims can be viewed now at the history’s center’s website. The gallery will display the physical artifacts for a week, with the collection viewable through June 17. Admission to the history center will be free. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Pulse Nightclub Reflections and Remembrances

A second vigil will be held at the site of Pulse at midday, this one with broader admission, though media access to the event will be limited. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday, community speakers return for a reading of names of the 49 killed and the display of 49 wreaths at the site. Violectric will provide music. The Angel Force, a group of Orlando residents who have regularly attended events in white robes with tall, flowing cloth wings, will also be present; the group originally came together as a way to create a barrier between homophobic protesters and funeral attendees after Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest funerals after the attack. Organizers from Hang a Heart, which handed out stitched hearts after the attack, and Stars of Hope, a disaster response effort to heal communities through art, will also be present at this event.

Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels

Elected leaders including Dyer, Jacobs, Sheehan, and others will take part in a one-year remembrance ceremony at the Lake Eola Park Amphitheater, which has been repainted since the attack in the colors of the rainbow flag. Musicians Olga Tanón and Sisaundra Lewis will perform at the event, and the names of the 49 fallen will be read aloud. “I hate the distinction of this being the largest mass shooting,” Sheehan says, “but also, the city came together in a way that showed us as resilient, strong, and amazing. Leaders of the church came and condemned the shooting. Never as an LGBT elected official did I expect to see that. It’s wonderful to see how we have come together in spite of this horrible tragedy.”

Pulse Candlelight: Moments of Hope and Healing

Community members are invited back to Pulse for a final on-site vigil at 10 p.m. Monday for prayers, live music, inspirational dance, and reflection. “It’s a day intended for reflection and to remember these families and survivors who were taken,” Brady says. “The entire city will be really focused on this one-year mark.” This event marks the last of three similar events at Pulse itself, and the last event officially sanctioned by the city and county governments.

onePulse Foundation

One thing not happening Monday? Any fundraising for Poma’s new effort, the onePulse Foundation. That’s intentional, with Orlando United Day focused on tragedy, not exploitation. “It’s a day to try and heal,” says Brady. But the foundation will continue its work to turn Pulse into a permanent museum and a shrine to the 49 killed, 68 injured, and countless other impacted by the tragedy there last June. The foundation formally launched May 4 with a press conference in front of the club. Poma will serve as the foundation’s CEO and executive director. “I remain awestruck by how many people have stepped up and committed their hearts to this project,” Poma said at the event. “I am profoundly grateful to the members of the new board of trustees who have joined me to guide the future of this project.” That board includes local business leaders like attorney Earl Crittenden and Walt DisneyWorld president George Kalogridis, but also national figures like singer-actor Lance Bass and retired NBA star Jason Collins. Poma has already consulted with foundation teams behind similar memorials in Oklahoma City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. In addition to opening the memorial in 2020, the foundation plans to issue grants and scholarships in the names of the 49 killed in the attack.

Jacob Ogles – The Advocate

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Love Letters’ To The LGBTQ Community…..

As part of Billboard’s 30 Days of Pride celebration this June, we asked numerous pop culture luminaries to write ‘love letters’ to the LGBTQ community. Read them below and share your love letter to the community using #30DaysPride this Gay Pride Month.


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I Call Bulls**t On HGTV Star Chip Gaines’ Blog About Anti-Gay Controversy….

Sorry buddy, my humanity isn’t something anyone gets to “lovingly disagree” with.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 19: The Build Series presents Chip Gaines to discuss the new book “The Magnolia Story” at AOL HQ on October 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic)

Chip Gaines wants to “change the conversation” in America.

Chip Gaines, who stars on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” alongside his wife Joanna, got a heap of praise for his blog post discussing our country’s “divided humanity.”

The piece, which many media sites assumed was written in direct response to a Dec. 2016 Buzzfeed story that claimed the Gaines attend an anti-LGBTQ church, was lauded as “perfect” and “filled with love and compassion” by conservative and religious outlets. If you didn’t look closely ― or weren’t thinking critically enough ― it’s easy to understand why.

“Joanna and I have personal convictions,” Gaines wrote. “One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith.”

Aw. Thanks, Chip. That’s sweet.

“You wanna talk about how to build bridges between people that disagree? We want to be a part of that conversation,” he added. “Do you want to talk about healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? We’re in the restoration business, we can for sure make time for that.”

Healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? Sign me up!

“Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie,” Gaines implores.

Uh oh.

“Our family wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree,” he adds. “We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things. If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position.”

You were doing so well, Chip, but here’s where I have to stop you.

People disagree about whether New England clam chowder is better than Manhattan clam chowder or what to name their new iguana or whether or not Kylie Jenner has really gotten butt implants. But a church or an individual or a government telling a queer person that they are a sinner or that they don’t deserve to get married or that queer people should be treated any less or any differently than non-queer people merely because of who they are is not “lovingly disagreeing.”

It’s the same tired nonsense that’s continually peddled by folks who aren’t cool with queer people but don’t want to be called a bigot or deal with the possibility of a boycott against their businesses. And as much as it hurts to hear, in this case, disagreement is hate.

No, gussying up homophobia as a simple difference of opinion doesn’t feel or look as obviously offensive or hurtful as a Westboro Baptist Church protest, but in some ways, it’s even more dangerous because deceptive framing allows people to feel justified in their discrimination.

The bottom line is: My humanity is not something you get to disagree with. You don’t get to tell me that I’m morally corrupt or sexually deviant or unworthy of the same rights that you enjoy and then look me in the face and tell me that you still love me. That’s nothing remotely close to resembling love.

By the same token, if by some chance you don’t agree with your church’s doctrine, you don’t get to attend a church that’s anti-LGBTQ and not be called out. If you really care about me and love me and truly aren’t anti-queer, why would you look the other way? Why wouldn’t you publicly stand up and say something?

I like you, Chip, and I like your wife and I like your TV show (and so does my mom) and I’d love for you to come and redo my apartment (or at the very least hang a few pictures that I’ve been meaning to put up for the past 14 months). And I appreciate that you guys want to “change the conversation” in this country and help to make it a better place. I want that, too. But we’re not going to get there if we aren’t calling out bigotry wherever we see it. Otherwise, what’s the point? That’d be like spending thousands of dollars to beautifully redo a house but never taking care of the black mold happily rotting in the basement.

So let’s do this: You start unequivocally calling out bigotry (however blatant or incidental it may be) against queer people wherever you see it ― without any of the “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “I care about you, I just don’t believe in gay marriage” bullshit ― and I’ll do whatever I can to help you on your mission. Let’s plan a conference. Let’s start a national conversation. Let’s have a real honest to goodness come to Jesus moment. This country needs some fixing up and if you’re really serious about taking part in that, I’m in, too.

Noah Michelson – Editorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices
Mireya Acierto – Photo

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