Catholic students speak out against archbishop’s morality clauses

March 19, 2015

Originally published here: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=70457.

Sacred Heart freshman Kristin Faith Avenis spoke at a forum about teaching acceptance. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Written by Chris Huqueriza

About 500 people gathered Monday at the University of San Francisco to discuss recent proposals that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has unveiled that many say would alter education of students and make teachers adhere to Catholic teachings even in their private lives.

Concerned parents, teachers, and students attended the forum.

Drafted by Cordileone, the revised handbook contains a morality clause that would require all staff to follow Catholic doctrine and to “conduct their lives so as to not visibly contradict, undermine or deny these truths.”

The new language would affect staff at Marin Catholic, Riordan, Junipero Serra, and Sacred Heart Cathedral high schools, which are overseen by the archdiocese. The clause specifically condemns homosexuality, marriage equality, contraception, ordination of female priests, and assisted reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilization. Any faculty member could be fired if found in violation.

Cordileone has also upset teachers at the four Catholic high schools with proposed changes to their contract.

At the March 16 forum, students spoke out.

“The church’s teaching means to show love and compassion. We should not judge each other based on their sexuality or ethnicity,” said Sacred Heart freshman Kristin Faith Avenis, who identifies as a lesbian and said that she was teased about being gay in middle school but didn’t believe being gay was a bad thing. “We should reserve the right to judge people for God. And that’s how it’s suppose to be.”

Nine students, including Avenis, spoke about how the controversial proposal contradicts their beliefs.

“It’s important, especially for me. These teachers are my role models,” said Sacred Heart senior Gus O’Sullivan, who is gay. “My role models are forced to live contrary to their beliefs. It’s also damaging to the students who are oppressed or who are still questioning. Anything the archbishop is putting out there is not respected by [the four Catholic schools].”

While several students spoke against Cordileone’s proposals, many LGBT allies, including parents and teachers, also made remarks.

“This is not the church of San Francisco that I know or grew up with,” said Serra High School history and English teacher Paul Hance, 53, who is straight. “It goes completely against Serra High School’s mission statement. We are a brotherhood who advocate for love and acceptance.”

“We are here as parents and students to express our opposition to the proposed contract and handbook changes,” said Peggy O’Grady, a proud mother of a gay student at Sacred Heart, in a news release that she gave to the Bay Area Reporter. “We believe these changes will hurt our children, our teachers, and our school communities. To remove thoughtful reflection, dialogue, and even dissent, to silence and restrict staff, is to make our schools unsafe.”

When asked if the Catholic schools had a large LGBT representation, many students and teachers agreed that it’s “moving in the right direction.” Over a dozen teachers who identify as LGBT stood up during the forum. LGBT role models in the media; conversations of major LGBT issues like Proposition 8, California’s overturned same-sex marriage ban; and out LGBT faculty members have all factored in a movement of acceptance and love, speakers said.

“I think love is an important value in this Catholic community,” said Sacred Heart senior Kalya Stanten, who joked that she’s straight but also questioning. “Changing the language of the handbook doesn’t convey the same love that I found so meaningful. You can’t teach something negative.”

Titled “Hear Our Voices: Teach Acceptance,” the forum included speakers from several entities, including University of Las Vegas Professor of constitutional law Leslie C. Griffin; retired religious studies teacher Jim McGarry; and former Catholic Charities of San Francisco Executive Director Brian Cahill.

“Don’t let Cordileone drive you away from the church,” said Cahill, father to a gay son. “It is not consistent with the church. Cordileone is driving Catholics away.”

Representatives of the archdiocese did not return an email seeking comment.

Concerned parents and students have organized support on social media at https://facebook.com/SupportSFteachers and https://twitter.com/4ourteachers. Also showing their pride, many student have worn black T-shirts with the hashtag #teachacceptance.

Called Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance, the group said its main objective is to oppose the proposed changes and promote the Catholic values of love, acceptance, and justice.

The group has also asked its members and allies to participate in peaceful actions. The main objectives are to pray, walk in solidarity, and sign a petition. The next planned event will be a procession and vigil Monday, March 30 where students, teachers, and parents will meet at 6 p.m. at Mission Dolores Church, 16th and Mission streets and head to St. Mary’s Cathedral.


My Top 10 Glee Performances

March 18, 2015

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After six seasons, the television show about high school choirs, Glee, is ending after showcasing over 600 performances. The show was a trailblazer of LGBT representation, especially in queer youth. I continued to watch the show during its peak (the first half of season 1) and some of its lows (the erratic seasons of 4 and 5). I laughed (Sue Sylvester’s first appearance), I cried (the death of Cory Moneith), I felt the love (Kurt and Blaine’s courtship), and I sang (every episode). It’s hard to choose my favorite songs so I decided to list my 10 ten favorites spanning 6 years. Enjoy the ride of nostalgia and cry this Friday for the epic 2-hour finale as it goes back to its roots (2009) to its rumored future (2020). In no particular order, because that would be cruel…

And bonus! my first article for dot429 was an op-ed piece of Glee. Read here:

1. Don’t Rain On My Parade (Sectionals: Season 1, Episode 13)

No one can be Barbra Streisand but if anyone is a close second it’s Miss Rachel Berry. Her performance was magnificent and there was no contest that the New Directions wouldn’t win Sectionals.

2. Push It (Showmance: Season 1, Episode 2)

“That was the most offensive thing I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching, and that includes an elementary school production of Hair.” That the was reaction of Cheerleader Coach Sue Slyvester and probably the thoughts of all America (and possibly worldwide). This performance blends what makes Glee so great: comedy with awkward teens doing awkward sexual acts. It’s so raw.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody (Journey To Regionals: Season 1, Episode 22)

Having Jonathan Groff guest star on Glee is one thing, but having him sing a Queen classic is a dream come true. And when you juxtaposition the performance with Quinn’s pregnancy, it concludes the first season’s most absurd yet amusing storylines (How can Finn think he was the father through a hot tub?). We’re all rooting for the New Directions, but Vocal Adrenaline rightfully wins Regionals (plus it gave the underdogs a reason for vengeance in Season 2). Without Groff, Vocal Adrenaline are sheep without a shepherd.

4. Teenage Dream (Never Been Kissed: Season 2, Episode 6)

When did you fall in love with Darren Criss’ Blaine Anderson? For me it was the moment he bumped into Kurt and then proceeded to dance into America’s hearts with the best rendition of Teenage Dream (sorry Katy Perry). And how can you say no to a man in uniform let alone an orgy of men in uniforms?!

5. I Will Survive/Survivor (Hold On To Sixteen: Season 3, Episode 8)

This show made a point that Teacher Will Shuester has his pet favorites (Rachel) and, let’s be honest, too vanilla in his song selections (I won’t even discuss his rapping choices). Showcasing urban flavor through some of my favorite female leads, Mercedes and Santana (along with Brittany) performed a disco (and gay) classic mashed up with Destiny’s Child’s modern day anthem of survival. This all-female vocal group, The Troubletones, was a highlight of season 3 and I was giddy with delight with their return in Season 6.

6. The Way You Look Tonight/You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile (Makeover: Season 4, Episode 3)

Sometimes, you just need a song to make you smile while you dress up. And with the dynamic duo of Kurt and Rachel, they teamed up with a style icon, Miss Sarah Jessica Parker. They picked a classic song and celebrated it with style.

7. Let’s Have A Kiki/Turkey Lurkey Time (Thanksgiving: Season 4, Episode 8)

The fact that Glee was able to take a gay cult song and make it a holiday favorite complete with vocals from Sarah Jessica Parker and an appearance from drag queen Shangela (I could do without Brody), is enough reason for me to include this song on this list. Like Comic Book Legend Stan Lee would say: ‘Nuff Said.

8. Make You Feel My Love (The Quarterback: Season 5, Episode 3)

For every Gleek, there is a general consensus that we were devastated by the death of Cory Moneith. To pay respects, the show ended his arc the only way they can with the death of his character. There were a lot of amazing performances in dedication of Finn, but real-life girlfriend Lea Michele gave the best performance as it was raw and heartbreaking. It’s hard to tell the difference between Lea Michele and Rachel Berry as this was the moment where the lines were blurred. The show has never been the same without him.

9. Old Time Rock n’ Roll/Danger Zone (Boys (and Girls) on Film: Season 4, Episode 15)

I can’t say no to men wearing uniforms and underwear. But to pair it with classic 80s film soundtrack songs is a fantasy in itself. Will Shuester said they tied with the girls in their mashups, but I object!

10. All You Need Is Love (Love, Love, Love: Season 5, Episode 1)

Hearing the Beatles play as Blaine proposes to Kurt in the spot where they first met is a wish fulfillment for every Glee fan. But it was so extravagant to have the four major choirs (New Directions, The Warblers, Vocal Adrenaline, Haverbrook School For The Deaf) help in Blaine’s proposal. Kurt just couldn’t say no. The audience would have had a BF (bitchfit if you’re unaware of the 2005 slang term).

Notable Mentions:

Seasons 1-5: Single Ladies, Maybe This Time, Dance With Myself, I Dreamed A Dream, Dream a Little Dream Of Me, Teenage Dream (Acoustic),Toxic, Disco Inferno, Boogie Shoes, Imagine

Season 6 (They’re all very fresh but these songs brought Glee back to its Season 1 glory): Tightrope, Lose My Breath, At Last, I’m So Excited, Somebody Loves You, It’s Too Late, I Know Where I’ve Been, Mustang Sally, Home


10 noms for SF Pride Grand Marshal

February 6, 2015

I wrote my first article for the prestigious Bay Area Reporter. SF Pride announced their slate of nominees for Individual Grand Marshal. After reading my article, go to sfpride.org/vote and vote on these 10 fabulous activists!

10 Noms for Pride Grand Marshal

Ten Bay Area LGBTQ community leaders have been nominated for grand marshal of this year’s San Francisco Pride parade.

Public voting started this week online, and continues until March 2. The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board is also expected to announce polling stations where people can fill out ballots in person.

In addition to the community grand marshal nominees, the board announced nominees for organization grand marshal and the pink brick, a faux award that is given to a person or group that has caused significant harm to the LGBT community.

Held during the weekend of June 27-28, Pride will celebrate its 45th annual parade. This year’s theme is “Equality Without Exception.”

Individual nominees are: Tita Aida, Brian Basinger, Patrick Carney, Belo Cipriani, Masen Davis, Judy Dlugacz, Alicia Garza, Mary Midgett, Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., and Miko Thomas.

“It’s a great honor to be nominated with my fellow nominees,” said Carney, a gay man. “The recognition will help spread the word out about the pink triangle.”

Carney, 59, is best known for organizing the annual installation of the pink triangle on Twin Peaks for Pride. The installation and accompanying commemoration ceremony is meant to educate people about the history of the pink triangle, which was originally used by the Nazis in concentration camps to identify and shame gays. It now represents a symbol of pride.

Like Carney, Cipriani, a freelance journalist who writes the Seeing in the Dark column for the Bay Area Reporter , is humbled to be nominated.

“It’s very humbling. I have a physical disability and it’s rare for us to get a spotlight,” Cipriani, 34, said. “It means a lot to me and shows that times are changing. I’m the first blind man to be nominated.”

Cipriani, a gay man, is an award-winning author for his books, Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams. As a disabilities advocate, he was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Americans with Disabilities Act celebration in San Francisco as well as for the 2012 queer conference at Skyline College.

Among the nominees, Davis and Aida are noted advocates for the transgender community.

Davis, a trans man, propelled the Transgender Law Center to become the nation’s largest transgender advocacy organization during his tenure as executive director from 2007 until stepping down February 1. Davis also had a vital role in ensuring that transgender students have access to facilities and activities that match their gender identity as he was an integral part of the coalition that helped pass California’s School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266). He was previously nominated in 2012.

“It is a great feeling to be nominated with so many amazing activists and it’s incredible to be one of them,” said Davis, 43. “I have to admit that a lot of work still needs to be done. But it’s exciting to create a buzz around Pride regardless who wins.”

Aida, a trans woman, who is a former Pride board member, has contributed to the LGBTQI community with her efforts in grassroots activism and community advocacy by spearheading several initiatives and programs in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. She currently manages the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center’s Trans Thrive Program, which is a drop-in center dedicated to helping San Francisco’s transgender community.

“I strongly believe that a vital part of this whole grand marshal voting experience is to get the community involved. Educate. Recognize the work that has been done to better LGBTQI lives,” said Aida, who joked that she’s “over 30.” “Encourage a sense of empowerment and foster leadership. The folks who are nominated can set as examples to the young generation who will hopefully continue the amazing work that has been planted to achieve equality for the LGBTQI community.”

Happy to be nominated among well-respected activists, Basinger, who was previously nominated last year, is a gay man who’s director of the AIDS Housing Alliance/SF, is a leading voice for the LGBTI and HIV communities facing poverty and homelessness.

“Tita Aida has been a friend and a huge supporter and I’m a fan of those nominated,” Basinger, 48, said. “If the nomination helps my work with the homeless, then I’m 100 percent happy that I’m being recognized.”

Midgett, Dlugacz, and Ryan are also nominees.

Midgett, 78, founded the Bay Area Black Lesbians and Gays and is an active speaker for Openhouse, an organization advocating for LGBT seniors. She also co-founded the NIA Collective in 1986, with which she is most closely associated.

Dlugacz, who’s in her 60s, co-founded Olivia Records and Olivia Travel, which offers vacations catering to lesbians. Dlugacz is also one of the founding partners of the USAID LGBT Global Development Partnership.

Ryan, a lesbian who said she is a senior, is a clinical social worker who has researched and worked on LGBT health and mental health issues for 40 years. She is director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

“I’m very honored to have been nominated for community grand marshal,” Ryan told the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday. “My work with LGBTQ children, youth and families keeps me running.”

Rounding out the community grand marshal nominees are Thomas and Garza.

Thomas, whose age wasn’t available, is a two-spirit writer and performance artist who is known more by his drag name, Landa Lakes, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the use of Native images as mascots. He has served on the board of the now-shuttered Native American AIDS Project as well as a board member of the Grand Ducal Council.

Garza, who identifies as queer, co-founded #BlackLivesMatter and serves as the special projects director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

“[My nomination] is a huge surprise and a great honor,” said Garza, 34. “SF Pride can represent the diversity of the community and support broad-based movements of black communities all over the world.”

Other nominees

The slate of nominees for organization grand marshal were also announced. They are the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Magnet SF, Openhouse, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Transgender Law Center.

For this year’s pink brick, the nominees are the American Family Association, Pacific Justice Institute, and the World Congress of Families.

To vote online, visit http://www.sfpride.org/vote.


Viral Videos Going Gay.

March 16, 2013

Viral Videos Going Gay

By Chris Huqueriza

The rise of videos going viral has become a successful marketing tool for the LGBT community. During the month of March, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden endorsed marriage equality through a “viral” video while LGBT organizations and regular people have showed their LGBT support.

“It can’t be determined which videos will be success as there’s too much quantity,” Marriage Equality USA’s Social Media Director Tom Watson told 429Magazine.

“But the videos of celebrities are very important. These videos help us understand that we have straight allies and that they are relatable.”

In 2012, Zach Wahls’ video speaking on behalf of his mothers had a successful response while Shane Bitney Crone’s “It Could Happen To You” shed light on the lack of rights for gay couples and inspired a documentary.

Watson noted the video of two gay dads upstaged by their loving son, and the “GetUP! Action for Australia” marriage equality video was the most successful with over one million views.

“There’s no formula for a good viral, but the successful ones are when it’s raw and presents real people – people that you can relate to,” said Watson.

They are not only working for specific causes or campaigns. Lesbian student Kirsten Bledsoe asked actress Mila Kunis to be her prom date, holding a 6-pack of Blue Moon in her video, while a fraternity in Boston supported their transgender brother and his gender reassignment surgery in a fundraising video.

There have also been many organizations that have promoted their ideologies on marriage equality, such as AllOut and the Coalition for Equal Marriage (CEM). Allout and CEM received over 300,000 views for their videos.

The opposite can happen, however, like when a teenager’s anti-marriage equality rap received national attention.

Watson notes two ways to combat such ads.

“We can either give them additional attention as they become their worst enemy and show the extremes of their embarrassing bigotry,” said Watson. “The other approach is spoofing by combating with our own humor.”

The “Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends” video became a notable “spoof” as they took a humorous stance on marriage equality. The video has received over four million views and multiple responses from straight men, lesbians and straight girls.

Another example is “The ultimate anti-gay marriage ad” which overly dramatizes some of the more ridiculous arguments about how gay marriage will lead to the destruction of heterosexual unions.

Undoubtedly, the video medium has become the paramount means of communicating in today’s modern, fast-paced world where information is disseminated quickly and with ease through the Internet. Getting a video to go viral might not be easy, but it helps bring attention to a cause and a goal.

429Magazine


Nebraska Takes No Decisive Action On Three LGBT-Related Bills

March 16, 2013

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Nebraska Takes No Decisive Action On Three LGBT-Related Bills

The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature held hearings for three bills regarding LGBT issues on Thursday, but made no decisive action for any of them.

Opposition for the LGBT bills bickered during the extensive questions by Senator Ernie Chambers. One opponent claimed the Senator was stalling the time for the opposition testimony and filibustered the bills. 

Chairman Brad Ashford threatened to clear the room after the ruckus.

The three bills seek to create legislation barring discrimination regarding adoption  and workforce policies on the basis of sexual orientation, and would provide for two unmarried adults to jointly adopt.

Senator Danielle Howard introduced LB485, which will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workforce. Senator Sara Conrad introduced LB380, which would allow gay couples and any other unmarried adults to adopt a child. Senator Jeremy Nordquist introduced LB385, which would allow anyone to become a foster parent regardless of sexual orientation or marriage qualifications.

“We need to remove all forms of discrimination,” Nebraska Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Ashford, who signed and supported the bills, told 429Magazine. “The Government shouldn’t be discriminating the LGBT community and we need all forms of adopted parents.”

“Employment decisions should not be based on classifications of who someone is or who somebody loves,” Conrad said to Nebraska’s Fremont Tribune. “It should be based on merit and how qualified someone is to do a job.”

“Forward Equality supports LB380, which provides adoption for all unmarried couples including gay couples,” Forward Equality’s Founder Mika Covington told 429Magazine. “Nebraska prohibits any unmarried couples and gay couples from adopting and we need to work on that.”

Covington personally created a petition for the adoption bill that gained 1,000 signatures, which will be delivered electronically at the hearings.

Opposition to the legislation came from Family First as well as the Nebraska Family Council stating that sexual orientation is not a protective right as they see it as a lifestyle and that LGBT people have enough employment opportunities. 

“This bill comes in direct conflict with freedom of speech and religious freedom,” said Nebraska Family Council’s Executive Director Al Riskowski in a press release. 

“I firmly believe it is poor public policy, but it is hard to be heard from a policy prospective because the hearings get so socially charged. It’s hard to make your case without people saying you’re hateful and bigoted.”

Nebraska laws prohibit discrimination based on disability, age, pregnancy, race and gender but have yet to include sexual orientation. 

 “It’s a basic freedom for everyone to work,” Ashford said regarding the anti-discrimination bill. “And to be denied employment, we need to protect those people.”

“Against the opposition, we just continue to focus on the bill and what’s best for the children,” said Covington.

429Magazine


Gay Fraternity Leads the Way to more Inclusive Greek system

March 14, 2013

My recent dot429 article on fraternities and the LGBT community.

Gay Fraternity Leads The Way To More Inclusive Greek System

By Chris Huqueriza

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Sean Drimmel always wanted to be part of a fraternity. He wanted a sense of belonging. He researched the Greek university system extensively. In his words, he “wanted to join a fraternity no matter what.”

After searching through the San Diego Safe book during his final year in high school, he found Sigma Epsilon Omega at Berkeley, a fraternity comprised entirely of gay men.

For many freshman, fraternities are the American dream. It’s become a time-honored tradition. The rushes, the pledges and the social events are all appealing for people entering a new world, on the doorsteps of their adulthood.

“I really wanted to develop a close fraternity, a brotherhood and they honestly do it,” Drimmel told 429Magazine. “You make best friends and I can’t imagine college without the experience. I’m very grateful.”

Recently celebrating its sixth birthday, there is a large support system backing the fraternity across the Berkeley campus, and the organization hopes to expand to other campuses including San Francisco State University and Stanford.

In a community known for a rigid heterosexual, “macho” culture, finding a place for LGBT people within the Greek tradition can be a struggle.

In past decades, fraternities have had a reputation of hazing and gay bashing. In 1991, a fraternity was suspended for selling shirts with anti-gay slogans. In 2006, a fraternity was accused of raping pledges forced to wear fairy wings.

But times are changing and with it a new openness, even in the frat culture. In a 2012 Campus Climate Survey, LGBTQ students are experiencing an improved campus climate. Hazing has been banned by all national Greek fraternities, with anti-hazing statutes existing in 38 states. A book has been published and distributed titled “Fraternity and Sorority Anti-Homophobia Training Manual.”

In many ways, the Greek system is evolving to reflect society’s shifting stance on LGBT rights and issues. With marriage equality gaining momentum, President Obama’s support, and more visibility of the community entering mainstream society, fraternities are beginning to embrace the idea of diversification.

Earlier this year, George Washington University’s 20 Greek chapters put on a drag show to raise money for anti-bully and pro-LGBT organization The Trevor Project. Fraternity Phi Alpha Tau raised funding to help a transgender member pay for surgery.

“There’s definitely a change in the Greek system with President Obama supporting marriage equality,” said Drimmel. “The Greek system may not have immediate changes, but we are working on it.”

He also adds that fraternities, like anything else, are diverse with varying degrees of inclusivity. While Sigma Epsilon Omega is all gay, others welcome both openly gay and straight members.

Current University of Pennsylvania sophomore Juan Gomez is a former member of a Greek fraternity and now heads the Lambda Alliance, an LGBTQ political advocacy group on campus, as the Vice-Chair of Internal Affairs. He was one of only a few gay brothers in the fraternity house.

“From rushing, to pledging, and becoming a brother, my experience in my fraternity has been great,” Gomez told 429Magazine.

“I was very open about my sexuality during rush and meeting brothers in quite a few different fraternities,” he said.

“I would just casually say [I was gay] if asked if I had a ‘lady friend’ and nothing ever came about it. It was just another fact about me, and it was great. I don’t think those relationships were affected much by my sexuality. I have very accepting brothers, and the brotherhood progressed as normal.”

And Drimmel doesn’t see a great divide between the diverse breakdowns of fraternity demographics.

“We’re not that much different from other fraternities. We do mixers, dances and pledges like anybody else,” said Drimmel. “The structure’s not that different. We just happen to be comprised of just gay men.”

Though Gomez sees Greek society as being a “very straight-male dominated community,” he doesn’t feel discriminated against or ostracized for his sexuality.

“As far as there being a stigma, I find it to be a very accessible community, but that might be my own take on things,” he said. “I know the Greek community and the majority of the LGBTQ communities have very little overlap, but from what I’ve seen, that is a mutual decision.”

While there is support and awareness for LGBT members in fraternities, both Lambda Alliance and Sigma Epsilon Omega mentioned that they are unaware of any national LGBT policies in the Greek system.

And while the Greek system is making strides in incorporating LGBT issues, there is still some work that needs to be done.

“One thing I can say is that the Greek community as a whole could probably do with some knowledge on Queer issues so the LGBTQ community might feel more comfortable rushing and giving Greek life a chance,” said Gomez.

Growing membership by offering an inclusive environment is also key.

“Sigma Epsilon Omega is large now with 30 active brothers but we still need to work on internal obstacles like membership,” said Drimmel. “There’s also the perception in the Greek System and the LGBT community as it’s not inclusive. We are working towards combating the stereotype and there should be programs that talk about that in the Greek system.”

429Magazine


Gay Destinations On The Rise Off The Beaten Track

March 9, 2013

My dot429 article on Surprisingly LGBT Places to Visit, Aside From New York and San Francisco.

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Gay Destination On The Rise Off The Beaten Track

By Chris Huqueriza

While San Francisco, New York and Boston are known as the epicenters of LGBT living, other LGBT-friendly cities are proving themselves as new gay meccas. These typical urban havens may have the richest gay histories from the Stonewall riots to Harvey Milk as the first openly gay elected official, but these 10 rising cities are catching up. Welcome to 2013!

Austin, Texas

The saying is true: “There is no centralized gay neighborhood, the whole city is gay.” Gay people can be seen all over the city in almost 10 different districts from Clarksville to Downtown Austin to Westlake. Austin is quickly rising among the ranks of LGBT-friendly cities as the capital’s Lone Star State is infused with a growing number of gay bars.

The city is also catered to different subcultures of the community from gender-queer to country-western. With a progressive and liberal side and a rise in LGBT youths amongst its collegiate students, they passed anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It’s no wonder the Logo channel focused their latest season of the A-List on this pulsating city.

Atlanta, Georgia

Like Austin, Atlanta is quickly rising as an upcoming LGBT-friendly city. The city is ripe with an active nightlife and fun activities such as shopping, music, high art, and numerous gay bars like My Sister’s Room and Swinging Richards. LGBT members are settling in and starting careers with many rising queer-identified suburbs.

There seems to be more than one gay neighborhood as Ansley Park, East Atlanta, Grant Park, Kirkwood, and Midtown are helping spread members of the LGBT community. Decatur, especially, caters to queer women. With a strong base for progressive organizing, Atlanta also has transgender protection laws and 5 openly gay elected officials with an approval from the Human Rights Campaign. Tourists should check out its Pride Parade.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital may not be known as a sanctuary for gay people, but the state has a lot to offer in progression. Aside from approving marriage equality earlier on, they have 20 openly gay elected officials and large resource groups for the Bisexual community and many transgender protection laws.

Many businesses have been approved by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and have many notable gay suburbs like Logan’s Circle and Dupont Circle. But don’t count out the LGBT nightlife, as there’s a lot of activities from bars like Town Danceboutique to Cobalt.

Tacoma, Washington 

Aside from its beautifully serene ambiance that’s attracting everyone including the gays, Tacoma has a lot to offer with a state that approves marriage equality. The nightlife is centered on St. Helens district but also very progressive with 8 gay elected officials and laws centering on Transgender Protection. Be sure to check out Tacoma celebrate Gay Pride at Out in the Park.

Oakland, CA

Oakland is barely on the radar of LGBT friendly places because of its more famous neighbor, San Francisco; But don’t easily dismiss the city has they have more to offer. After Seattle and San Francisco, Oakland ranks third in LGBT-headed households and has the most lesbian couples per capita than any other metropolitan city in America.

They also have a wonderfully diverse nightlife that includes gay establishments catering even to the 18 and over demographic like Bench and Bar, SomaR Bar, The Fox Theater, Heinold’s First And Last Chance Saloon, Dogwood, Make Westing, and Easy Lounge. Oakland is evolving and it shows with 13 openly gay elected officials and transgender protection laws.

And for gay film aficionados, they host the African American LGBT film festival wonderfully meshing the LGBT community and the African American Community.

Providence, R.I.

Providence may be the most notable LGBT-friendly city on this list. Unlike its familiar urban gay cities, Providence revels its small town New England vibe but without the stuffy exterior. The city is very progressive and artsy with a literally youthful LGBT community from its three distinctive left-leaning colleges: Brown, Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson and Wales.

The city is progressive in politics with 5 openly gay elected officials, including the respected and openly out former mayor David Cicilline. He’s enjoying a successful career by enjoying his second year in Congress. Providence also has an active nightlife like Mirabar and Dark Lady and notable haunts including gay stories provided by the Providence Ghost Tour (Providenceghosttour.com)

Salem, OR

The most intriguing aspect of Salem is its seamless infusion of the LGBT community with religion. Many churches welcome gay people like the First Congregational Church, the Salem Spirit of Life Church, the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem, the United Church of Christ, the Freedom Friends Church, and the Morningside United Methodist Church.

Salem is very progressive with 3 openly elected officials, transgender protection laws, LGBT support groups, and its state capitol building hosts Capitol Pride every year. Its nightlife may be slim but Southside Speakeasy, Chaps, and Club Remix provide just enough for the small city.

St. Louis, MO 

Aside from the main three urban cities, St. Louis has the most embedded in gay history. The city is the only place to have many old haunts of Tennessee Williams and prides themselves with Clementine’s, the city’s oldest gay bar since 1978.

Known for being a fur-trading outpost, it has progressed as a symbol of hope for the LGBT community in the Midwest with 3 openly gay elected officials and approval by the Human Rights Campaign’s equality index. Diversity is also rampant with its gay central focus on Manchester Avenue in the Grove with many gay-friendly neighborhoods filled with leather bars, a respected LGBT center, and gay-friendly coffeehouses.

Tel Aviv, Israel

The list is covered with American cities, but Tel Aviv deserves recognition, as the city is remarkable for being the hottest destination for LGBT travelers. The White City has been labeled the gayest city in the world by Advocate Magazine and ranks the highest as the gayest destination by Gaycities.com for 2011.

And while the city may be the most unusual place for being LGBT-friendly because if its nation’s intolerance and plagues of war, its government was able to make the area gay-friendly as it is the only city in the world to be entirely supported and budgeted by its City Council.

There is no specific gay neighborhood so all its hotspots from its bars, hotels and coffeehouses are gay-friendly and is known for equality. Its Pride is the biggest event of the month for the city so it attracts over thousands of tourists from around the world from Europe, Australia, Japan, and the United States.

Its main attraction may be their beautiful men, but you will fall in love with the warm weather, divine beaches, pulsating nightlife, and its blossoming gay community.

Beirut, Lebanon

Like Tel Aviv, Beirut is a contradiction. While homosexuality is prosecutable under the penal law of article 534, the country is very relaxed and widely tolerated on the LGBT lifestyle, as the law is considered obsolete. The city is slowly evolving ever since Lebanon’s 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

And considering neighborhood countries like Damascus, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Cairo are not gay friendly and enforce police brutality; Beirut has become the default gay mecca in the Arab world. There is no gay neighborhood, but the gay scene is visible in the bars with many establishments like hotels, coffeehouses, and beaches as unofficially labeled gay friendly.

Beirut has become a hot vacation spot that attracts people from other Arab countries and also people from Europe, Asia, and the United States. St. George’s beach has attracted LGBT travelers with Acid and Bardo as notable bars from the dozen gay establishments nearby. Gay people may not wear their pride, but there is definitely a thrill of discovering a freshly evolving gay culture.

Beirut even has a LGBT center present and promotes itself as a gay destination by recently hosting the International Lesbian and Gay Travel Association media trip. And while public displays of affection is not advised and photography not allowed in the clubs as everyone leads double lives.