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Readers respond to Creating Change controversy

Respect for diversity means respect for differences of opinion



Creating Change, gay news, Washington Blade
Creating Change, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters on Jan. 23, 2016, gather outside reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago that was to have featured two LGBT rights advocates from Israel. (Photo courtesy of Andy Thayer/Gay Liberation Network)

Re: “Creating Shame,” op-ed by Kevin Naff:

You could not have said it better.  These were not protesters, they were a mob.  I was there. A private Jewish guest going to a private reception when set upon by the Creating Change mob. I have been an activist with a decades-long pedigree of working in large and small ways working for social justice. I have faced down Jerry Falwell, debated on TV with top spokespeople from Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. I have sat on a plane surrounded by fundamentalist anti-gay PromiseKeepers. I have NEVER faced such a mob of indiscriminate hate. ALL of us were called “motherfucking racists”, compared to the Ku Klux Klan and when in the room, several of them broke in and were screaming that we weren’t really queer and queer activists, that we were killing babies in Israel.

It was assault in that we were surrounded, denied passage, verbally abused and we saw what happened if someone shouted back. The gentleman who is described as “grabbing a Palestinian flag” was in fact attacked by that protester. He was wearing a Yarmulke, and the protester wrapped the flag over his face, covering his eyes, nose and face and jerked his head back.

I personally know many of the attendees, who have given much of their lives and treasure to multiple social justice causes, including that of people of color and to supporting organizations like Jerusalem Open House. We were all tarred with this brush of hate, indiscriminately. Jerusalem Open House was founded about 20 years ago as a community center for Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. These were brave LGBT activists in the middle east who have created real, true, positive change. Yet this event to welcome and help raise money for them to continue their activities was shut down hatefully not by the religious right, not by ISIS, but by other LGBT activists.

Respectfully I ask:
How many protests were there against LGBT Muslims — as clearly they must represent the totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where the laws prescribe execution for LGBT people? Oh, they don’t represent those governments any more than we did? Why did we catch double-barreled verbal violence?

How many protests were there against LGBT Russian Orthodox? That church in Russia supports more yet more vile oppressive anti-gay legislation currently in there parliament?

How many protests were there against LGBT Nigerians, Ugandans and other African nations that now have laws on the books that imprison LGBT people?

How many “Pinkwashing” protests were there against every American city that solicits LGBT tourism while maintaining police forces and neighborhoods that oppress people of color?

How would any of the mob (not protesters) feel if every conference they went to people would equate them as representative partners of the Chicago Police Department and run them out of town?

No, in fact, there was only one of this scale. We were not allowed to pass to our “safe space” — and in fact one of the protesters inside our reception screamed in my face that we did not deserve safe space. A website called the Electronic Intifada posted video of the event with the note “No peace! No justice!” Featured in the video was a leading Rabbi of Chicago – an incredibly gentle, yet strong consistent voice for kindness and justice in our community, including justice for people of color, for workers, for interfaith respect and dialogue. He has been a force of humanity and care at our congregation for people in crisis.

Doesn’t matter. You see, the protesters had no interest in our decades of fight here and Israel for inclusion and justice. They had no interest in what we thought about the situation and whether we had any views in common with them or how we could fight together to improve the situation.

In fact, Israel is the only country in that area with a working free press, a rule of law judiciary, with government funding for art that criticizes the government, a true multiparty system. It has an equivalent of the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, feminist and environmental organizations and those that work for peace.

Had they really wanted dialogue, they might actually have engaged the activists on the front lines of serving both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. I bet they don’t agree with the government either. However, they might have shared what actually works in that complicated area of the world to actually “create change.”

They could have joined with them and us to support a stronger, better Israel and celebrate the works of LGBT activists who risked a lot to build a true safe space for Israelis and Palestinians.

But no indeed…

I have been violated and my friends and co-religionists have been attacked and libeled. I am physically sick from the violence and anti-Semitism that clearly singled us out and turned every one of us from Jews with long accomplished records of commitment to justice into demons worthy of their verbal and physical violence. And how they crow on their websites about how wonderful they were!

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force should be called to account for this violent, aggressive action — for the failure to provide us safe passage and peace within our own event — for the failure to meet their own purposes of using dialogue, safe space and respect for others to build bridges and “create change.”

I have no illusions that the self-righteous mob will ever look in the mirror and see the very hate that they detest in others. But the leaders of this event must.

Alan Amberg


Re: “Protesters disrupt reception with Israeli activists,” by Michael K. Lavers:

It is shocking that activists shut down a Shabbat service and meeting because it included Israeli LGBT leaders and U.S. supporters. Jerusalem Open House is a cross-community group that serves both Jews and Arabs, including many gay men from the West Bank. It is part of the solution. The “pinkwashing” protesters could learn about the conflict by talking to these individuals who live with it every day.

Israel is not a racist, apartheid, or colonialist country. The Israeli-Arab conflict is an extremely complex regional conflict. Israel has very real security concerns, as evidenced by the half dozen wars since its founding and the recent knife and car attacks on Jewish civilians and Israeli soldiers. Jews have always lived in Palestine and in the Middle East, and have a right to national self-determination, as do Palestinians, Kurds and others. Israelis and their American supporters should have the right to convene at a U.S. LGBT activist conference. Respect for diversity includes respect for differences of opinion regarding a complicated geopolitical and historical conflict.

Sean Cahill




Trans rights have reached a crisis point

We should fear DeSantis more than Trump



Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Trans rights have reached a crisis point. There’s no other way to say it. 

On March 4, CPAC speaker Michael Knowles plainly stated that “if [transgenderism] is false, then for the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely – the whole preposterous ideology.”

To liken transness as a mere ideology is problematic on many different counts, but that paled in comparison to Knowles’s need for us to be eradicated. Eradication rhetoric is a genocidal tool, to ask and plead for an entire subpopulation to go away in one fell swoop is murderous and brutal. Genocides begin with this kind of rhetoric, then escalate to dangerous politicians being elected to office, then escalate even more to harsh policy, then escalate yet again when those harsh policies force humans to have to do many things — be locked in a cage, move out of the country, or even detransition, in this case. 

Look no further than what happened at the southern border during Trump’s years in office, when images of migrants and their children surfaced at maximum security facilities, lying on the floor with nothing but a meager blanket and barbed wire surrounding their bodies. 

Indeed, a lot of the CPAC conference was dedicated to engaging in these culture wars — but Knowles’s statement of eradication goes beyond the normal cultural bickering. This is why trans politics are at a dangerous turning point. 

Adding to this chaos are bathroom bills and sports policies that prevent trans high schoolers from accessing the bathroom they need, or playing on the right side of their sports team. 

In conversations with professionals, academics, and friends, I like to mention the fact that Republicans take peoples’ rights away when they notice that those people have gained more freedom. Think of it this way: when I was in high school, in 2010, far fewer trans people were out with their identities. Transness didn’t take a center stage in culture — be it on the left or on the right. And as a result, trans students were only attacked by bullies and in locker rooms, not by state politicians. 

But the rise of Gen Z has witnessed many high schoolers now flouting gender norms, going by nonbinary pronouns, and being proud of their gender variance. Moreover, society is filled with many more trans models and celebrities. When our presence becomes celebrated and known, Republicans will then take the necessary tools to push us back into the closet. 

What’s adding to the concern is the rise of smarter Republican candidates for the 2024 election who have exactly the same feelings of Trump but with higher intellects. Ron DeSantis is an example of a presidential contender who mirrors Trump’s bigotry and policies but is far more targeted and intelligent in his approach to public speaking and politics. Indeed, Democrats should be more afraid of DeSantis than of Trump. 

On an end note, I like to summon an old saying by the late Martin Luther King. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” No matter how much cruelty Republicans will put us through, they won’t succeed in the long run. More and more of society is catching up to the fact that trans people deserve respect and fairness. There will come a day when we have to sigh less and less about the state of our rights. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Amend is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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The ‘Find Out’ generation: A new generation for a new America

We are willing to face down the forces of status quo



(Photo by Ben Gingell/Bigstock)

In an op-ed I wrote in April entitled “On Gun Violence, the New Generation Will Not Be Silenced,” I wrote about Tennessee State Representative Justin Thomas and Justin Pearson being expelled from the Tennessee Legislature.

Since then, both have been reinstated by local county governing boards that sent them back to the legislature unanimously. Let’s recall they and the remaining legislator Gloria Johnson’s “crime,” was deciding enough was enough by protesting against gun violence on the legislative floor. The national support they have received since then has been enormous. 

Similarly, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender legislator there, was silenced by the Republican majority legislature there, being censured (prevented from public speaking) for saying there would be “blood on the hands” of members that voted on an anti-trans piece of legislation.

Zephyr and the “Tennessee Three,” as they’ve come to be called, are part of a new generation of leaders in America, or the “find out” generation that won’t settle for business as usual and are willing to face down the forces of status quo that want to maintain a system built on White supremacy and assimilation. 

They follow a lineage of resistance of those willing to cause “good trouble,” as the late Congressman John Lewis once said. As the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee in the 60s, Lewis was arrested multiple times and was part of the Tennessee sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. (He would later, in 2016, bring Congressional House proceedings to a halt in a protest against gun violence.)

Justin Jones himself has been arrested 13 times for non-violent protest and jokes that one of the reasons he ran for the state legislature is that “members of the Tennessee Legislature can’t be arrested,” which is true, at least while in session. But Justin’s arrests are part of the tradition of the civil rights movement in the South. Tennessee was indeed the home resistance. 

In May of 1960, over 150 students were arrested by the police for attempting to desegregate lunch counters in downtown Nashville. During the trial, the students, including Diane Nash, were defended by a group of 13 lawyers, headed by Z. Alexander Looby, a Black lawyer from the British West Indies, whose house was later bombed by segregationists. Looby and his wife were thankfully unharmed.

Later that day, 3,000 protesters marched to Nashville City Hall to confront Mayor Ben West to demand something be done about the violence. He agreed the lunch counters should be desegregated but that it should be up to the store managers.

The city later reached an agreement to desegregate numerous stores before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited desegregation altogether. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. later came to Nashville, saying he “did not come to bring inspiration, but to find it.” 

Meanwhile, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender state legislator in Montana, follows in the footsteps of early LGBT activists/officeholders like the late Harvey Milk of San Francisco. Zephyr’s courageous stance against a majority of the legislature who voted for an anti-trans bill prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare for minors resulted in Zephyr being censured and prohibited from giving speeches on the House floor. Since then, there has been a tremendous national backlash against such fascist tactics both there and in Tennessee. 

As we look ahead to Junteenth and Pride next month, Jones, Pearson, and Zephyr are visible symbols of the rise of a new generation coming up, the “find out” generation that refuses to accept the status quo and who is willing to put everything on the line to face injustice in the name of service to their communities.

Whether it is gun violence, housing, or hate, leadership like this will create the multigenerational, intersectional leadership we need at the local, state, and federal levels in the Halls of Congress to bring about solutions to the issues we have been facing. To create a new America that works for everyone. And I’m here for it. 

A millennial based in Los Angeles, Steve Dunwoody is a veteran, college educator, and community advocate.

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Pride month should be every month

Let’s not keep supportive CEOs and LGBTQ police out of our parades



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

I find it interesting we celebrate our Pride only one month a year. I take pride in being gay all year long. I am not opposed to celebrations in June; parades and festivals are great fun. I appreciate Capital Pride naming me a Pride Hero in 2016. Those magnetic signs decorating the convertible I rode in, now adorn my refrigerator. But for me Pride in being gay is something I have all year long.

It took me many years to feel that way. I was 34 when I finally came out, sharing who I was with others. One of the factors keeping me in the closet as a young person was the desire to run for public office. That wasn’t possible as an openly gay man, even where I grew up in New York City. It was only moving to Washington, D.C., away from family and childhood friends, that finally focused me on my true self, allowing me to come to grips with who I was, a gay man.

In 1978, D.C. was a place people could feel comfortable taking those first steps toward coming out. Many people were away from their family and old friends, ready to take a step into their own reality. You could go to a bar like Rascals in Dupont Circle, meet congresspersons, congressional staff, government officials, non-profit and business CEOs, teachers and reporters, all still in the closet and not afraid they would be outed. Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, before AIDS, many of us were still in the closet.

Thankfully, there were some who were not. In the 1978 D.C. mayoral race, won by Marion Barry, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the gay Democratic club in D.C., played a major role in his victory. Barry openly thanked them. He was a four-term mayor who supported the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t until the end of his career, when he was a Council member from Ward 8, that he came out against gay marriage. I remember how jarring it was for so many when he stood on Freedom Plaza with some homophobic ministers, and told us he opposed our right to marry. But he was the anomaly in D.C. The work of activists over the years, I was proud to be one of them, won. The D.C. Council passed marriage equality.

In today’s troubling times the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, the African-American community, and all minorities, are at risk. With white supremacy on the rise, and anti-Semitism once again rearing its ugly head, it’s important to celebrate our Pride all year long. I want every month to be a Pride month, so people in Florida will know they cannot deprive us of our rights, or erase us from their schools. So, a young boy or girl in Mississippi or Montana, who struggle with who they are, and who they love, will be able to see they are great and loved, and can live their life fully, and safely, being their true self.

I hope by the time we celebrate World Pride in D.C. in 2025, inviting the world in to see who the United States really is, we can be proud of who we are. Today that is not the case in many ways. I want a transgender person to come to the United States for World Pride and feel comfortable, not only on the streets of D.C., but anywhere in our country. I want us to be able to show off and say, here you are safe. I want the feeling I had, as a privileged white cisgender man, coming out safely in D.C., to be the feeling everyone has. To do that we will have to fight not only homophobia, but racism, and sexism. It is all interconnected and we must recognize that and join hands, if we are to be successful. While today in D.C. we have African-American Pride, Transgender Pride, Youth Pride, and Latino Pride, maybe we can all join together for World Pride. Let us have pride in each other, as well as ourselves. Let us have that pride every month, every day, and every hour, all year long.

We can do this and still have fun in June. Let’s not keep LGBTQ police, and military, out of our parades. Let us be as proud of them, as they are of themselves. Let us invite the corporate entities that support us. I would be proud to march with Disney CEO Robert Iger. We will only make progress if we do so together.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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