article placeholder

Gay on Facebook: It’s complicated

Facebook and the LGBT rights movement

Credited with helping fuel uprisings in faraway places such as Egypt and Libya, Facebook is also revolutionizing the gay rights movement — and the overall LGBT experience — across the United States.

The social networking site was the primary tool used by grassroots organizers in numerous cities throughout the country as they planned protests in response to the passage of Prop 8, the gay marriage ban, in California in 2008. It has amplified the visibility of gay-affirming campaigns such as National Coming Out Day and the National Day of Silence, and provided broad exposure for new initiatives including the No H8 photo project and National Spirit Day, when people were encouraged to wear purple and infuse purple into their profile photo to express solidarity against anti-gay bullying.

But Facebook’s effect on LGBT lives has been far more personal than organizing and getting the word out about gay events. For LGBT adults, the site has dramatically altered the coming-out process —  either making it easier by replacing countless, emotionally wrought conversations with friends, co-workers and people from one’s past, or complicating the effort to remain closeted when every status update or photo you post is showered with flattering comments from people of the same sex.

article placeholder

LGBT youth blaze trails in Ga. high schools

Carly Baker (left) and her mother Vanessa Baker

As a 14-year old “queer” freshman at Apalachee High School in rural Barrow County, Carly Baker faces some tough odds.

She has clashed with other students who bullied her and her gay best friend. And when she approached her principal about starting a gay-straight alliance, she was told such a group wouldn’t fly in this part of the Bible belt.

But Baker, while appearing diminutive, is quite fearless and unwavering. She has armed herself with resources she obtained at the first annual Gay-Straight Alliance Youth Summit held on Feb. 19 at the UGA campus in Gwinnett County and is now researching the best way to again bring up her plans to school administrators.

article placeholder

First ‘Gaybie Hawkins Dance’ brings LGBT teens together for fun, fellowship

Queer youth in Cobb County are proclaiming their identities proudly and ready to show off on the dance floor with the first “Gaybie Hawkins Dance” — a way for LGBT teens from outside Atlanta to gather with others who are like them.

Planned for Feb. 18 and organized by the Metro Atlanta Queer & Allied Teens (MAQAT), the dance — a gay take on traditional Sadie Hawkins Dances — aims to become an annual party held near Valentine’s Day.

Being open about your sexual orientation and gender identity in the very socially conservative Cobb County (home of Newt Gingrich) is not easy, but is something queer teens want desperately to be able to do.

article placeholder

Lambda Legal: Augusta counseling student could hurt LGBT youth

Augusta State University student Jennifer Keeton

Lambda Legal has filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing an Augusta State University graduate student’s claim that her constitutional rights were violated when the school threatened to expel her because of her Christian belief that being gay or transgender is immoral.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Southern Division in Augusta, argues counseling graduate student Jennifer Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated by the university because it stated her biblical opposition to homosexuality — that she would state in class and to other students — went against the professional code for being an ethical counselor.

Keeton, who wants to be a secondary school counselor, is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian organization dedicated to defending “traditional family values.”

article placeholder

Federal agencies work to address LGBT suicides

A national task force dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBT youth will be part of the new National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The Alliance, launched by Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in September, is a public-private partnership supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.

Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of SAMHSA, revealed the plan for an LGBT youth task force in a five-page letter sent last month in response to an inquiry from leaders of the U.S. House’s LGBT Equality Caucus.

The task force will be led by Charles Robbins, head of The Trevor Project, which operates an LGBT youth suicide prevention program nationwide, and Kevin Jennings, the Department of Education’s Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Jennings, an openly gay appointee, founded the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network.

article placeholder

Emory students take time out to remember World AIDS Day

AIDS Quilt on display at Emory University

Caroline Stokes and her friend, Tonni Blount, sat on the top floor of the Dobbs Student Center at Emory University, finishing up their lunch of soup and chatting about the end of the school year.

The noise of dozens of other students could be heard in the background as they all carried on intimate conversations. But listening closely, a monotone voice could be heard through the others reading a list of dozens and dozens of names.

The names were of people who had died of AIDS, part of the university's World AIDS Day program on Dec. 1, that included a display of some 40 AIDS Quilt panels in the student center. A total of 80 panels were on view throughout the campus in various buildings.

article placeholder

Clay Aiken to Congress: Stop anti-gay bullying

American Idol alum Clay Aiken calls on Congress to address anti-gay bullying

“American Idol” singer Clay Aiken and two mothers whose sons committed suicide because of anti-gay bullying at their schools appeared at a Capitol Hill briefing Nov. 18 to urge Congress to pass two bills that would require schools to address bullying and harassment targeting LGBT students.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network organized the briefing as a means of drawing public attention to the two pending bills, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

“Like many kids now in middle schools and high schools, I was bullied,” said Aiken, who came out as gay in 2008 after winning the runner up title of best singer on the widely viewed television show “American Idol.”

article placeholder

WERKing it at Spelman College — drag fashion show a hit on campus

WERK drag fashion show

Spelman College's Afrekete and Morehouse College's Safe Space program, both serving the LGBT students on their respective campuses, combined forces for the second annual WERK, a drag fashion show featuring men and women, as part of Spelman's second annual Pride Week.

More than 100 people packed into the Cosby Lobby Friday, Nov. 12, on Spelman's campus for spoken word, hip hop and, of course, the main event — a drag fashion.

Last year, for Spelman's first Pride Week, the college was able to get the OK for a drag show to be held on campus — the first time an historically black college has held a drag show as part of official campus programming.

article placeholder

Ga. school district fires teacher over anti-bully efforts, gay-themed film

The Haralson County school board terminated teacher Dave Dixon last night after Dixon showed a short clip from the film “The Reckoning” during a lesson on bullying. Dixon, who taught drama at Haralson County High School, said recent LGBT-youth suicides provided an opportunity for a “teachable moment.”

Haralson County High School is located on Ga. Highway 120 in Tallapoosa, Ga.

“The Reckoning,” a short film starring Bruce Hart, centers on Tom Shepard, a character who is gay-bashed after his public display of pride. Hart is a personal friend of Dixon who Dixon described as “the sweetest man you’ll ever meet.”

“The Reckoning” is loosely based on the story of Matthew Shepard, according to the website IMDB.