Read the latest commentary from The Advocate, the leading source for LGBT news and politics. Discover what public figures and pundits have to say about LGBT issues and topics that touch the lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and its allies. Find op-eds from columnists like HIV activist Tyler Curry or editors Neal Broverman and Jase Peeples. When the experts weigh in on the latest developments in the LGBT rights movement, they do so at The Advocate.

Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk fought hard
for San Francisco values. Moscone
led the fight to enshrine the right to privacy in our state constitution. Milk
made community oversight of police a top priority. One of Milk’s first acts as supervisor was to get an LGBT
person appointed to the Police Commission.

But these values are under siege.

April 02 2012 9:03 PM


April 02 2012 3:24 PM

in a "post-marriage equality" New York is wonderful, that is, unless
you are a young person being bullied in school; homeless on the streets without
safe shelter; a transgender individual seeking housing, employment, or public
accommodation outside the handful of locales that offer protections; a couple
seeking a second-parent adoption; a senior looking for companionship; a
transgender person seeking culturally competent health care;  a person living with HIV/AIDS struggling

April 02 2012 5:00 AM

First, go see the movie Bully.

Now that my shameless promotion of the film is dispensed with, let me explain why this documentary has become so important to me.

I'm an actor on a show called Victorious on the Nickelodeon network. Its success gives me the opportunity to communicate with teenagers in middle school and high school in a way no other job can. And this has created for me a type of moral dilemma. I wanted to do something with this influence that didn’t involve promoting a new clothing line or tweeting about what I had for breakfast. I wanted to do something that would make school a little easier for people who are trying to develop, who want to find out what it is to be the adult versions of themselves. Being newly inducted into the world of adulthood myself (I’m not much older than a lot of the people who watch the show), I understand how hard that development is and it’s still fresh in my mind.

While I was growing up, my parents had all types of friends, many of whom were gay. I grew up with gay people being a completely normal part of any dinner party my parents threw. So when I went to school and saw people being isolated and abused for being gay, I was bothered by it personally. Although it was never directly my issue, it’s a problem that I always thought I’d like to do something about.

Back in early 2011, the suicide rate of bullied LGBT teens had become highly publicized. Many lives were cut short, and we lost people who, if they had been able to hold on and get out of the shark tank that is school, could have brought so much to our world. It was then I decided I had an obligation to not remain silent. I started a campaign called Straight But Not Narrow. Our message is simple. We are straight men and woman who support our LGBTQ friends and family.

After amassing a number of videos of my friends and others who have lent their support (Josh Hutcherson, Cory Monteith, and Gethin Anthony, to name a few) we launched a campaign to bring awareness that gay equality is not just a gay issue, it’s a human issue. I wanted SBNN to transcend being just a celebrity campaign where everyone sits around yelling “Gay is OK!” at a camera, so I and my cofounders, Heather Wilk and Andre Pochon, started working on getting our message into schools and working with gay-straight alliances. The idea has caught on better than I could have hoped. We have had an incredibly warm response to our work. So many straight people are not remaining silent and are standing up for their gay friends. That is the context. That is the reason I have given so much support to Bully.

April 02 2012 4:00 AM

Days before the United Nations held its first panel on LGBT rights, the St. Petersburg assembly passed a law banning any public activity (including what happens online) that promotes homosexuality, sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgender identity, as well as any display of homosexual conduct that could potentially be seen by minors (which the lawmakers dubbed as promoting pedophilia). The bill was signed into law by St. Petersburg governor Georgiy Poltavchenko and took effect March 12. Many have started to look back on how exactly things got to where they are today. The answer: politics, and the rise of religious conservatism in Russia.

In 2008, two years after Moscow denied a permit to the first Gay Pride Parade, a bill to ban gay propaganda in Ryazan was introduced into the local assembly. The bill did not define what qualified as gay propaganda, and proponents presented it as a bill to protect children from the threat of homosexuality. Activists united to oppose the law, challenging it on constitutional grounds. However, in March of 2010, the Russian Constitutional Court dismissed a case opposing a Ryazan law banning so-called “propaganda of homosexuality.”

Activists quickly pointed out that the law seemed a clear violation of Russia’s Constitution Article 29 – freedom of speech, Article 19 – the ban on discrimination, and Article 55 – the ban on local governments infringing on the rights of minorities. Arkhangelsk and Kostroma signed similar laws in 2011, and in November of that year, Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, proposed its own ban on “gay propaganda,” which passed the city’s assembly by a two-thirds margin.

Moscow has yet to hold a legally sanctioned gay pride parade and, with the new law, the chances it will any time soon seem even less likely. On March 29, a federal version of the “gay propaganda” law was introduced in the lower house (the Duma) of the Russian Parliament.

The Western Wind
The emergence of this law has taken some in the international community by surprise and has raised many questions. The most asked question is, “Why now?” In an interview with The Advocate, Andre Banks, executive director of the international advocacy group AllOut, which created the much-publicized public service announcements on the issue, offered this theory: “There is one particular advantage. The law has public support and is a populist issue. It was no surprise that this issue came around at the time of a very contentious election in Russia.”

Indeed, the 2012 election in Russia saw some of the largest opposition protests in the country’s history. Dozens of unprecedented political protests, some estimated as large as 25,000 people, condemned the Conservative Party, United Russia and even Vladimir Putin in the months before the March elections. Many see this election as not just about the Conservative Party staying in power but also as a move by Russia to differentiate itself culturally from the West. Putin’s determination to show his independence is even the subject of a new BBC series Russia, Putin and the West. Ironically, the law Russia’s Conservative Party is using to flex its cultural differences was born not in the Motherland, but in the U.S.

Pouncing on antigay momentum around the 2006 ban on the Moscow Pride parade, American evangelist Scott Lively wrote a letter to the Russian people after completing a speaking tour in the country. Through his speaking engagements, Lively closely allied himself with the Russian Orthodox church and his influence is still evident. Many will remember Lively as the origin of what became Uganda’s Bill 18, also known as the notorious “kill the gays” bill. In his letter, Lively elaborated that, “The purpose of my visit was to bring a warning about the homosexual political movement which has done much damage to my country and which has now taken root in Russia. This is a very fast-growing social cancer that will destroy the family foundations of your society if you do not take immediate, effective action to stop it.” Through his tour, Lively closely allied himself with the Russian Orthodoxy and presented its adherents with a road map to protect themselves from what they saw as gay propaganda.

Of the several steps he lays out, the third is this: “Criminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality. My philosophy is to leave homosexuals alone if they keep their lifestyle private, and not to force them into therapy if they don’t want it. However, homosexuality is destructive to individuals and to society and it should never [be] publicly promoted. The easiest way to discourage 'gay pride' parades and other homosexual advocacy is to make such activity illegal in the interest of public health and morality.” Play by play, the Russian Orthodoxy has taken Lively’s blueprint and is acting swiftly on his urging “to protect their country from the gay movement.”

The Rise of Russian Religious Conservatism
In the years since Yeltsin turned the reigns over to his successor, Putin, Russia has drifted toward the right. However, in the last four years, that slow drift has turned to a sprint. Polina Savchenko, general manager of the St. Petersburg advocacy group Coming Out, says, “There is a clear tendency in Russia's both external and internal politics to move toward more ultra-right ideas; clerical, traditionalist discourse is finding its way into legislation.”

March 30 2012 1:02 PM

“Female opt-out!” The cry was volleyed around the Detroit Airport security screening area like a hot potato dressed with derision, topped with shame. This is the technique employed by our U.S. Transportation Security Administration at the entry point to American air travel, where I often feel my stomach tighten at the sight of the Total-Recall, Martian-prison-camp-like body scanners used in the name of security. That is, instead of in the name of the security-industrial complex that it really is.

Since day one of coming face-to-face with both the hulking beige body scanner and the twin-electrode-box backscatter machines, I’ve held fast to my Fourth Amendment rights. That’s the one ensuring our rights “against unreasonable searches and seizures” by our government. To me, “unreasonable” is being subjected to even small doses of both disdain and radiation. Both of which, for a travel writer like me, add up to a harmful amount of transdermal rays invading my organs.  

“Unreasonable” also applies to having a bitter TSA agent snap on her rubber gloves and run her chilly hands between my breasts, butt cheeks and crotch, grope along my pants’ waistline, and cup my breasts and belly in front of the tired, poor, huddled masses who are today’s air travelers.

It’s so deeply disrespectful, even just explaining the process here is beneath us.

Alas, it’s not only the violation of my personal privacy and not-unreasonable sensibilities that mandates my opt-out. Part of my beef is the blatant government sell-out to backscatter-imaging technology manufacturers like Rapiscan and American Science and Engineering.

It can’t be a coincidence that their revenue and stock prices grow in tandem with their government-lobbying budgets. In fact, they’re probably great, growing firms to own stock in. Especially when they win big TSA contracts like the $12 million one Rapiscan got in September 2011, for the “Advanced Technology Upgrade” of our country’s checkpoint-screening systems. This contract showed a great ROI (return on investment) for Rapiscan’s $410,000 documented dollars spent lobbying our elected officials last year.


March 30 2012 6:00 AM

“We are Trayvon
Martin,” hoodie-clad crowds of brown and white faces have been chanting at
rallies across the country. As we grieve the murder of Trayvon Martin, an
unarmed 17-year-old African American
who was gunned down by Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman, I cannot
help but reflect on how black and brown bodies are culturally and
systematically policed as a result of unwarranted stereotypes and fear.

March 30 2012 3:26 AM

The National
Organization for Marriage’s top-secret strategy documents disclosed Monday in a
state investigation highlight that, along with working in the most cynical
fashion imaginable to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” NOM also wanted
badly to strip away the freedom to marry in New Hampshire. In fact, no state was a higher priority
for NOM. Of its “$20 Million Strategy for Victory,” a full $2 million was
dedicated to repealing the freedom to marry in the Granite State. Yet last week, we beat back NOM,

March 29 2012 4:00 AM

Seven years ago, when my
grandmother JoAnn was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I couldn’t imagine
anything less fair.  At the time, I
composed a mental list of all the people I knew who could lose their minds
without anybody noticing.  It amounted to
scores of bores I’d never heard say one original thing.  While my grandmother, on the other hand, was the genius of the cocktail party, a Texas Auntie Mame, who always seemed poised with a staggering, stiletto quip.

March 27 2012 3:26 AM

During the White House Conference on Safe Schools and
Communities held at the University of Texas at Arlington on Tuesday, Atty.
Gen. Eric Holder and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett both
walked up to the line of an endorsement
for the Student Non-Discrimination
Act.  Holder, echoing

March 26 2012 4:00 PM