“My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way. It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.” -Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian
Brooke Ashjian made this comment to the Fresno Bee regarding the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education. He is a devout Mormon and Trump supporter who has been vocal about his stances on abortion, premarital sex, and LGBT relationships (spoiler: he's against all of them).
At a school board meeting on August 9th, the community came together to voice their concern at this derogatory comment. Ashjian responded:
“For you to come all the way down here, whether you agreed with me or didn’t, it’s truly in my heart an apology to you that you many have been slighted. That was never the intent. My position here is about the children. I’ve never distinguished between whether they were gay or this or that or white or from north Fresno, south Fresno, whatever. They were always children.”
First, that’s not an apology. He is only “apologizing” that feelings were hurt, NOT for what he said. His apology is really, “I’m sorry you were offended that I don’t want gay kids to exist.”
And second, he DID distinguish gay kids. In fact, he distinguished them as his “greatest fear.” His greatest fear is not an unplanned pregnancy, an STD, or a dead child (three of which could be prevented by this law), but a gay child (which would not be prevented OR caused by this law, as this law will not change someone’s innate orientation).
This is on top of a bizarre series of posts made on the site Ripoffreport.com about Gay Fresno (the former name for LGBT Fresno) that were tracked back to Ashjian’s computer (he did not use his real name in the posts). In a series of depositions, he admitted to making comments (he was upset that Gay Fresno was calling for a boycott due to him having donated to Prop 8), but couldn’t recall what they were (although they were only two years prior and he had clear memories of events that took place even earlier) or what language he used (only three comments regarding Gay Fresno were on the site, all were derogatory, and all were of a grammar level that one expects to find in the bathroom of a middle school that caters to sexually-repressed remedial English students with anger issues, not a school board president). All three comments were also of an oddly sexual nature. And finally, when attorneys were going to do a forensic examination of his computer, it was mysteriously stolen from his office (although, not the cash that was in there). Weird.
To sum it up so far:
• His biggest fear is a gay child (not a dead one)
• He said this out loud to a reporter (maybe thinking it was still 2008)
• It is 2017 (he may have missed the memo)
• He has admitted to being an internet troll, albeit not a very good one
In the last week, human rights organizations have called for Ashjian’s resignation. His response was to tweet “NO!!” His follow up was that he would never resign. “And second of all, I don't back up. I don't even have reverse in my car. I'm not backing up,” he stated.
Putting aside the ludicrous analogy of a car that cannot go backwards, is this how we go forward? We have a school board president that cannot see how his words will affect children in his schools, cannot see how stubborn and divisive he is being, and has no idea how to diffuse the situation. How do we go forward when he has pushed himself into a position and refuses to rethink it based on an admitted inability to do so (“I don’t back up”)? And, using his car analogy, how can he not see that he’s been going in reverse this whole time?
We need your help.
We are asking you to call, email or write (details below) Fresno Unified School District board trustees and demand that Brooke Ashjian be removed from the Fresno Unified School Board, both as president and as a member. He is toxic to our youth, both gay and straight. Between his obvious contention for the gay community (of which some of his students belong) and his inability to take either ownership for his words OR to learn from them, he has shown himself to be incapable of leading our youth towards the kind of world we all need: an honest, inclusive, and fair one.
We invite you all to show up on August 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm for the Fresno Unified school board meeting at 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721. Bring small signs to show your support for his removal or resignation. Be emotionally prepared for anti-LGBT supporters.
We know. You’re tired. You’ve probably spent the last decade fighting about this and thought it was time to rest. Me, too.
But, I really, really don’t want to tell a Fresno Unified child who needs someone to talk to and, because the teachers at his school feel emboldened to share their homophobic views, doesn’t have anyone. I don’t want to tell any kid that.
Lastly, as many of you know, the LBGT center has recently closed. LGBT Fresno is stepping up to begin a referral/resource line, but we need to raise $2500 to get it going. This will be an important resource in an area that (while it’s come far) is lacking in LGBT resources. Your donation will provide us with the needed funds to open and maintain the line for one year. The IT provider fees that will allow us to offer multiple volunteers the connection to those who need help and resources. Imagine a teen will be able to call, text, facebook message and get a friendly and helpful reply to connect them to the resources they so desperately need.
Will you please chip in $5, $10, $50, anything you can, to help us make this new resource a reality?
Stand strong. Lean on each other. And keep going forward.
Reach out to Fresno Unified School District board
(trustee name), 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721
August 23, at 5:30 pm for the Fresno Unified School Board meeting at
2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721 (3 min or less allowed per person)
During last week's school board meeting, time was reduced and I was unable to share my full remarks to Brooke Ashjian. I hope these may find their way to him and to those who share his beliefs. ~Jol
American hero Helen Keller said,“The highest result of education is tolerance.” Her quote, though universal in nature, seems particularly appropriate in light of recent public comments made by Board president Ashjian.
With 3 toxic sentences, this man has demonstrated without a doubt his unfitness to sit on this board, let alone preside over it.
On Monday Interim superintendent Bob Nelson released a statement on behalf of FUSD that appeared to repudiate his colleague’s statements. “Fresno Unified firmly believes that students and staff perform best in an environment where tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness are practiced and valued,” Mr. Nelson said.
This statement is in perfect alignment with the California education code , which cites the following aims of the California Healthy Youth Act:
“To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.
To promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.
To ensure pupils receive integrated, comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased sexual health and HIV prevention instruction and provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end, and To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors.”
Indeed, we have learned from the disastrous results of suppressing such information and keeping our young people in the dark that knowledge is power and healthy acceptance of the self is a human necessity.
Knowledge allows us human beings to assess risk in an informed way and to make judicious decisions that keep us from harm’s way.
Likewise, healthy attitudes allow us to develop the self-esteem that allows us to thrive in the world, to believe in ourselves, and to respect and care for ourselves, which is a prerequisite of respecting and caring for others.
When, as a society, we fail to arm our kids with the scientific knowledge that they need in order to navigate the perils of this world, we set them up for failure in life. Ignorance leads to bad life choices. Education, which is meant to dispel ignorance, allows us to make the best possible choices.
When we, as a society, fail to instill a positive self image in our children, we set them up for a lifetime of low self-esteem, which leads to every type of antisocial behavior.
In the words of another beloved American icon and survivor of societal discrimination, Ru Paul, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a bit of my personal experience. I grew up in Fresno and have recently returned here after 25 years away.
For years my attitude regarding Fresno was that it was a cultural wasteland that seemed to take delight in smashing anybody who was in any way different from quote-unquote “normal”. I’d hoped things might have changed, that Fresno might have come into step with the rest of the country in its acceptance of the LGBT community, but Mr. Ashjian’s comments the other day came as a disillusioning slap in the face and a reminder that the climate of hate is still burning our city’s most vulnerable people.
In order to become who I am today--a proud member of the LGBTQ etc. community--I had to leave this town, finish my education elsewhere, and live in the world, where I could bear witness to the lives of all sorts of
people and walk in their proverbial shoes. I would hope that no kid growing up here in this day and age should ever have to feel that way, or be made to feel inferior because of their sexuality or gender or any other distinguishing trait that sets them apart from the “norm.” But Mr. Ashjian’s hurtful comments show me we still have a long way to go.
Let me tell you how I know Mr. Ashjian is wrong in his assumption that keeping kids ignorant adds value to an individual’s life or to our society.
Despite 13 years of private Catholic schooling, during which I absorbed more judeo-Christian philosophies than a nun could shake a ruler at; and
despite attending church on a weekly basis with my family from infancy to adulthood; despite receiving all of the church’s sacraments and my own family’s teachings on right and wrong; despite growing up without the Internet or the hundreds of channels of cable television kids today have; despite coming of age during the first horrific appearance of AIDS on the world stage; despite the images of gay men wasting and dying hideous and horrible deaths, and despite the myriad ‘80s televangelists, and teachers, and priests explaining this new plague as God’s judgment on the “gay lifestyle”, despite the Reagan administration’s official silence about the epidemic and unofficial laughter over it; despite my being a high-ranking Boy Scout and even an altar boy, despite having no friends or acquaintances who were gay or trans or queer in any way, my very nature, all by itself, was swaying me to “go that way” that Mr. Ashjian is so afraid of.
Ken Mackie continues to be an adversary of Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian. The Merced-based attorney represents a group called Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding (FWEB). Or at least Mackie represented a group called that until Wednesday night (August 9).
As their name implies, the watchdog group, through Mackie, have been vocal critics of Ashjian’s business practices. They question whether he influenced any construction-contract votes during his tenure on the school board. Mackie first spoke to the school board questioning a contract in March 2016.
But a group linked to Ashjian is now making a claim on the name. A Sacramento attorney says that the name Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding is now under trademark and Mackie is no longer able to say he represents them.
“This letter is to notify you that my client has acquired a common law trademark in the name “Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding,” the cease and desist letter from Terry J. Martin of the firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP reads. “We demand that you immediately cease using the name.” The name of the client is not identified in the letter.
This does not neccesarily mean that this Ashjian opposition group must cease activities. They just might have to go by a different name.
The implications of this action bother Mackie. “They could wind up sending information about Mr. Ashjian to Mr. Ashjian, so that’s obviously a concern,” Mackie says. He is also concerned that potential donations would be diverted to an unintended source. He tells GV Wire he will consider fighting the trademark on behalf of his client.
Mackie tells GV Wire that he is unaware of anyone taking the steps to register FWEB as a trademark. However, there is a move in process to incorporate a group with that name as a non-profit.
According to the registration filed with the California Secretary of State’s office, the business address is 4237 W. Swift Ave. in Fresno. That is the same address of Seal Rite Paving & Grading, of which Ashjian serves as CEO. The Agent of Service of Process is Martin (it is not uncommon for an attorney to be listed in this capacity). However, Ashjian’s own name does not appear in the cease and desist letter nor the registration documents.
“It kind of begs the point that this other non-profit group traces back to his business address. Assuming it is him, why is he trying to usurp the name? Is it a way to try to shut me down? If so, it’s not going to work,” Mackie tells GV Wire.
While Ashjian was not available for comment for this story, his spokesman Alex Tavilan did speak. “Mr. Mackie is misrepresenting the Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding. The cease and desist letter speaks for itself,” Tavilan said. “Mackie needs to re-evaluate the strategy of pestering a board member.”
There remains an air of mystery regarding who the original FWEB group is. Mackie has cited attorney-client privilege from revealing who is behind the group to either Ashjian or the media. Any guess who is behind the group is just speculation. “All I can say is it is one or more individuals,” Mackie said.
As to why the registration address came back to Seal Rite? Tavilan did not have direct knowledge of this, but did concede it is possible. “We want to know who Mackie’s clients are. Who’s paying him and why?” Tavilan asks.
Mackie also filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission last October, alleging Ashjian failed to report numerous sources of income and has voted in violation of conflict of interest statues. FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga says the case is still open.
Appearing at the Fresno Unified School Board meeting on Wednesday, Mackie was one of 15 members of public to chime in on Ashjian’s recent LGBT comments made in the Fresno Bee. As Mackie stepped to the podium, a bespectacled man in a sports coat handed him a letter.
“This is for you,” said the man, who turned out to be Tavilan.
Mackie briefly delayed his presentation while he studied what has handed to him. “Forgive the pause. I was just handed a letter insisting I cease and desist using the name Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding. I will not be able to address that,” he said before addressing the board.
Twenty-five seconds after Mackie started, Ashjian interrupted Mackie after the first utterance of FWEB. “Mr. Mackie, you do not represent that group. We have…you have a cease and desist letter,” Ashjian said. After a brief back and forth, Mackie continued his thoughts on Ashjian and the LGBT comments.
Mackie says he will evaluate his options on challenging any trademark.
Though it currently cannot be verified that Ashjian filed the articles of incorporation himself, documentation identifying the officers and directors of this group must be filed with the Secretary of State by October 18.
Drew Phelps contributed to this story. Illustration: Hannah Reilly
As appeared in GVWire.
In response to the Human Rights Campaign's request, it contained one word "No."
A Change.org petition had more than 400 signatures as of Friday, asking that Ashjian be removed from the school board.
LGBT advocates in Fresno demanded an apology from Ashjian for those statements at a school board meeting on Wednesday, where some of his fellow trustees also took issue with his viewpoints.
The board was informed Wednesday of past allegations of anti-LGBT comments made by Ashjian, in addition to his contributions to Proposition 8 – a 2008 measure that aimed to ban same-sex marriage.
According to a deposition from a 2011 libel lawsuit Ashjian was involved in, derogatory comments made about the organization Gay Fresno were tracked to a computer at his home. In the deposition, Ashjian admits to posting comments about Gay Fresno to a website called Ripoffreport.com, but says he can’t recall what he posted. The attorneys in the deposition claim that only three comments were made about Gay Fresno on the website – all anonymously.
The comments say Gay Fresno is run by “pimps in disguise” and “they stole my money, my dignity and my virginity. These people are evil.”
The comments were posted after Gay Fresno added Ashjian’s businesses to a list of companies that should be boycotted for supporting Proposition 8. Gay Fresno changed its name to LGBT Fresno – in part due to the comments posted on Ripoffreport.com.
“It’s just another example of why he is unfit to be in charge of a school district,” Jason Scott, president of LGBT Fresno, said Thursday. “He’s setting a very poor example for students.”
HT: The Fresno Bee
Tonight I attended a Fresno Unified School District Board Meeting as a volunteer for LGBT Fresno. At one point I was handing out rainbow ribbons for LGBT supporters to wear and accepting donations for the organization. I was approached by a Mr. Chavez who said his attorneys said I wasn't allowed to do that. Not knowing which side of the issue of, LGBT inclusion is sex education, he represented, I agreed to take my donation bin outside. I was disappointed because I missed the second half of Jason's interview. When I came back in I found myself standing near Mr. Chavez and Brooke Ashjian talking to each other.
Early in the meeting I thought I saw Ashjian's horns start to show. Lol! Just a little joke about Mormons that the their religious competition the born again Christians believe. Is that funny? No. Well neither are Ashjian's false and derogatory comments about Gay Fresno, the organization I have been volunteering with for the past 7 years. Brooke Ashjian told the website rip off reports that Gay Fresno raped him and made him into a sex slave. Ricky Martin, Cher, Lady Gaga give me strength. The only person who spoke on Ashjian's behalf was illogical, uneducated, and a liar, just like Ashjian himself. Ashjian has already been sued and lost a lawsuit against a construction company that he also made false remarks about.
Ashjian said that with the decline of religion they don't get first crack at their children. Why don't Mormons ever look within for why religion is declining instead of constantly creating the gay scapegoat. The lie perpetuated by Mormon and Catholic clergy is that homosexuals are child molestors. Actually religious people are getting first crack at children, hence the hellacious amount of money the Catholic church has had to pay their victims of child molestation. That was not caused by gay people who somehow made it into the priesthood.
Maybe the reason the Mormon religion is declining is because heterosexual people who are taught about having intercourse in school are considered the norm when they have premarital sex or do drugs/alcohol. If they enter their bishops office and decide to serve an lds mission they can. Homosexuals on the other hand are not allowed to have sex and serve missions or be members. Rampant hypocrisy is the fountain of dirty water that erodes the Mormon church. Why do they keep saying that they love us when they don't accept us and are constantly judgemental towards us? Love does not judge. And love definitely does not force gay youth or adults into gay change therapy, a sadistic practice by the religious right that has included electroshocking their victims to death.
Please be legal and ethical and include LGBT people in sex education, so as someone else said, we don't end up finding out about it from a stranger, we don't put ourselves at risk for contracting HIV, and last but not least we don't commit suicide because we feel shame about our sexuality.
*Please join us tonight & share* Your chance to speak or be seen as a supporter of LGBT youth in Fresno County. Today, August 9th at 5:30pm-6:30pm, Fresno Unified School District Board meeting: 2309 Tulare St, Second Floor, Fresno, CA. Public comments will happen around 6pm, volunteers from LGBT Fresno will be on site to provide rainbow ribbons to show your support, even if you choose not to speak. If you are unable to attend in person, you may email the board and view online at the links below.
If you would like to make a public statement to the school board, and we encourage you to do so, attend the next regular meeting this Wednesday, August 9th at 5:30pm at the district headquarters. Public comments begin after section A of the agenda. You must sign up at the table outside of the room entrance to be called upon to speak. There is no cut off time to sign up, but must be done before public comments start.
PLEASE NOTE: PARKING WILL BE AVAILABLE AFTER 5:00 P.M. AT THE “N” STREET PARKING PAVILION LOCATED ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF TULARE AND “N” STREETS – ENTRANCE IS ON “N” STREET. Also, the City of Fresno will not enforce the street meters in this area after 6:00 p.m.
In the August 4th edition of The Fresno Bee, Fresno Unified school board president, Brooke Ashjian stated:
“We didn’t want someone else teaching our kids about morality, and what was right and what was wrong,” he said. “That’s the role of a father and mother: You bring a child into the world and you talk to them about things that matter. With society going away from church – whatever church that is – you’re not getting the first crack at that kid. Somebody else is. And that’s a problem.”
A Mormon and a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, Ashjian says Fresno Unified will follow the law, but he is blunt about his personal beliefs regarding some of the lessons now mandated in schools, including teaching LGBT-inclusive sex education.
“My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way,” Ashjian said. “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”
If you would like to make a public statement to the school board, and we encourage you to do so, attend the next regular meeting this Wednesday, August 9th at 5:30pm at the district headquarters. Public comments begin after section A of the agenda. You must sign up at the table outside of the room entrance to be called upon to speak. There is no cut off time to sign up, but must be done before public comments start.
PLEASE NOTE: PARKING WILL BE AVAILABLE AFTER 5:00 P.M. AT THE “N” STREET PARKING PAVILION LOCATED ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF TULARE AND “N” STREETS – ENTRANCE IS ON “N” STREET. Also, the City of Fresno will not enforce the street meters in this area after 6:00 p.m.
Art is relevant in Fresno because this community needs it, the freedom to create is such a beautiful thing and sometimes it's all people have, I come from a community where training isn't likely because it's not practical to some people but passion I feel comes along way and a lot people I know have so much passion and heart to give to the arts, especially the younger generations. It's therapeutic for most of us.
A Fresno native may or may not realize the volume of art that is produced here, not to mention the artists who come out of Fresno and the surrounding areas. Some household names include Audra McDonald and Chris Colfer who have appeared onstage and onscreen, among several other talented individuals who call the Central Valley their home. Many artists start off young in capacities such as the Good Company Players Junior Company or at Bullard TALENT K-8 School. Some youth do theatre during high school and find a way to the community theatre stage. We see generations of artists come out of the valley in waves, going to schools known for their strength in the arts as well as artists who move to metropolitan areas to live their dream. Michael Flores, known as “Michael Christopher” as a choreographer, is a Madera native who has been a prolific part of theatre and the arts in the valley for the past few years, and is quickly growing a following through his artful and intellectual dance videos.
I have been involved in the arts in valley for only about 4 years, since I graduated high school in Madera. I had no idea what community theatre was because I only did the shows at my high school but when I graduated and discovered this community of people that loved the arts as much as I did I suddenly fell in love with the passion each person had toward theatre and performing. It wasn't until In The Heights at the Selma Arts Center where I had that chance to show what I can do creatively. I was trusted and I felt honored to put on a show so many people cared about.
While dance is Michael’s true passion, musical theatre and performance has given him a space to do and create what he loves. In addition to choreographing for the stage, Michael has also turned to the screen to market his work and share his art. A couple years ago, Michael began choreographing dances, then putting them into a short-film format to tell a story. Some videos are inspired by a piece of art, music, or pop culture, while others are modeled after politics and personal experience.
The choreography videos are a personal thing to me if I am going through something emotionally I get through it by visually creating what's happening in my mind, I am in love with not just Dance but makeup, costumes, and pretty much anything with production value and I really try to make them a production because that's what I do… My favorite project I've worked on would have to be the Pacify Her Movement Piece which a lot people refer to as the "blue boy video" so many people related to the video which is truly best part! When you touch someone else through your work makes it a little more worth it. Most people don't know that the video was about me and a situation I was in, so when other people relate to the story it kinda makes me feel not so alone. Of course the actors and dancers were amazing emoting all of this, I seriously have some talented friends that make this all possible.
Flores has created a style and nuance through his work. Many of his pieces feature brightly colored paint and technical yet pedestrian choreography. His work highlights local performers who are familiar to the Good Company Players, Stageworks Fresno, and Selma Arts Center stages, so the performers may be familiar to his audience as well. Michael’s pieces have not only created an extensive portfolio for his choreography projects, but also to highlight the talents of local performers and provide them with experience in the field. Despite the immense talent of himself and the performers that Michael works with, he constantly pushes his performers to improve and do better until his vision is achieved.
I feel like almost every choreographer and dancer should take an acting class. It's crucial in Dance, especially contemporary and lyrical where storytelling through the music is pivotal in the style. More depth needs to come out instead of having two emotions (happy and sad). A dancer is a story teller and acting is so important to me that I want to see the dancer go through all of the emotions the song, putting them in with honesty and coming from a real genuine place. I try every time for my choreography to come from that place, real moments so that the audience can truly connect with your work. My biggest fear is being in-genuine.
Michael’s work has heart. There is depth behind all his projects whether they be a musical-theatre inspired piece or a personal soliloquy through dance. Michael’s projects are anything but in-genuine, and the valley needs to see more true art such as his.
I would like to affect my community by promoting how we can be vulnerable and express our feelings through art, sometime being "strong" is touching when someone has overcome something and I think showing that struggle and making it empowering through art is beautiful.
Support the arts, love each other and be kind.
Keep up with Michael Christopher Flores on social media via Instagram @michaelchristopher17000 and on YouTube – Michael Christopher.
I think we all can agree that this last presidential election was quite the roller coaster. It was exciting, stimulating, and oh so angering at times. Despite feeling like we were a part of some lame reality television show exposing our most embarrassing family dysfunctions and secrets, I don't think any of us ever thought it would actually continue. Then there it was, The apocalypse. I remember being at work that Tuesday evening of the election taking customer calls from all over the U.S. I was respectful and pleasant to all the Trump supporters calling in never the while thinking they would actually be the ones to pop open those bottles of bubbly. After my shift still hopeful i get home , turn on the television, and there it was. They announced Donald Trump as the new president. I sat there with my mouth wide open, tears streaming down my face, heart cracking and shattering to a million little pieces dropping into my sickened belly. Speechless.
Facebook friends had been slowly creeping out of the Trump supporting closet and some were LGBT! Sure he held a rainbow flag at one of his rallies and gave some sad lip service and awkwardly vomited out the letters LGBTQ, but really who believed or trusted any of it?
Then there were the christian friends beginning to post anti homosexual propaganda and hail Mike Pence as some holy man of God. Here we go again trying to merge church and state and dictate. Now we know this man is no friend of our LGBT family nor does he want us to have any normal decent human being rights. Yet some within our family and community are supporting him? Even some of our "allies". All the disgusting behavior we witnessed first hand of Trump, all the racism and negativity surrounding him, and all his cabinet picks really said a lot! I know I am not alone in feeling this was very reminiscent to what I remember of the whole Prop 8 debacle.
Everywhere you looked and mostly in Northern Fresno were those damn yellow Yes on 8 signs.
I remember feeling too scared to even have a rainbow sticker on my car during this time because who knew what would happen. Just like in these Trump days people back then were more than happy to jump on the hate bandwagon. Together they felt comfortable to display their ignorance, hate, and bigotry. We were dissected down to be only a representation of sex and ignored for the red beating hearts and souls we are deep down.
I remember driving in Atwater at the five corners seeing Yes on 8 protesters with their signs and immediately went to the store with my best friend to make our own. We went back to that corner this time on foot with No on 8 signs.
I will never forget the lady there that was against my rights looking at me slightly confused and delighted when I showed her nothing but respect and kindness in our conversation despite our obvious disagreement. I only hope that that moment made her think twice about how she judges and views us. Yes we were also met by trucks of men screaming at us calling us fags and dykes but guess what? We were also met by others who were encouraged by just us two No on 8 girls in the midst of that Yes group who were empowered to make their own noise and signs as well.
Now we are able to be happily married and some of us sure jumped on it after this election. I married the love of my life and many others did too. Everywhere you looked many of the LGBT community were saying I do and it was no coincidence it was before this man got into the office officially.
I'll be completely honest and I know I'm not alone in this, I became quite depressed and really felt knocked down by this election, but it's time to get back up.
I want to say also that I in no way compare my pain and sorrows to those who paved the way and really truly fought the good fight. Those fighters and activists who with their blood sweat and tears made it even possible for any of us LGBT to have the rights we deserve.
Gay Central Valley officially formed as a nonprofit in January of 2009. Prior to that, we were a group of Central Valley websites run by volunteers from their homes. Once we were granted official 501c3 status by the IRS, Gay Central Valley forged ahead with a force, opening the first LGBT Community Center in Fresno in 20 years as one of our first projects. The Community Center opened officially in January of 2010 and has been going strong ever since.
Led by Chris Jarvis, a veteran LGBT rights activist, Gay Central Valley has faced an uphill battle from the start. Issues such as funding, staffing, volunteer / leadership changes and our ongoing philosophy of an all-volunteer organization (where no one receives compensation and all money raised is funneled back into the community) presented ongoing challenges.
Keeping a community center open to the public for 5-6 days a week for seven years is a massive accomplishment in itself. But we didn't stop there; we have done so much more. From countless outreach events, over a hundred support group meetings, and spearheading unique projects like the first ever Central Valley Transgender Clothing Closet and the international awareness program The Rainbow Delegation, Gay Central Valley continued to expand itself to match the ever changing needs of the Fresno LGBT community.
Running a community center with a 24 hour phone line, supporting and mentoring another center in a city an hour away, creating and providing social and political events and actions, participating and partnering with other organizations, publishing and updating websites and blogs, training others in cultural competency, and hosting the most successful one day LGBT fundraiser in Fresno history (NO H8 2012) has been both an honor and a privilege.
We have been successful year after year. Board members and volunteer staffs have come and gone, but through all the changes and the challenges, we've persevered. Our primary foundation has been to serve the LGBT community.
Now, we're announcing a change.
Gay Central Valley will be closing the Fresno LGBT Community Center as of August 1st, 2017. The organization itself will cease operations by the end of the year.
StageWorks Fresno's production of The Full Monty has a lot to offer: great music, terrific singing voices, cute choreography, and pelvic thrusts. But what is most important was a network of love that transcended the boundaries of gay, straight, male, female, performer, and audience member. Today I heard some very unfortunate news, that Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington had committed suicide. In my opinion he was one of the best male vocalists of my generation. I went into this show feeling a little down and out, and looking for something. I wasn't sure what. I was like one of those emotional shoppers at the department store who was upset and unpredictable and not sure if I wanted flat front or pleated slacks. Only it wasn't slacks I was looking for. It was a man. Yes, I was looking for love in all the right places.
They grabbed my attention right away with a Chippendale dancer with a winning smile. Thank you for the tasty hors d'oeuvres, I thought. But where's the main course? It came as a two act 14 song musical that addressed themes of masculinity, insecurity, and ironically suicide. The suicidal character, who happened to be gay, was rescued from his car, that had a tube from the exhaust pipe coming through the window, by two straight best friends, Jerry and Dave, that he worked with. The first type of love we saw was unconditional. These two men showed him a type of friendship that would help him regardless if he was going to kill himself or choose to live. Finally having friends in his life, he chooses life over death. This was the character I fell in love with, Malcolm McGregor, played by Dominic Grijalva. Not only was he the best dancer and had strong vocal and acting technique. He was by all means the most excited of an extremely excited group of actors.
Notable were the songs performed by Jams Schott as Jerry Lukowski. His artistic choices in the form of jazzy vocal riffs really impressed me. Horse's song was a fun and testosterone filled eclectic celebration that reminded me of many of the great black men that have been in my life. I try to leave my personal biases out of the shows I watch. However in this space, the Clovis North HS Dan Pessano Theater, and on this day July 20, 2017, it was impossible. With such an intimate show, The Full Monty, we are uplifted by the love we have between husband and wife, father and son, friends and lovers. And once again I renew myself by saying like Malcolm, I choose life! I hope you do too. So gay guys, grab your best straight, and head over to see the Full Monty.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris released the following statement on the President’s decision to remove all transgender individuals from serving in the military:
“The President’s decision to force transgender individuals out of the military is discriminatory, wrong, and un-American. We should not punish or turn away courageous people who are willing to risk their lives to serve our country—we should embrace them.
“The President’s claim that the service of transgender people impacts military readiness is not backed up by facts, nor is it publicly supported by our military leadership. Removing thousands of transgender individuals currently serving would damage our security and make it more difficult to recruit the best possible fighting force going forward. Indeed, Secretary Mattis recently reaffirmed that all service members should be treated with dignity and respect. The White House is playing politics with our national security, plain and simple.
“As we mark the anniversary today of the desegregation of our armed forces, I stand with our transgender service members and all those who selflessly defend our country.”
When we were in St. Petersburg, Florida earlier this month we visited The Florida Holocaust Museum which is one of the largest such museums in the country. This year they are celebrating their 25th Anniversary.
Their permanent exhibit, “History, Heritage and Hope” is on the first floor and features original artifacts, videos and photos. It deals not only with antisemitism but also with other victim groups. The Nazis classified not only Jews as ‘the enemy” but also included Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Afro-Germans as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Homosexuals.
The centerpiece of the museum collection is an actual train box car that transported victims of the Nazi regime to the concentration camps. It rests upon original track from the Treblinka Killing Center as a silent tribute to those who perished on the Holocaust. Seeing this is a VERY daunting and somber experience. Just to think of all the hatred in the world both in history and in today’s world as well ! Everyone claiming to be a right wing Christian and or ‘born again Christian needs to visit this museum as well as everyone else in the country! You will walk away with a new appreciation toward life. The 2nd and 3rd floor has changing exhibits of art and history.
Besides having artifacts, photos, exhibits, etc. the museum also runs several programs of outreach within the community with the aim of continuing their mission of human rights. To put it simple...... they are an excellent and outstanding organization.
They are now having a very special exhibit: NAZI PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS – 1933-1945. Between 1933 and 1945, 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code dating back to 1871. Some were imprisoned, others were sent to concentration camps. Of the latter, only about 4,000 survived. In 2000, fewer than 10 of these men were known to be living. The exhibit is full of LGBT history with stories, photos and artifacts.
Five of the survivors came forward in a documentary to tell their stories for the first time, considered to be among the last untold stores of the Third Reich. The documentary, “PARAGRAPH 175” tells of a gap in the historical record and reveals the lasting consequences, as told through personal stories of gay men and women who lived through it. including Karl Gorath, Gad Beck, the half-Jewish resistance fighter who spent the war helping refugees escape Berlin, Annette Eick, a Jewish lesbian who escaped to England with the help of a woman she loved; Albrecht Becker, German Christian photographer who was arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality, then joined the army on his release and Pierre Seel, the Alsatian teenager who watched as his lover was eaten alive by dogs in the camps. If you REALLY want to read a heart wrenching story, just ‘Google’ Perre Seel, actually ‘Google’ all of these people.
The Museum is located in downtown St. Petersburg at 55 Fifth Street South and their hours daily are 10 AM to 5 PM. You can call them at 727.820.0100 or visit their websites: www.thefhm.org or https://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/
We want to thank Kristen Wright at the Museum for her assistance.
We dedicate this travel column to Siegbert “Siggi” Wilzig, (1926-2003) who was a Holocaust survivor and the Father of Sir Ivan, Sherry Izak and Alan Wilzig and the husband of our dear friend Naomi Wilzig,(1934-2015),
Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married).
The opposition to black and brown stripes being added to the Pride Flag is an almost poetic metaphor for the discrimination LGBTQ+ people of color face on a daily basis. One would think, being part of a marginalized community, broader inclusivity and intersectionality would be a given, but that is not always the case. As demonstrated with the mixed reactions to Philadelphia’s unveiling of a redesigned pride flag at a Pride Month kick-off event this past June, one that included brown and black stripes to represent our black and brown LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters (Coleman, 2017).
The most prominent arguments I’ve seen against this inclusion of the two additional colors are as follows:
1) Race is not a sexual orientation.
My counter to this argument is: technically, transgenderism is not a sexual orientation either. It’s a gender identity and despite what some people think, gender identity and sexual orientation are not mutually inclusive. And if you want to delve into semantics, none of the colors on the flag represent sexual orientation or gender identity specifically.
2) The colors of the rainbow pride flag are already all inclusive.
While I cannot argue that, the decision to alter the flag in such a way is more of a symbol than anything else. A symbol like the one Gilbert Baker created in 1978. Does the name or the year ring a bell? That was when Baker created what is lovingly revered as the symbol for gay pride today.
Prior to the creation of the rainbow flag, the symbol for the gay rights movement and pride was the pink triangle (Morgan, 2017). An image that was reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community from the Nazi regime during World War II. The identifying badge for homosexuals, persecuted by the SS and sent to concentration camps, was a pink triangle, inverted as a means of “warning”. You know, like a traffic sign. Inverted pink triangles warned of homosexuality, as well as sexual offenders like rapists, pedophiles, and zoophiles (Plant, 1988).
Understandably, Baker elected to go with a more hopeful symbol for the gay rights movement, one that wasn’t tied to such a dark and dehumanizing past. Thus the idea for the rainbow flag was born, picking specific colors to represent the togetherness of the LGBTQ+ community. Because LGBTQ+ people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors themselves (Morgan, 2017). It originally came with two colors that are no longer included. So, we know there’s always been room for more colors.
The reality of the situation is, we should be actively inviting and opening our arms to our black and brown LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. They have to deal with a double whammy of discrimination. People of color have to deal with, not only the overt and/or subtle racism they face for their skin color on a regular basis, but also the discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity. And not only just by white bigots, but by people in their own communities as well.
Now this is not an attempt at validating a stereotype that communities of color are more homophobic than white communities. Because the reality is, a lot of these prejudices tend to stem from a form of classism and the way religion is used to quell the masses in order to prevent revolution because of economic and social inequities. That is its own piece and I shall refrain from delving deeper here. But what I am saying is, I don’t believe communities of color are any more or any less homophobic than white communities. It is subjective and dependent on things like personal belief systems and access to education.
What the additional stripes provide is a symbol. We all need symbols. Symbols like the White House lighting up in rainbow colors when gay marriage was legalized statewide. We all need the inclusion these symbols can provide. Right now, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2016, people of color comprise approximately 40% of the LGBTQ+ population in the US (Gates, 2017). And yet they are the least represented in media.
Don’t get me wrong, that continues to improve. With characters like Jamal Lyon on Empire, Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black, Raymond Holt on Brooklyn 99, Lionel Higgins on Dear White People, Amanita and Lito on Sense8, Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder; we are slowly and surely bringing some representation of LGBTQ+ people of color to the forefront of the average television viewer’s living room. But when you take into consideration just how many television shows exist presently, that is such a tiny fraction. The list I just provided isn’t the entirety of POC LGBTQ+ characters in media, but the full list isn’t much longer.
Intersectionality has been something that the LGBTQ+ community has struggled with, like any culture or subculture with a dominating class or race. I recall how significant it was when the television show Queer as Folk premiered on Showtime almost twenty years ago. It was the first American television show of its kind. A show built around the lives of five gay men and two lesbians in Pittsburgh, none of which were dying of AIDS. But more problematic than some of the stereotypes it played into, was the fact that all of the characters were white.
The black and brown stripes on this redesigned flag are symbolic of trying to move forward into a more intersectional community. While it does not fix the core issue of the discrimination LGBTQ+ POC face in their everyday lives, if we actively demonstrate that they have a safe haven in their local LGBTQ+ community, perhaps we can better tackle the issues that we all face. Black and brown lives matter, and instead of ostracizing our brothers and sisters who differ from us ethnically, we should embrace and support them.
Does it fix the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people of color face within other and their own communities? No. But it has the potential of being a good place to start. Now I’m not so naïve to believe that racism is an easy fix. Nor am I so narcissistic to believe that one op-ed written by a white cisgender female is going to unite all of us, despite Hollywood’s propensity for telling stories of POC from the perspective of the white savior.
The thing is, I don’t understand why there is any outrage over this revised flag. There are a plethora of individualized pride flags already within the community. From the variations of pride flags for the different sexualities and gender identities, to flags for specific communities, like Bears and BDSM. If we can embrace these different flags within our community, I truly don’t understand the reticence or refusal to accept what is just another symbol of inclusivity for all of us.
At this point, if you disagree with amending our Pride flag (which is within your right, first amendment and all that); if you are genuinely angry about the revision, for whatever reason you state that makes your anger seem righteous as opposed to bigoted, it’s my first amendment right to say you are part of the problem. Embracing these additional colors to our pride flag is a metaphor for embracing the people they represent and if you have a problem with that, well… the problem isn’t the flag, is it?
Let’s rewind to the night of the November 8th- I sat with my family in front of my mom’s big screen TV, excitedly waiting for the results that would announce the new leader of our free world. I won’t go into details of the battlefield my mind had endured when casting my ballot, but I can assure you, my vote was not one for Trump. Near the end of the night, with a nerve wrecking close race, I felt sick to my stomach and our exciting night came to an end as we solemnly parted ways. We had decided that we could no longer watch the race. I walked through my front door and made a bee line for my couch, where I fell into an emotionally exhausted slumber. I woke up at around 3am and frantically searched for my phone so that I could check the election results, and to my disgust, I saw that Donald Trump was our newly elected President. It felt unreal. Nobody saw it coming. I wrestled with my own mind for hours, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Why was this so terrifying? Why was I so worried? This was more than just a political party race- but from distress, my mind couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
For the next few months, until the date of his inauguration, I analyzed the campaign promises Donald Trump had made. While his general rhetoric was repetitively explaining that he was for LGBT rights, he had a troubling past of supporting “traditional marriage” and his choice for Vice President was an LGBT enemy. Mike Pence supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, fought marriage equality on the grounds of “religious freedom” and believed in conversion therapy, among other anti-gay beliefs. America has an infamous past of poor treatment to those of LGBTQ identities, and this election created a path back to historical times of LGBTQ hell. I feared that the work of the LGBTQ community, and those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, would be erased.
That fear is becoming a reality. Just hours after the inauguration earlier this year, the Trump administration had scrubbed the white house website of the LGBT page. This page is still available on the archived Barack Obama version on whitehouse.gov, however, was not deemed of importance to keep during the Trump administration, along with other pages such as the climate change page, civil rights page, and Spanish translation option. This was only table setting for the year and changes to come.
By January 31st, a leaked draft of the anti-LGBTQ executive order is received with a protest at the historic Stonewall National Monument. The Trump administration denied that it was an order that was considered by Trump, but that doesn’t stop the panic. “Inside sources” then reveal that he was in fact considering signing this order, that eerily resembled the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that Trump had promised to sign during his campaign. However, his daughter Ivanka and son in law Jared intervened, and it was not signed.
Then came along Betsy DeVos, whom for many reasons, I do not support. Her history of ties and donations to anti-LGBTQ groups being one of them. The lack of representation and sexual education for the LGBTQ children was already a concern, and suddenly we were going to have to fear discrimination on our children in public schools that would be allowed by the education system. If Betsy wasn’t enough, we then got Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, who has been called “a lifelong opponent of the civil rights of LGBT people, people of color, women and immigrants” by Lambda Legal Executive Director Rachel Tiven.
From surges in hate groups, the revoking of the equal access to bathrooms for transgender students, to President Trump signing an executive order that revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, my worst nightmares were coming true. The progress that those before us fought and died for, was being washed away. We were even removed from the drafted 2020 U.S. census, where the Department of Commerce said that including the LGBTQ Americans was an error, because there was no need for this data. We had moved forward so much, only to have our inclusions become errors, as we were not necessary.
Another troublesome issue- the White House along with the Trump Administration, refused to acknowledge or declare June as pride month. Although he isn’t the first sitting president to refuse to do so, he is the first who vehemently defends himself as an LGBT ally who refused to. Actions speak louder than those campaign lies, and we can all see the truth clearly now.
The hits just keep coming, as we battle with the supreme court about Transgender Bathroom Laws and Discrimination cases, that question whether a business can discriminate because of their religious beliefs. When speaking with a friend, she expresses her concerns by stating “There's been a definite increase in discrimination. It's essentially given people the "go ahead" to say things that, I feel, they would not have said before Trump was president. Especially here in Fresno, let alone elsewhere. I'm afraid more for my friends who can't pass for straight, especially my trans friends.” Her concerns are not unfounded. In 2016, at least 22 deaths of transgender people due to fatal violence were tracked. So far in 2017, that number is already at 14 transgender people who were fatally shot or killed by other violence. She adds “The bathroom bills are already a slippery slope towards legal discrimination against trans people.” Although she identifies as a bisexual cis woman, she recognizes the dangers in her surrounding community, as do I.
Months after election night, and I’m starting to pinpoint the fear I felt. It’s the looming doom of oppression, and the preparation for battle. We fought for human rights, we fought for civil rights, we fought for freedom of expression and for personal autonomy. We fought so that people can be who they are without discrimination. We were so close, and now I feel we have an uphill battle to restore equality. My biggest fear is that we as the LGBTQ community became comfortable with the Obama administration. We need to connect with our communities and allies to be politically aware, and to be active in everything that we do. It is not trivial to prepare our fight, because we are already being stripped of rights. The increase in hate crimes for all minority groups is unacceptable, so we need to stay safe. Our community is most important right now, and we need to access and be aware of all the resources available. I am including some internet resources below this article. Check them out- and please- don’t give up hope and be safe!
To friends and family who voted for Donald Trump last year and remain silent about his continual behavior, or worse, still approve of his job as Commander in Chief, I ask a simple question: What will it take for you to say, “Enough is enough!”?
We knew what Donald Trump was about before the election. He openly incited violence at his bizarre rallies. He lied and spread misinformation throughout the primary and general election. His views of minorities and women were informed by fringe, extremist websites. He retweeted and encouraged neo-Nazis on Twitter. He challenged a primary opponents’ manhood during a policy disagreement on live television. He went after private citizens on Twitter, attacking their humanity. He praised dictators and commended their totalitarian actions. And, of course, his performance in every debate was absolutely embarrassing.
And you still voted for him.
I know, I know – you were most likely a “never Hillary” voter. Even though the fierce hatred of everything Hillary Rodham is a near-pathological condition of the American right founded on falsehoods and misogyny, I get it: she was “just another politician.” Even though I can’t convince you that your Hillary hatred is literally unfounded, you have every right to think she’s awful or “too liberal.” That’s okay – I still love you.
But you still voted for the racist, proudly ignorant candidate.
His bigotry wasn’t a deal-breaker for you. Rather than take a moral stand and cast your vote for a third-party or write-in candidate, you pulled the lever for a man who has never stopped degrading (or endangering) the American presidency since he arrived in January.
Even though it’s been difficult for me, I’ve chosen to chalk up your vote for the worst president in modern American history as a belief on your part that maybe he’d change or moderate his views once assuming the presidency. Perhaps you thought he was just joking or wasn’t serious. After all, I don’t associate with people who hold such repugnant views. “Don’t worry – he’ll straighten up when he gets there.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or only get your news from questionable sources) you’ll know that that has not been the case. If anything, he’s only gotten worse.
He’s continued to attack citizens and allies. His misogyny is just as strong today as it was when he was a dishonest playboy in 1980s Manhattan. Science and respect for norms are quickly being eradicated and replaced with policies that reek of authoritarianism and censorship. His administration is also full of shady connections to Russian oligarchs and to the Kremlin itself, connections that become clearer and more pronounced as time goes on.
Your response: Deafening silence...even support.
The hardest part of living in the Trump Regime has been your complacency with and/or support of the unprecedented ugliness and misinformation coming out of the West Wing. Your guy won and now he’s calling the shots...but he’s still horrible.
What will it take for him to cross the line? When will you stand and say, “This is absolutely unacceptable!”? Where is the line? Does he have to grope a woman on live TV instead of bragging about it? If someone you know and love had their family torn apart through deportation, would that make a difference? Maybe you’d change your tune if he said the N word or called someone a faggot. At least I’d like to think you’d change.
History will judge this president harshly. Children will learn about how insane and unmoored from any sense of decency Donald Trump was. They’ll think to themselves, “How could anyone have voted for this man?” His policies will be condemned for how they hurt millions of people, largely the poorest and most vulnerable. Will you be one of the tens of millions of Trump voters who stood by him without question or conviction? What does it say about you if your answer is anything but “no”?
This isn’t meant to bash anyone over the head. Rather, it’s something I must get off my chest. I know and love some incredible people; I’d hate to discover that any of them hold Trumpian values or find nothing wrong with his abhorrent behavior. If they do, we’ve got a problem.
Despite all his fulminating about “fake news,” it appears that our President-whose definition of‘fake” is any coverage (covfefe??) he doesn’t like—isn’t above generating some fakery of his own.
Remember Trump’s preening over his massive, multi-billion dollar "deal" with Saudi Arabia? Bruce Reidel of The Brookings Institution reports that no such deal exists.
Last month, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and his administration announced that he had concluded a $ 110 billion arms deal with the kingdom. Only problem is that there is no deal. It’s fake news.
I’ve spoken to contacts in the defense business and on the Hill, and all of them say the same thing:There is no $ 110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.
In my ethnic group, this is what we call chutzpah. (Chutzpah is sort of like nerve or gall, but on steroids.The standard example is the guy who kills his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.)
Chutzpah: (n) I. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. audacity; nerve.
It appears that the “Art of the Deal" braggart, the guy who"makes the best deals," lied through his teeth again, this time about a huge transaction that doesn’t exist-and to the extent it may exist in the future, it was initiated by his "Kenyan" predecessor. As Reidel also notes:
“Moreover, it’s unlikely that the Saudis could pay for a $ 110 billion deal any longer, due to low oil prices and the two-plus years old war in Yemen. President Obama sold the kingdom $ 112 billion in weapons over eight years, most of which was a single, huge deal in 2012 negotiated by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.To get that deal through Congressional approval,Gates also negotiated a deal with Israel to compensate the Israelis and preserve their qualitative edge over their Arab neighbors.With the fall in oil prices, the Saudis have struggled to meet their payments since.”
Reidel isn’t above snarke says we’ll know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for money to keep the Israeli Defense Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.
A deal that evidently is coming is a munitions sale to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which will enable the Saudis to continue air bombardment of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.
Finally, just as the arms deal is not what it was advertised, so is the much-hyped united Muslim campaign against terrorism. Instead, the Gulf states have turned on one of their own.SaudiArabia has orchestrated a campaign to isolate Qatar.SaudiArabia,the UAE,Bahrain, and Egypt broke relations with Qatar. Saudi allies like the Maldives and Yemen jumped on the bandwagon. Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar.
This is not the first such spat but it may be the most dangerous.The Saudis and their allies are eager to punish Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, for hosting Al- Jazeera, and keeping ties with Iran. Rather than a united front to contain Iran, the Riyadh summit’s outcome is exacerbating sectarian and political tensions in the region.
The Middle East has long been the world’s most dangerously unstable area. Now we have put management of the tensions generated there in the hands of the most dangerously unstable person ever to occupy America’s Oval Office-a man who has no ability to distinguish between reality and ego gratifying bullshit.
What could possibly go wrong?
The owner of Pulse nightclub in Orlando announced plans to build a permanent memorial and museum on the building’s grounds to honor the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Club owner Barbara Poma said the OnePulse Foundation would raise funds to go toward a memorial, community grants for survivors’ families,scholarships and a museum with artifacts and stories of that fatal day.
“We will not let hate win,” said Poma, who founded Pulse in 2004to honor her brother,who died of HIV/AIDS in 1991 ."We will ensure that no one of this generation and the generations to come will ever forget what happened here.” The Pulse shooter, Omar Mateen, was later killed by police.
The mass shooting brought an outpouring of support from around the world. Poma wants the memorial to be part of a "healing initiative” for victims’ families, survivors, and first responders. She had planned to sell the building to the city of Orlando to build a memorial on the site. However, she ultimately decided to lead the memorial construction herself and declined to sell to the city.
“I now know that my role is to ensure Pulse as a place of healing," she said. Earl Crittenden, the chairman of the OnePulse Foundation, said the charity is accepting donations on its new website to build an "iconic, meaningful” monument. He also announced the foundation’s board of trustees, which includes business executives as well as pop star Lance Bass and former NBA player Jason Collins.
Your hair is grayer than it was back then. You’ve both packed on pounds here and there,too. A few wrinkles surround your smiles,but that’s okay–you’re not fresh faced kids anymore. You’ve aged, you’ve softened and,in the new book “Transitioning Together” by Wenn & Beatrice Lawson,you’ve changed quite a bit.
Long before they met, Wendy and Beatrice had a lot in common: both came from families of similar sizes. Both had fathers that “didn’t have a head for figures” and mothers who ran the family businesses. Wendy and Beatrice are both on the autism spectrum.
The main difference: Wendy was a married woman.
They met one afternoon when Wendy, her husband, and their four children were living in the home of a “well-to-do” family that had just hired an au pair. The shy
young woman didn’t speak English and Wendy didn’t speak Swiss German, but when Wendy was asked to help the girl to settle in, Beatrice proved to be a quick study. She easily learned a new language and she and Wendy forged
a close friendship. Both seemed only a little surprised when that friendship turned into love.
Wendy, who’d had health issues most of her life, never considered falling in love with another woman, but it felt right. Beatrice had an inkling that she was a lesbian but she shunned the word, afraid that it would “be an embarrassment” to her family. Even so,she settled into a relationship which was tender, and fragile from the start.
Wendy and her family moved from England to Australia as her abusive marriage was crumbling. Beatrice was unable to make the move with her beloved, due to Australia’s
immigration laws.They ultimately figured out a way to be together physically; once Wendy’s divorce was final, they knew they’d be together legally as well.
But even after their wedding,Wendy wasn’t happy. Never comfortable in her body, she felt sure that something was missing,so she sought her “tribe” before understanding that she needed to transition to become the man he’d always known he was. And that was something Beatrice wasn’t sure she could handle...
From its very beginning, “Transitioning Together” is a tough read. There’s a lot of preliminary to wade through to get to the start of the actual story here,and then there’s a lot of confusing setup that identifies authors Wenn and Beatrice Lawson by their relative ages,rather than by name.While it’s helpful, later, to have a change in font to delineate who is weighing in,you might continue to be baffled by the semi-linear nature of what is mostly Mr. Lawson’s version.
Yes, tenacious readers who can bear with this dual memoir will get a double-edged peek at the emotional process of transitioning for both partners,through the added, unique perspectives of autism and age. That’s worth the patience - if you have it.Indeed,this book could be more for professionals than for anyone else; general audiences may enjoy “Transitioning Together,” but only by a hair.
I generally shy away from basing my blogs–or my own opinions, for that matter–on material from partisan sources. Trump and his enablers may accuse traditional
media of being “fake” or biased, but that’s a tactic, not an accurate description, so I try to limit my references to places like the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, etc.
But in the aftermath of Trump’s most recent–and arguably most breathtaking–departures from anything close to Presidential behavior/circumspection/sanity, I’m breaking my rule, and sharing a Daily Kos post that spoke to me–loudly and clearly.
The obstacles to Democratic control of Congress are not emotional, and emotions are not the answer. We don’t require more “enthusiasm.” We’re not lacking in progressive ideas and candidates, nor are we shy on appropriately moderate options.
We don’t need better explanations of our positions. We’re not even hurting for dough right now.
We need voters.
And our opponents have done a damn good job for decades of blocking our voters. Gerrymandering. Voter ID. Roll purges. Our problems are structural. And they will take a great deal of work to overcome.
As regular readers know, when it comes to the importance of social and political structures, I’ve been singing that song for a long time. The author of this post goes further than diagnosis, however.
He has a prescription for what ails us. Voter ID laws are unconstitutional poll taxes. That doesn’t get rid of them. The only way around them is to identify our voters and get them the IDs. We can’t just drive
them to the polls, we have to drive them to the DMV six months earlier. And, if they can’t afford the new poll tax, we have to find a way to pay for those cards for them.
We have to make sure they are registered, and stay registered through the coming postcard purges, calling long before Election Day, checking for them and helping them re-register if they get booted.
And, on Election Day, we have to have already built those relationships. The phone calls can’t be, “Hi, I’m blah blah blah from the blah blah blah campaign reminding you to blah blah blah.” They have to be, “Hi, Phyllis, it’s Ashley. What time do you want me to pick you up?”
Admittedly, this is a lot of work. It’s so much easier to post a scathing remark to Facebook, to share a particularly pointed comment or article, and then feel as if we’ve done our part.
We can continue to preach to our choirs, engage in handwringing with those who already agree with us, and who already vote–or we can do the hard work of identifyingn on-voters, registering them, making sure
they have what they need, and getting them to the polls.
Here’s the bottom line: there is only one way to save this country from the accelerating damage to our institutions and national defense (not to mention the
raping and pillaging that the Trumpers aren’t even bothering to hide). Democrats, scientists, moderate Republicans and all sane Americans must do two things
simultaneously: we must delay and obstruct as many of their legislative assaults as humanly possible; and we must ensure that 2018 will be a wave election that will oust the Trump enablers from the House and Senate.
If we fail–if we give in to “outrage fatigue,” rely on the Democratic party or Common Cause or the ACLU to act on our behalf, or simply tell ourselves we’re “too busy” to find and equip that non-voter, we will wake
up in January 2019 to a country we don’t recognize..,and definitely won’t like.
One of the most-popular live-streamed TV series in history, Orange is the New Black, premieres its fifth season June 9, and it promises to be a roller-coaster ride.
Taryn Manning (Pennsatucky) was rumored to be leaving the cast but then denied those rumors. Lori Petty's Whitehill is on her way to the psych ward though Petty has said she will be appearing.
Orange is the New Black’s cast has grown exponentially since season one, from a story about Piper to a study on the diverse characters cooped up in Litchfield Penitentiary. The series stars Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew, Laura Prepon, Laverne Cox, Dascha Polanco, Danielle Brooks, Selenis Leyva, Samira Wiley, Taryn Manning, Yael Stone, Jackie Cruz, Lea DeLaria, Adrienne C. Moore and Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Netflix has repeatedly said Orange is the New Black is its most-watched original series. The series has backed up that claimed with numerous awards over its first three seasons, including 12 Emmy nominations and three wins for season one alone. Season two earned four Emmy nominations, with Uzo Aduba winning for best supporting actress in a drama.
Season four of Orange is the New Black left things on a pretty brutal cliffhanger. The inmates of Litchfield are rioting and Daya has retrieved a guard's gun and is pointing it directly at Officer Humphrey. It's a good bet that season five begins exactly at that point since the cliffhanger between seasons one and two was resolved nearly immediately.