Gay Fresno - Opinion


Superintendent Nelson neglects to add agenda item for November meeting

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 06 November 2017 10:02
  • Written by Jason Scott


Superintendent Bob Nelson has failed to add our community's agenda item, again. We're asking that all who see the discrimination by the current school board president, the lack of progress on LGBT protections for our students and the silence by the board president and district to the attack suffered by an LGBT student just days ago, will turn out this Wednesday. The superintendent needs to see us and HEAR from us. Emails are great and we encourage them, but seeing our faces and demanding answers is what is needed at this time. The only way to allow the board to vote for a censure or a reorganization of the board is by the superintendent approving our request for a vote.

We encourage you to attend this upcoming school board meeting on Wednesday, November 8th at 5:30pm and voice your concern about this.

During the conversation, we were also informed that the LGBT community would be standing with Brooke Ashjian and the matter is behind us, this is incorrect. No agreement has been reached to back Mr Ashjian, but we are always willing to do whatever it takes to keep children and our community members safe. It is our desire to continue dialog between the LGBT community and Fresno Unified School District.

During the Oct 11th meeting a discussion item was added regarding President Ashjian's remarks and actions towards the LGBT community. Due to board policy we now need an "action" item for the board to take action on the community's request for a censure or reassignment of Brooke Ashjian to no longer be board president. Please join us in emailing Superintendant Nelson and attending the November 8th meeting where we hope to have this item on the agenda, finally. 

A group of more than 10 faith leaders requested it be added. Your support in attending would be greatly appreciated. We were appalled to hear the comments made by board president Brooke Ashjian equating the LGBT community to the horrendous actions by the Ottoman empire against Armenians.

We invite you all to show up on November 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm (earlier if you can) for the Fresno Unified School District board meeting at 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721.

You may also call, email or write (details below) Fresno Unified School District board trustees and request they join us in adding this agenda item to the upcoming meeting. Brooke Ashjian should be removed from the Fresno Unified School Board, as president. 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.

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Read more: Superintendent Nelson neglects to add agenda item for November meeting

Equality: it’s not always about wedding cake

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Thursday, 19 October 2017 09:17
  • Written by Sheila Suess Kennedy

rainbow cakeAs the Supreme Court prepares to take up one of the persistent "I won’t bake a cake for ‘those people’” cases, a friend asked me to explain the difference between a merchant who refused to do business with a Neo-Nazi group and one who refused to serve gays or Jews.

It’s an important distinction, but not an immediately intuitive one.

Civil rights laws were initially a response to businesses that refused to serve African- Americans-many of the proprietors claimed that their religious beliefs prohibited“mixing” the races (much as those refusing service to LGBTQ folks today base that refusal on religious teachings).Those civil rights measures-later expanded to protect other groups- were based upon an important principle that undergirds our legal system.

Our system is based upon the premise that your right to be treated like everyone else depends upon your behavior, not your identity.

As a result of that important distinction. I can post a sign saying"No shirt, no shoes, no service.” I cannot post a sign saying "No blacks, no Jews." I can "discriminate” between customers behaving properly,and those who are disruptive,are unwilling to pay, or are otherwise exhibiting behaviors that I believe are harmful to my ability to ply my trade.

I cannot discriminate based upon my customers’ race, religion, or-in states that have inclusive civil rights law-sexual orientation or gender identity.

The confusion between a merchant’s unwillingness to have her business associated with the KKK.for example, and unwillingness to serve LGBTQ customers is reminiscent of arguments raised when Indiana was (unsuccessfully) trying to add"four words and a comma”(sexual orientation, gender identity) to Indiana’s civil rights law, which still does not include protections for gays or transgender individuals.

During those arguments, opponents of the added protections asserted that"forcing” a business to serve gay customers would be indistinguishable from forcing a baker to make a cake with a swastika or forcing Muslim or Kosher butchers to sell pork.

That comparison, however, is fatally flawed.

If I go into a menswear shop and ask for a dress, am I being discriminated against when I’m informed the store doesn’t sell women’s clothes? Of course not.

Civil rights protections don’t require the baker who doesn’t bake swastika cakes, or the butcher who never sells pork to add those items to their inventory. Civil rights laws do keep the baker from refusing to sell the cakes he does make to “certain people.”

The kosher butcher doesn’t have to carry pork, but he can’t refuse to sell his kosher chickens and beef to Muslim or Christian customers, again, so
long as those customers can pay and are abiding by the generally applicable rules of the shop.

The distinction may not be immediately obvious, but it’s important.The essence of civil rights is the principle that you can be denied service for your chosen behaviors, not for your identity.

I hope that helps...

The Word by Sheila

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 02 October 2017 16:02
  • Written by Sheila Suess Kennedy

Well, I see where Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law is hosting a “news” show on Facebook, to give supporters the "real” scoop on the administration’s greatness... Since Trump’s vast accomplishments appear to have escaped the notice of credible journalism outlets, the family evidently felt the need to give the base a more flattering version of events in Washington.

This week, meanwhile, saw the debut of Trump TV: a Web-based broadcast of “real news” by Kayleigh McEnany, a pro-Trump pundit formerly of CNN.

In the first installment, she announces, in front of a Trump-Pence campaign backdrop in Trump Tower: "President Trump has created more than 1 million jobs... President Trump has clearly steered the economy back in the right direction... President Trump is finally putting the American worker first... President Trump is dedicated to honoring these men and women who fought valiantly for our country.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted: “Wow. Feels eerily like so many state-owned channels I’ve watched in other countries.”

Shades of Mike Pence...

Much more concerning, Jared Kushner recently revealed that before the election, the Trump campaign had made a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting (Fox News’ less-recognized Evil Twin):

Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks.

In exchange. Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary. Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.
“It’s math,” Kushner said according to multiple attendees.

Sinclair, a Maryland-based company, is a politically conservative network of local news outlets; it was the subject of a scathing take-down by John Oliver, on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight.

Local stations in the past have been directed to air “must run” stories produced by Sinclair’s Washington bureau that were generally critical of Obama administration and offered perspectives primarily from conservative think tanks. The Washington Post reported in 2014.

I’m sure it is merely coincidental (cough, cough), but following the election. Politico reported Sinclair Broadcast Group is expanding its conservative-leaning television empire into nearly three-quarters of American households — but its aggressive takeover of the airwaves wouldn’t have been possible without help from President Donald Trump’s chief at the Federal Communications Commission.

Sinclair, already the nation’s largest TV broadcaster, plans to buy 42 stations from Tribune Media in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, on top of the more than 170 stations it already owns. It got a critical assist this spring from Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who revived a decades-old regulatory loophole that will keep Sinclair from vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership.

The change will allow Sinclair — a company known for injecting “must run” conservative segments into its local programming — to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations.That’s nearly double the congressionally imposed nationwide audience cap of 39 percent.

That’s a nice quid pro quo: Sinclair delivers favorable publicity for the Trump campaign, and is rewarded by an FCC rule change benefitting its bottom line-a change that will allow the company to reach nearly three-quarters of American homes with "news” favorable to Trump.

When does actual news, which is protected by the First Amendment even when it is wrong or misleading, become propaganda or fraud? And what do we do about it?

When two deeply deranged heads of state are playing "mine's bigger than yours” with nuclear weapons.there is some urgency in figuring this out.

Read more: The Word by Sheila

Words Matter

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 03 October 2017 11:00
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

stop bullying

As a child, I was often teased for my blond hair and light skin.  Yes, I really did have blond hair. Other kids called me High-Yellow, Half-breed, and Cornbread.  They called me Cornbread because they said my skin tone matched the color of Cornbread.  If they were really mean, they called me an Albino.  This usually got their asses kicked by my big sister, but the words still hurt. 


Back in my day, nobody understood the ramifications of bullying.  It was considered to be just what kids did on the playground.  Was it to the extent that children bully other children today?  I would venture to say yes.

At fifty something years old, I still remember those words as if it was yesterday.  I remember the fear I felt of not wanting to get off the school bus because I knew the minute the bus pulled away from the stop, that bully would emerge out of nowhere.  He and his pack of goons would be willing and ready to have their fun.  I took it every single day until one day they attacked me in the school hallway.

I was sitting in the principal’s office that morning, facing suspension and that dreaded call to my mother, when I finally came clean. I whipped the snot out of that Kevin kid because I’d had enough. I pounded his head repeatedly on the floor and with each thud, a release of energy poured out of my body.  I had snapped at the age of fourteen!

The long-term effects of bullying are far-reaching and long lasting.  I had anger issues after this and didn’t know how to free myself from them.  Couple this with the realization that I was coming to terms with my attraction to the same-sex, and being an African-American in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood, I was becoming a hot mess by the age of sixteen or seventeen.   Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, and most teens do not spend a long time planning to kill themselves.  Instead, they slide down the slope of despair rather quickly and act impulsively, often with finality.  As a parent, if your child is struggling with this despair, time is not on your side.

If not for a mother that saw that I was very different than my brothers, and a father who was a strong communicator, I didn’t tragically take my life because of the overwhelming hopelessness and the feelings of isolation I was experiencing.  Also, in a family of seven children, you are your own village. I had a village of love and acceptance.

You might remember your mother telling you when you were a child, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”  In today’s world, this couldn’t be more of a lie than it was fifty years ago.  Words do hurt, and if heard enough times, repeatedly, they will leave an internal scar that can last a lifetime and even be fatal.  The struggle is not about developing a thicker skin, or not being so sensitive.  The struggle is about survival.

We live in a society that thinks it’s okay to say whatever ‘they’ want.  That it’s ‘their’ right.  We see this even more so with the internet.  Cyber bullying is on the rise. There are those that love to do nothing more than show off their self-imagined intelligence by being critical of others in a comment or thread. They believe that being super critical of someone else gives them power.

I have learned that in our cyber world, that if you disagree with someone’s post, it is best to just keep your mouth shut and keep scrolling.  You are not required to reply to everyone’s post or comment. Don’t be mean, don’t make an ass of yourself, and don’t be a Cyber Bully.  If you wouldn’t say it to their face in a conversation (usually because you realize it is rude, inappropriate, or hurtful), then don’t write it!

As most of you already know, I write Male/Male Romance with real emotions that represent a moral dilemma that the characters face in pursuit of love.  In Ancient House of Cards, Ian dealt with his own mother’s bigotry and Father Sebastian had to contend with the homophobic realities of the Church.  In Before Sunrise, the bigotry and bullying was a reflection of what is currently playing out on college campuses every day, discreetly and not so discreetly. In my latest novel, Come To The Oaks, Dexter, the plantation overseer, exerts his violent bullying behavior on the slaves in his charge to keep them in a state of constant fear and compliance.  My current Work-In-Progress, Diego’s Secret deals with the issues of illegal immigration and our society’s response on the matter.


The Dalai Lama once said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is Kindness”.

When I started my publishing company, Cornbread Publishing, I chose its name to show those bullies that they didn’t win, they never had, and it was time to tell them.   I love my cornbread tone of skin--- it is me.  I am empowered, I am whole, and I choose to own my past and my destiny!   My books are about the underdog, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and those with no voice.  Love is amazing and it is for everyone. Some of us have to fight harder for it, but in the end, we too, have our Happily Ever After.

Ashjian: Doing More Than Establishing Policies and Procedures

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Saturday, 30 September 2017 09:01
  • Written by Janelle Gaxiola

BrookeAshjian 678x381     Fresno Unified School District board of education president, Brooke Ashjian, 

     Ashjian has caused a great amount of controversy not only within the LGBT community in Fresno, but also nationally with the Human Rights Campaign, who demanded that Ashjian be removed from his current position. What is the crossing line for someone in a certain position to have their personal beliefs interfere with requirements of the law? Given the status of our national government, it may just be seen as another lawful debacle within a community. Why should this issue not be taken so lightly? Here’s why. Ashjian refuses to support the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to provide lessons on abortion, birth control and LGBT relationships. As some citizens may see it as implementing these lessons into the students, it is no designed to do so. It simply provides students with an outlet of information rather than excluding those students who may benefit from those given lessons. Ashjian’s conservative and imprudent comments have and continue to go without providing an apology to the LGBT community, let alone the Armenian community for the unnecessary and unrelated comparison to the Armenian genocide; equivocating LGBT community activists to the Ottoman Turks. Many people from religious institutions have asked for Ashjian to step down as president of the board member. Aside from Ashjian providing comments on how he is fulfilling his duties, it seems that given his role and status of the FUSD board, he is using his power to an extreme advantage by implementing his own personal religious beliefs.

     With that, Ashjian seems to be taking full advantage in terms of his own personal finances. Last November, The Fresno Bee wrote an article regarding the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigating allegations of Ashjian failing to report numerous sources of income.

     Documents show that various local and in-state business contributions to Ashjian’s campaign back in 2014. Some of those companies were Wawona Packing Co. (Brent E. Smittcamp), Witbro Inc., Association Builders & Contractors, to name a few. Given the various companies that allowed him to collect close to about $30,000, how much more money did Ashjian fail to report? The ultimate question that leads to is, why did Ashjian fail to do so, causing a conflict of interest problem for someone who plays a significant role in FUSD? This is very detrimental to the community of Fresno because how can this individual who has an infinite amount of personal funds, owning multiple properties that value over a million dollars simply be one to represent families and students that are at a lower economic status? How can he simply understand and be knowledgeable of what health resources they should have available to them when he allows his conservative opinions to interfere? Given someone in his position, Ashjian should be well aware of how beneficial all health lessons are to FUSD students, but it is evident that his career and financial status causes him to be incomprehensible of different communities coming together and demanding that he step down from his position.  

      As everyone has the right to their own privacy, especially when it involves their finances, but given someone in Ashjian’s position, it is something that should not be dismissed or overlooked. It remains questionable as to what may have been the cause for the commission to have halted at the investigation and whether they will reopen given the current behaviors of Ashjian.

     Regardless, if people agree or disagree with the current and ongoing behavior Ashjian has personally expressed regarding the California Healthy Youth Act, his overall actions and capitalizing from his position of the FUSD board of education position, he doesn’t seem fit to continue upholding his position as president and when his term expires in 2018, we shall see what the future holds for not only Ashjian, but more importantly the different communities that help form the overall community of Fresno.