Showing posts with label Gay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay. Show all posts

March 5, 2017

Mr. Gay Syria (A Film by Syrians)

Ayse met Mahmoud in 2011 as she was reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis at the Turkish border. Before accepting to become her fixer, Mahmoud told her: “I’m gay, are you ok with that?”. They struck up a friendship instantly.

As they returned to Istanbul, Mahmoud told Ayse about an ambitious plan: to organise a secret competition to elect - among the refugees in Turkey’s iconic city - a Mr Gay Syria who would then travel to Mister Gay World contest.

Mahmoud’s goal was obviously not to simply pick a good-looking peer but rather to put a spotlight on his community : Syrians who had to run away from war and homophobia, finding themselves in a place that did not accept them either.

We’re running this crowd funding campaign to finish our film and share the important stories of people surviving the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times.

We wanted to show a side of the migration crisis that is rarely portrayed, steering away from the depictions of nameless masses by certain media and politicians. We made a film that could be understood at a human level - getting to know our characters' dreams and aspirations as well as their daily struggles.

For the past three years, we have been following our characters in Turkey, Malta, Germany and Norway.

Please help us finish this documentary so we can share it far and wide.


Ayse Toprak, the director of this film, worked for many years at Al Jazeera reporting from Turkey. On her assignments, she met countless of people, but no one marked her quite as much as Mahmoud Hassino. He was the first LGBT blogger in Syria and her interpreter whilst on assignment at the Turkish-Syrian border.

He is Syrian and openly gay. Being open about your sexuality is an inherent risk in the region. Mahmoud knew the dangers and accepted them, he wanted to show the world that his community matters. That they deserve a voice and representation.

Mahmoud introduced Ayse to Husein, a 23-year-old gay Syrian refugee from Aleppo, now living in Istanbul. Husein's dream was to finally show his true face to the world, to remove his mask. This is why he decided to participate to Mr Gay Syria.

Last but not least, Mr Gay Syria is a proud French-German-Turkish coproduction:

Paris-based Antoine Simkine has been producing films for more than 15 years. His latest release Summer of Sangailé premiered at Sundance and Berlin Film Festival in 2015.

Christine Kiauk has been running Coin Film with fellow producer Herbert Schwering for several years. They've been at the forefront of indie filmmaking in Europe ever since.

Ekin Çalisir is a Turkish filmmaker and journalist based in Istanbul.

  Shot from Mr. Gay Syrian
for their film: learn more on their websiteVideo by  Ayse Toprak

March 1, 2017

Disney Releases Gay Characters for First Time Ever

Heartbreak is real -- even for cartoon characters. In a new episode of Disney XD's "Star vs the Forces of Evil," Star Butterfly is crushed when her boy-BFF Marco smooches another girl. But that’s not why the internet's buzzing!

It was so nonchalant that it's almost unnoticeable: The scene was the first-ever Disney cartoon to include a same-sex kiss. In fact, there were two.

In the episode, a One Direction-esque boyband launches into a rendition of their hit song "Just Friends." 14-year-old Star and Marco (who are, of course, just friends themselves -- for now!) are rocking out.

Suddenly, Star notices that she and Marco are surrounded by kissing couples. Among them are a gay couple and a lesbian one.The landmark cartoon moment is lost on Star (voiced by "The Middle"'s Eden Sher), who is just alarmed to turn around and see Marco locking lips with another girl! Has she been secretly crushing on him all along? We’ve all been there. We haven't yet seen any obvious nods to the LGBT community during Disney's big-screen features -- although some speculated gay undertones in "Frozen" -- but that'll soon change with the March release of "Beauty and the Beast."According to director Bill Condon, LeFou (Josh Gad) will clearly demonstrate a struggle with his own feelings toward leading man Gaston. The film will include Disney's first "exclusively gay moment.”There will be a “big pay-off at the end,” Condon promised. 

We haven't yet seen any obvious nods to the LGBT community during Disney's big-screen features -- although some speculated gay undertones in "Frozen" -- but that'll soon change with the March release of "Beauty and the Beast."

According to director Bill Condon, LeFou (Josh Gad) will clearly demonstrate a struggle with his own feelings toward leading man Gaston. The film will include Disney's first "exclusively gay moment."

There will be a “big pay-off at the end," Condon promised.

December 27, 2016

Two Men Holding Hands at Mural NYC Subway Station

The sight of two men holding hands is far from uncommon, but a mural of two men doing just that is showing up in an unusual place — on the walls of a new subway station in New York City.

Experts say that depiction of love between gay men is a rarity in public art.

The men, Thor Stockman and Patrick Kellogg, are part of artist Vik Muniz's "Perfect Strangers," a series of life-size mosaic portraits of everyday New Yorkers gracing the walls of the new station at 72nd Street on the city's long-awaited Second Avenue subway line. It's scheduled to open Jan. 1.

Stockman says being featured is "like winning the lottery." But he says he wishes that it wasn’t such a rarity.

December 11, 2016

How My Dad Tried to Change Me from Being Me (Gay)

 Mathew Shurka

To the outside world, they were part of a crowd of teenage boys. They hung out together, went to parties and chased girls.

But out of the gaze of their parents and peers, 18-year-old Mathew Shurka and Mark had fallen in love.

For months, the pair hid the nature of their relationship but then, without warning, Mark rang Mathew to say he no longer knew if “the whole gay thing” was what he wanted. From now on, he couldn’t see Mathew at all.

Yet that explanation was far from the truth. For the previous two years, Mathew’s father, a New York businessman, had been paying for his son to undergo “conversion therapy” to “rescue” him from his attraction to other men. But when Mathew’s desire only intensified, and he confided the depth of his feelings for Mark to his therapist, it was decided that the relationship could not be allowed to continue.

Mathew says: “Unknown to me, my father met Mark and told him to call me and end our relationship without telling me why. As a young gay man still in the closet, Mark was so petrified, he agreed. When that phone call came, I was destroyed. He was my first love.”

Ten years on, Mathew, now 28, is an out gay man fighting to ban conversion therapy – a battle that may continue because vice-president-elect Mike Pence has previously appeared to support public funding for it.

But perhaps more surprising is the fact that Mathew has forgiven the father who betrayed him so totally.

We talk while Mathew is in the UK to give a lecture for the Forgiveness Project – an organisation that collects and shares stories to help people move forward with their lives.
In the US, conversion therapy has been outlawed for minors in just a handful of states. In the UK, any therapist is strictly banned from giving such counselling, but Mathew believes it is still happening underground.

From the age of 12, Mathew had “a stomach pit” feeling he was gay. “I created a double life. Though I was one of the popular kids, inside, I was suffering. So I’d use words like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ against others, to show I belonged.”

Ironically, when he shouted “fucking faggots” at two local boys during an argument, it was the trigger for him to come out, aged 16. The injuries from the beating he sustained healed, but Mathew was shaken on a deeper level. “I was falling for Mark at the same time as I was trying to look heterosexual to my peers. I was terrified I’d be found out so I started skipping school.

A few weeks later, his father took him for a drive. He asked what was wrong. Mathew cried and told him: “I’m not sure what my sexuality is.”

The response was what every gay young person coming out wants to hear. “He told me he loved me, no matter what.” But panic quickly took over the place of love and his dad started to look for a therapist to find out if it was all just a phase.

His father came across a state-licensed psychologist who subscribed to the widely discredited theory that some gay men form same-sex attractions as a way to make up for troubled relationships with their fathers, or because they have been molested.

“My dad bombarded me with every outdated stereotype of gay life there was. He said I’d never be happy, I’d live a promiscuous, empty life without real love, that I was more likely to commit suicide as a homosexual man. I was only 16 and I loved and respected my father. I believed him.”

The problem was, the sessions led to Mathew not speaking to his mother for three years: “The first guess was that I had too much of a feminine influence in my life from my mother and two sisters. So I was told to distance myself. I’d come down in the morning, eat the breakfast she made for me and leave without saying goodbye.” 

But unlike her husband, Mathew’s mother was supportive. “She would say: ‘Matt, you’re gay. It’s OK.’ But I was policing myself. In response, I’d throw the biggest tantrums.”

But then, eight months after Mark was told to get out of Mathew’s life, Mark called and explained the real reason he had dropped out of sight. Mathew confronted his father, who insisted it was for his own good. “So I moved to LA to get away.”

Finally, over the next four years, Mathew started to see for himself that those dire warnings about gay life were unfounded. And in his early 20s, he returned to New York City, where he came across countless happy and successful gay people who made him realise there was nothing to be afraid of.

He also took a self-help course that helped him see his story in a new light. “For five years after our estrangement, I had a filter constantly running in my head which made me see my dad as a hateful homophobe. When I stripped that away, I saw it differently.”

Mathew called his father: “We took a walk. He then proceeded to give me the same speech as always. This time, I listened. I heard what he had to say. For the first time I got his pain. I saw he thought he’d been doing the best for me. I said: ‘Dad, I know what the world is and who I am. I’m going to take life as it comes and it’s going to be great.’ And he looked at me and said: ‘OK.’”

Since then, Mathew and his father have spoken every other day on the phone. They have reached a point of mutual understanding.

But beyond the ethics of a therapy that does little more than create feelings of shame and failure, Mathew believes his story is ultimately about forgiveness: “I hated these people. But when I came to realize parents, therapists and old adversaries are operating out of fear, feelings of rejection or because they think it’s the best thing, I dropped the hatred and started to understand.”

[Mark’s name has been changed]

October 14, 2016

New Research: Lots of Gay Men Hiding Their Gay at Work

It might be 2016 but there’s still some way to go when it comes to society’s dealings with the LGBTQ community. Especially in the work place.

New research by the University of Cincinnati has found that gay men often hide or ‘manage’ their sexuality in corporate jobs. 
Travis Dean Speice, who lead the research, says that his findings show that gay men often feel they have to change certain distinctive body language behaviours and gestures in order to avoid ‘potential negative consequences from co-workers’.
He conducted in-depth interviews with 30 gay men between 22-52, and asked them to think about the concepts of masculinity, femininity, and gayness.
He also asked about how they came out and their specific job titles – which he says is where gay men often try to manipulate their identities.
‘From the initial (job) interview to moving up the ladder at work, if a gay man feels his supervisors don’t agree with a gay population, he may not want to reveal his sexuality to them,’ says Travis.
He says that men are worried about their sexuality affecting chances of promotion or even being hired in the first place.
And that can mean changing the way they dress, the way they talk and whether or not they open up about your private life at work.
Travis calls these adaptations ‘hegemonic sexuality’ – a tool for avoiding unwanted scrutiny.
The interviewees referred to some men as being ‘too gay’, and this was associated with certain kinds of body language, speech patterns and dress sense which they were keen to avoid in professional settings.

Apparently loads of gay men are still hiding their sexuality at work
(Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Many of the study’s participants believed that particular colours or patterns on clothing could give their sexuality away, and often opted to dress somberly and formally.
A social worker who Travis interviewed said that he once wore ‘burnt orange khakis’ to work one morning and when he went to visit a correctional institute later that day, realized that all the inmates were staring at him.

‘The colour of his clothes was significant in his perception of his own masculinity and gay identity, but later became too flamboyant in the face of scrutiny… the inmates had suddenly gained a sliver of power over him.
‘Although there is no hard, fast rule for general masculinity, there are lots of anxieties related to identity management and self presentation for gay men in many professional settings,’ Travis explains.
We spoke to Mark*, 24, who identifies as gay and is about to start a trainee scheme with Teach First. He says that he doesn’t plan on revealing his sexual identity on the course. Before starting university, he was in the navy.
‘The navy was the most macho place – it was awful for the guys who did come out, I mean just awful,’ he tells
‘Generally, the more male-dominated the job, the more difficult it is to come out.’

September 12, 2016

The New “GuySexual”

I discovered a new web page today geared towards what it calls the”Guysexual.” Yes I know I hate the name too but you might find it witty and interesting, may be not. I always keep my reservations on anything new until the second serving but I figure I give you the inaugural edition.. The site is written by a gay guy living in Mumbai, India. Yes I was holding that one until my third line. It is written by an Indian guy in India but I believe that as a minority universal group we are all very much connected and we have common stories if not experiences in almost every aspect of our lives. I also believe the more we get to know about how other gays think, live and love,  the more we learn about ourselves.

As you start reading this column you might not even realize right away that is not written in the place where you call home wherever that might be. Well enjoy…

I ask a lot of questions.
Is ketchup better than mustard? Did man really walk on the moon? How do you eat crème brulee?  Will they ever resume Heroes? Should I really have that fourth cup of espresso? What’s eighteen times thirty-two? Are gay men any different than the straight ones? Does true love exist for either?
I might not know the right spoon to eat my crème brulee with, or what color shirt* goes with a leather jacket, but I do know that there never really is only the one. There’s a two, three, four, and probably more. It could work out with some of them and sometimes it won’t.

Sounds familiar?

It obviously does, because there really is no difference between gay and straight when it comes to love, sex or relationships. We all have the same worries: Who foots the bill? Do they validate me? Do they love me? Do I love them? What is love?

There are many stereotypes that exist which need to busted like the bell-bottom trend.  Gay men are not very different, we love the way everyone else does — sometimes it is intense, sometimes it is fleeting, and sometimes we’re just lusting.

Gay men come in all shapes, sizes, and colors

Do we like pink? Is Adele on loop? Are we promiscuous? Do we really lust after our best friend’s boyfriend?

There is no general-one-size-fits-all answer to any of these questions.

And it’s definitely rude to ask gay men questions like these — it’s like asking someone if they’ve ever killed somebody or whether they have something stuck between their teeth.
Here’s a friendly PSA: Gay men come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. If someone tells you they identify as gay, there’s no need to ask them whether they like Bradley Cooper or Brad Pitt (Cooper, any day). Get to know them, they are not a sum of stereotypes.

Even though we live in a world full of hipsters and millennials, coming out isn’t easy. Reality is far from the Hallmark movie that I make it out to be – every year, more and more people are pushed back into the closets to rot away with clothes that are too tight, cigarettes that are too damp and love notes that are long forgotten. Every day, more and more gay men are abandoned, disowned, and even condemned to hell. Every day, a few more gay men hate themselves for their sexuality, and a few more men shut down these doors to their closets forever.

Coming out shouldn’t be an ordeal or a celebration; it should be a regular, everyday thing — like flossing your teeth every night, or telling your friends that you are vegan, or that you don’t like Taylor Swift. (We feel for you, Calvin Harris)
That’s where the Guysexual comes in (without any invitations, because invitations are so 2008). Think of this as your quintessential guide to the secret lives of Indian gay men and other queer folk — there might not be a pop culture guidebook to being a homosexual, but this about knowing how to behave with one.

This will be a list of dos and don’ts and wills and won'ts for every question you might have regarding the friendly gay man (or men) in your neighbourhood. How do you decide who pays for the bill at the end of a meal? Do we prefer beer or mimosas? What are the things you should never ever say to someone when they come out? Is it okay to call a woman a fag hag? Do we really like brunch as much as we say we do? Why are all the hot guys gay? Why is it not a good idea to instantly try setting up a new gay friend with the only other gay person that you know?
But mostly, how can we make homosexuality mainstream — the normal? Don’t say something is ‘gay’. Don’t point at someone who dresses differently and laugh. Don’t snigger at the guy who doesn’t play cricket. Don’t say that you want a gay best friend because you think it’s cool. Don’t assume. Don’t presume, and don’t bully. 

Maybe sometime in the future, a month, a year or even in a decade’s time – every LGBT person in this country can enjoy the same privileges that a select few do. And maybe, just maybe, it won’t be a privilege, but simply a way of life by then.

Until then, I’ll need beer. And probably your number too.
*White shirts work with anything.

This space appears every week for The Guysexual
The author is a TedX speaker and a published gay writer, with an unused architect’s degree, living in Mumbai. He tweets @TheGuysexual.

August 17, 2016

The *Only Gay Speaking Iraqi Making His Country Safer for Others

Amir Ashour the only Iraqi gay *speaking at a One Young World event 


“I don’t like being known as the ‘only gay Iraqi activist’”, Amir Ashour says, brow furrowing slightly.

But the label is hard to escape: Ashour, originally from Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been beaten up and arrested because of his sexuality. In 2015, he was forced to flee his home and seek asylum in Sweden, fearing for his life. 

Now 26, he’s already been through more than many people could ever imagine - but, Ashour says, he wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

“It is not exactly a choice”, he says. “It is not easy… it’s draining. But there is nothing else I would or could do. Everything I’ve been through, everyone I’ve met who has inspired me, it’s all relevant.”  

Ashour is the founder and leading voice of IraQueer, the only LGBT+ rights awareness organisation operating in Iraq, which is forced to carry out most of its work anonymously. The growing network of activists, most using synonyms rather than their real names, is a precious resource for Iraq’s gay community, which remains almost completely underground for fear of dying at the hands of armed vigilante gangs, rogue police officers, or family members unable to accept them. 

As recently as 1995, Saddam Hussein created a paramilitary group with the sole purpose of identifying, torturing and executing LGBT+ individuals, as well as women accused of adultery, and the memory - as well as the taboo - is still fresh for many. Post-Saddam, the gay community began tentatively organising parties and meet-ups in gay-friendly spaces, but militia attacks have increased again in recent years, driving the community further underground.

While same-sex relationships were decriminalised after the US invasion, Iraqi law offers no constitutional protection for LGBT+ citizens, and the state often turns a blind eye to the horrors non-conforming Iraqis face if outed. Shiite militias who claim to be fighting Isis under the banner of the Iraqi army have been accused of multiple murders by the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission.
IraQueer’s role is vital in providing advice and safe houses for LGBT+ people - often teenagers - who have been disowned by their families, or fled for their own safety. Doctors and officials will often refuse to deal with people they think are gay, so IraQueer tries to connect vulnerable people to allies, too.

The group has about 40 regular contributors and has been growing steadily for two years, now reaching up to 11,000 readers a month via essays and safety warnings tirelessly translated from Kurdish or Arabic into English or vice versa. Yet its members have only just met face to face for the first time, at a workshop organised by Ashour in Lebanon last month. It was a fantastic experience, he says. 

“Technology, and especially social media, have changed the face of activism, they’ve had so much impact for us”, Ashour says. “That me and my fellow activists can talk long-distance and hide our identities… that would never have been possible before the last few years.” 
Ashour has lived in Malmo in Sweden since last year. He loves life in Europe, where he is free to be himself. “I have never hidden who I am. It was never a question of ‘coming out of the closet’, there was nothing to escape from,” he says. Ashour's family, and group of friends and activists at university, were all very accepting, he says. But even in a relatively liberal area such as Iraqi Kurdistan, witch-hunts are still mounted for people suspected of being gay, or partaking in ‘sinful’ behaviour.  

This is what happened to Ashour. He was forced to leave the country to escape rumours which bought him to the attention of local vigilantes, started while he was working for a women's rights group in Baghdad. But he also has the strength to use his experiences to speak out, in the hope that others will not have to suffer the same discrimination.
I met Ashour while he was in London this summer to meet with UKLGIG, a UK charity which works to support LGBT aslyum seekers and refugees, and One Young World (OYW) representatives. OYW was founded in 2009 with the aim of bringing together young leaders to effect lasting, positive change. Meeting others from across the world who face the same LGBT struggle as he does, or stand up for other worthy causes, has “shaped the way I look at the world... The core, the root of everything I try to do, is giving the voiceless a voice,” Ashour says. 

The renewed scrutiny of Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality following the Orlando LGBT nightclub shooting by an closeted Muslim man has, for Ashour, driven home how important this is. “There is no room for the gay Muslim narrative, even now”, he says. “I never had to come out of the closet. But I still could never have functioned without my support network. And that’s what IraQueer is to many people now.” 
But, as Ashour concedes, the opportunities opened up to IraQueer by the internet and secure smartphone messaging is both a blessing and a threat. While the net helps LGBT+ people in Iraq find each other, an uncleared browser cache or public comments or likes on a gay-friendly Facebook page can help vigilantes identify and track down people they suspect of homosexual behaviour. 

One of the crucial aims of IraQueer’s first in-person workshop, which took place in secret in Lebanon last month, was to help teach members how to keep themselves safe online, whether by using fake names and accounts or switching to services much harder to hack such as encrypted messaging and Tor browsers.

It’s sad, Ashour notes, that the international community only focused on the lack of gay rights in the Middle East after Isis’s hatred placed the issue on the world stage. Horrific reports from Idlib and Kirkuk of public executions by  al-Nusra and Isis, as well as images of gay men forced to jump from buildings, reverberated in the world’s media. 

And while Isis’ atrocities continue to grab international attention, gay people continue to suffer across the Arab world, Ashour says. “The problem is so much wider, and deeper rooted, than this recent flare of extremism”, he adds.

Ashour is also sceptical of Kurdish efforts to portray the now autonomous regions across Iraq and Syria as gay-friendly. “It’s an attractive idea politically, gay rights, it is an encouraging sign to the West,” he says. “Talking is easier than action, though. And Rojava [Kurdish region] is still yet to be tested like that.”

I ask Ashour whether he thinks his battle is hopeless. He says he still has hope, and if it’s ever possible to be openly gay in Iraq, he’ll be the first to go back. One day he wants to run for office in his native country. But for now, he’s strengthening IraQueer, and enjoying being able to date in Sweden.

“I want to be the one who makes it possible to be gay in Iraq. Maybe I’ll be attacked for it, it’s possible. But winning is a mindset. And as long as IraQueer exists and grows, we are prepared, we are winning. All we need is time.”

*The only speaking (out) gay Iraqi  

August 15, 2016

For Many and Growing Entrepreneurs Being of Gay Identity is an Asset

It was going to be tough no matter what.

Starting a new business is a challenge in itself, but for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, their identities can present an additional hurdle.

There’s often pressure on these entrepreneurs to withhold aspects of their personal lives from professional circles to steer clear of controversy. 
Since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, more LGBT business owners are driven by shifting public opinion and diversity-hungry companies to start openly embracing who they are.

“While people may be out in their personal lives, connecting it to their business is a relatively new phenomenon,” said Jonathan Lovitz, vice president of external affairs at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). “But doing so has been incredibly beneficial for them.”

Erica Fields, president of St. Paul-based grain trader Brooks Grain, didn’t come out as a transgender woman until she was 53 in 2007.

Even then, she only came out to a few friends. Just five months earlier, Fields had started her business providing rye to whiskey distilleries like Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam. Fields feared how the revelation might be perceived by her clients in a male-dominated industry.

“I thought if I just came out, I would lose everything,” said Fields, who waited until 2009 to tell clients.

That fear, echoed by many LGBT entrepreneurs, stems from a desire to avoid friction with potentially less accepting colleagues or clients, said Jay Miller, founder and creative director of Minneapolis branding firm Imagehaus.

Since starting his own firm in 2000, Miller joined NGLCC’s Supplier Diversity Initiative, which he calls a “professional way to come out” that is less frightening.

The program, which started in 2004, certifies LGBT-owned businesses and connects them to a network of “corporate partners” looking to improve diversity in their supply chain.

It follows similar initiatives that promote businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans and people with disabilities.

Recently, there’s been a spike in interest for the certification.

The national roster of certified LGBT businesses jumped from roughly 500 in 2013 to 896 by the end of July. In Minneapolis, that number grew from just four in 2013 to 22 in 2015, said Mark Waldorf, president of the Twin Cities Quorum, an affiliate of the NGLCC.

About 140 companies — including Delta Air Lines, General Mills and Target — use the program’s directory to find LGBT vendors. This year, NGLCC added the Democratic National Convention, Major League Baseball and defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

The certification can help a new business get noticed and make new connections, said Teresa Mock, owner of wedding planner L’Etoile Events in Minneapolis.

Mock attends NGLCC and Quorum events, such as Quorum’s annual luncheon on National Coming Out Day.

At last October’s luncheon at the Marriott City Center, Mock found vendors she’d like to use for future events. Mock, who started her business January 2015, displays her NGLCC certification on her website and says it’s a good way to filter out a “poor match.”

“When someone looks at the website and sees that [certification], and if that’s a reason they don’t want to work with me, they have to look no further,” Mock said. 

It’s a way for companies to go beyond preaching diversity as they feel pressure from groups like the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks workplace equality at Fortune 500 companies.

“They can’t just say it anymore,” Miller said. “They have to actually follow through with what they say by action, and it needs to be in a way that is measurable.”

Fields said she was asked by Jack Daniel’s, one of her biggest clients, to apply for the certification a year ago. She said it’s mutually beneficial — Jack Daniel’s gets to tout supplier diversity while she cements relations with a vital client. Fields said she sees more companies trying to up their diversity as more consumers are voting with their wallet.

LGBT consumers are especially drawn to companies that reflect their values, according to a 2015 survey by Community Marketing Inc., an LGBT market research firm used by NGLCC.

The survey found that 89 percent of purchasing decisions by gay men and 92 percent by lesbians are influenced by a company’s treatment of LGBT workers.

And their buying power is not one to scoff at — a 2014 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found about 783,000 same-sex couples earned an average of nearly $118,000 year.

Still, a fear of the unknown lingers for LGBT business owners: Will clients welcome their identity or leave because it’s incompatible with their views?

When Fields came out in late 2007, her daughter Cara offered to step in and tend client relations. Over the next year and a half, Fields transitioned in private and prepared to come out to her clients. Fields wrote “heartfelt” letters to about 15 clients and business partners explaining her journey and reassured that it wouldn’t affect the business.

Relationships changed. Some clients felt uncomfortable interacting with Fields directly, she recalled, and it took them time to adapt to the change.

But she didn’t lose her clients. She said she considers herself lucky.

“It was a cathartic experience,” she said. “These were people who I’ve known for years. … And I think over time, there’s a growing sense that it’s not a big deal.”

Advocates say there’s more work to be done. Lovitz said NGLCC has its sights on new bills that would allow LGBT-owned businesses to vie for a portion of government contracts that are awarded to businesses owned by women, minorities, disabled people and veterans.

So far, California and Massachusetts have already adopted such provisions and a similar bill was introduced in New York in May.

By advancing LGBT entrepreneurs, activists aim to leverage the business success for more wins for the wider community.

“Many of the lessons learned from marriage equality are being used all over again to fight for business inclusion, which is leading with the business case,” Lovitz said. “Whether you’re for or against LGBT people, everyone’s for a strong economy. When we can make the case that equality is good for business, I think that’s going to help win more of these victories.”

By Covey Son  •
Star Tribune

August 10, 2016

He Told His Chinese Wife He’s HIV But Never Would He Tell He’s Gay

 Gay sex is easily found in China

When HIV first emerged in China, it was largely transmitted through blood transfusions. China managed to contain tanat epidemic that broke out in the 1990s, but now HIV rates are on the rise again.

This time, it’s among gay men. Last year, men who have sex with men accounted for about 28 percent of all new HIV infections in China.

That includes gay men who are married to women.                                     

Maitian lives in Chengdu with his wife. They have been married for 20 years and have an 18-year-old son. Maitian is not his real name. He asked us to use a pseudonym because he is gay and HIV positive.

Maitian says shortly before he got married, he started exploring his sexuality. At the time, homosexuality was punishable under the crime of “hooliganism.” In 1997, China eliminated the crime of hooliganism, and homosexuality was in effect decriminalized. Four years later, it was removed from a list of mental illnesses in China.

Even though He’s gay, Maitian says he always expected that he would marry a woman and have a child. Living with a man was never an option.  Even though he's gay, Maitian says he always expected that he would marry a woman and have a child. Living with a man was never an option.  

Zhang Beichuan, a professor at Qingdao University's Medical School who researches gay issues, estimates that China is home to more than 21 million gay men, and more than half of them are married to women.   

Maitian says he always expected that he would get married and raise a child. Living with a man was out of the question for him. Although there are young gay Chinese who live openly in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they are still a small minority.

“I think that is only for the privileged,” Maitian says. “We are just common people and we have a lot of everyday business to take care of. Our parents and our siblings are concerned about how we lead our family lives.”

Maitian says he stayed in his traditional marriage, but he continued to meet up with men.

The first time he went to a gay bathhouse in Chengdu, he says someone gave him an address and he found the place on his own. He says he was amazed that it was filled with men like him. He soon became a regular.

“I got what I wanted,” Maitian says. “And it didn’t cost much. I was satisfied.”

He says he didn’t use condoms at the bathhouse.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of HIV among gay men in China was about 8 percent in 2015. That’s up from 1.3 percent in 2004. Among the concerns about the rising rates are that gay married men with HIV would transmit the virus to their wives.

In 2009, Maitian went in for some minor surgery at a local hospital, and they gave him an HIV test. Maitian tested positive, though he says he didn’t even know what HIV was. He went back home and searched online and found photos of people with HIV who had lesions all over their bodies. Maitian says he felt scared and helpless. Later, he joined an online support group for people living with HIV, which helped him deal with his fears.

Local health officials pressed Maitian to bring in his wife for testing. But it took him a year to tell his wife that she should get an HIV test. He says she nearly broke down when she learned she had HIV. She couldn’t believe it.

Confronted with the dilemma of whether to tell his wife about his secret life, Maitian chose to shift the blame.

“Our son was born in 1997 via C-section and she had to have a blood transfusion. So I said it must be from that. And she believed it,” Maitian says.

Over the years, Maitian says his wife has more or less accepted the transfusion explanation. There were moments when she asked him why their son tested negative for HIV, and he pointed out that their son was not breastfed. He says she never really asked him again how they both became infected. Now Maitian and his wife are on medication and are relatively healthy. But it hasn’t been easy.

“HIV is not like other diseases. It’s a lifetime disease. It takes a great toll on our bodies,” Maitian says.

“I feel very guilty for my family and for my wife. As much as I can, I think I should do more for my family and for her.”

But there is one thing Maitian doesn’t plan to do: Tell his wife that he is gay.

Originally Posted at pri.ORG

January 7, 2016

Aban+Khorshid 2 Gay Iranian Lovers Film Winner of 6 Awards Opens


 In honor of Human Rights Day Dec. 10, 2015, the award winning short film "ABAN + KHORSHID" has been released worldwide on Vimeo, where it will be featured as a Staff Pick:

"ABAN + KHORSHID" is an intimate and vulnerable portrait of two forbidden lovers, glimpsing into the world in which they met and fell in love.

Based on a 2005 Iranian photo that was taken of two men on the day they were executed for being gay, "ABAN + KHORSHID" depicts the atrocious and inhumane executions still happening around the world today based purely on sexual orientation.

The filmmakers hope that the timing of the release will help raise awareness for organizations working to end persecution of LGBTQ people around the globe. Viewers are encouraged to share the 13-minute film and tag their favorite human rights organization along with the hashtag #LOVEisbeingEXECUTED. At the end of December, the filmmakers will make a donation to three of the organizations recommended by viewers.

"The story told in 'ABAN + KHORSHID' is a story that is still being repeated in many countries around the world," said writer/director Darwin Serink.

"People have been moved by the film, but we hope with this release that they will also feel moved to support organizations that are working to end these atrocities," said Tommee May, founder of Come What May Productions, which produced the film.

"ABAN + KHORSHID" won the Short Film Competition Special Jury Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, the Jury Award for Best LGBT Short Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Best in Fest at the Palm Springs Short Fest and Best Short Film, Audience Award at the Mix Film Festival Brazil. It previously screened at the Cannes Emerging Filmmakers Showcase, American Pavillion and won Best LGBT Short. Additionally, the film has been seen in over 40 film festivals world wide.

If you only had a few hours left to live, what would you share with the love of your life? What would you tell the person you're dying for, to comfort them and ease them into death? Aban and Khorshid explore these questions in the hours before they are executed for loving each other.

In these final moments, Aban and Khorshid share their fears, their dreams and their understanding of what life and love really means.

[pride source]

December 3, 2015

Saudi Arabia Denies it Executed Horse for having Gay Sex (Lashes,castration and death for humans)

A horse and something else
 The stallion – which apparently was valued at £8 million – was allegedly seen engaging in intercourse with another male animal twice before being “rapidly taken away and isolated” by police.

It was further claimed that the horse’s death warrant had been endorsed by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – and that an official signed the document in front of television cameras. 
The report alleged: “This was meant to send a clear message that homosexuality, under any form, would not be tolerated in the kingdom.”

It sparked an immediate outpouring of support from animal lovers in the US and France who offered to buy the horse. 
The incident sparked an immediate outpouring of support from animal lovers across the globe

But officials reportedly denied the story, which emerged on what appeared to be a spoof website.

The original article quoted a so-called official who apparently said: “We have to protect the kingdom from this infection by every possible means at our disposition, and this also means protecting our animals.

“We will make any sacrifice necessary to protect the purity of the holy land.”
 Saudi Arabian Twitter users were furious at the claims, with one writing: “This is a far-fetched claim that cannot go far.”

Another said of the allegations: “They are so ridiculously futile, so absurdly frivolous that they should not be dignified with a comment. Even if they are meant as a joke, it is in bad taste.”

It is illegal to be gay in Saudi Arabia and those who break the law face floggings, chemical castration and the death penalty.


September 4, 2015

China Censors Approves Gay Movie


Chinese censors have approved public screenings of a movie featuring gay characters in leading roles for the first time, in a landmark ruling that has been hailed as a sign of change in the world’s most populous nation.

Seek McCartney, a romance that centres on a relationship between two gay men - one French, one Chinese – will become the first film of its kind to screen in Chinese cinemas. Director Wang Chao broke the news via a post on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo. “This is a small step for the film department,” he said. “And a big step for the members of the film industry.”
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997 and removed from a list of mental illnesses in 2001, but same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships remain forbidden and many families, institutions and even educational textbooks still treat gay relationships as a problem that needs to be fixed. Attitudes are complicated by the fact that the country tolerated same-sex affairs for much of its history, according to Richard Burger, author of Behind the Red Door, a history of sex in China, but such permissive attitudes applied only when homosexual relationships manifested in addition to “traditional” male-female couplings, and these days there is often relentless family pressure to marry and have children.

Xing Fei, of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, estimated in 2013 that as many as 12m gay men are married to straight women. Work pressures on employees to show they are settled into wedlock can be extreme: many gay Chinese people report being passed over for promotion and even fired without justifiable cause. Gay-straight conversion clinics are widespread, though a landmark case in December last year ruled “gay cure” treatments involving hypnosis and electric shocks were illegal.
Seek McCartney is a Chinese-French co-production, with the local contribution also helping to explain why censors handed it a release spot. China allows only 34 films a year made by foreign film companies to screen at the world’s second-largest box office, as it seeks to foster interest in home-produced movies and protect them in the face of competition from Hollywood fare. Foreign films given permission to screen are rarely those with adult-orientated themes and tend to be blockbuster fantasy productions with little or no controversial content. The censor has been known to mount rapid U-turns: in 2013 the blood-soaked Quentin Tarantino western Django Unchained was pulled from cinemas after less than a day on release following complaints about a full-frontal nude scene featuring the film’s lead actor, Jamie Foxx.

Experts warned that Seek McCartney’s approval should not necessarily be hailed as a sign of a relaxation of censors’ usually prudish attitudes. “The fact that this film can be released in theatres doesn’t mean gay films in the future will be able to released in China,” LGBT film-maker and rights activist Fan Popo told AFP. “China’s system for evaluating films is still very unstable, because the rules are very unclear. It depends heavily on the individual censor’s whims.”

March 7, 2015

Amid Daily Attacks Syrian Gays Fear Isis the Worse


The photographs released by ISIS in its stronghold of Raqqa are dated March 2015. The first ones show a large crowd, mostly men, but also among them a handful of women and children, all looking up.

Three men on top of a building, faces covered in black balaclavas, stand on either side of their victim, while a fourth seems to be taking a photo or video.

Their victim is thrown off the building. In the last photograph, he is seen face down, surrounded by a small crowd of men, most carrying weapons, some with rocks in their hands. The caption reads "stoned to death."

The victim brutally killed because he was accused of being gay.

There are at least half a dozen documented cases of men being similarly killed by ISIS. What’s even more sickening for Nour, a gay Syrian man, is the onlookers’ reaction. 

"It's too much to watch, and people are just standing there in these images and watching, and they are not doing anything, and their facial expressions are really scary because they are not even scared of what is going on," says Nour, who's also an LGBT rights activist. "They might be a little bit excited or maybe happy to get rid of homosexuals in the city."

Though in Istanbul, fear of persecution continues to haunt Nour, who asked us to conceal his identity as he waits and hopes for asylum in America and continues to campaign for rights for people who are LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.

A history of abuse
As a teenager, over a decade ago, Nour suffered because of his sexuality.

"The worst bullying was at school," he remembers. "I was approached in the street a number of times, verbally abused and sometimes physically abused."

There was no one to protect him. His family rejected his sexual orientation, his country criminalized it.

Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 states: "Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to three years."

Nour left Syria in 2012, before ISIS took over huge swaths of the country, after seeing a video of two men being beheaded. According to the voice on the clip, they are accused of being spies. Then toward the end, the voice speaks about "shaking the throne of God."

"Whenever we hear this in video or audio, we know that this is exactly meant for gay people," he says. "It was the moment of clarity, the moment of understanding; this place is not safe anymore."

The pictures released by ISIS and other videos refer to gay men as the tribe of Lot, who, according to readings of the Quran and the hadith, or prophetic traditions, sinned by refusing Prophet Lot's call to cease their homosexual activity and led to the destruction of Sodom. One hadith states, "When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes."

Since the revolution turned war in Syria, the situation for the nation's LGBT community has become even more dire.

"LGBT people in Syria need help, and they need to be supported. We tried to reach out to some groups, international entities, and they said that LGBT people in Syria are not our priority, and that would mean that our lives are not worthy for them to rescue," Nour says.

This week, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a nongovernmental organization based in New York, started "Don't Turn Away," an awareness-raising campaign calling for action to protect LGBT Syrians and Iraqis from ISIS' merciless brutality.

On its website, the group states, "What is clear is the Islamic State's intent -- to spread terror among an already persecuted population in the region and to warn against any kind of 'moral' transgression."

The commission is calling on governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to expedite resettlement and refugee applications for LGBTs.

Driven away by threats
Sami and his partner are among those waiting. Dressed in matching outfits, they already consider themselves married, laughing about how they first met online. They too, like Nour, don't want their identities revealed.

When Sami's family found out about his relationship, he says, his brother tried to beat him up. He started to receive threatening phone calls from family and strangers.

This past summer, while the couple was walking in the streets in Damascus, a car tried to run them over.

"I was able to pull myself away, but my husband couldn't," Sami recalls. "The car hit his leg and he fell to the ground."

There is no doubt that it was a deliberate attempt to kill them. Two hours after the attack, Sami's phone rang.

"There was a man who said this time you could have made it, you could have survived, but the next time you will not."

The couple fled to Turkey a few months ago, but they can't shake the fear that their relationship could cost them their lives.

They share housing with other Syrian refugees, where they have to continue to pretend that they are straight. When the ISIS photographs emerged, one of their housemates made a sickening comment.

"He made an absurd joke about how he was so amused, had too much fun watching homosexuals. He says now gay men can fly."

They say they will never return to Syria. And neither will Nour.

"It's too damaging for my psychological state, because I have been abused too much from my family, friends, school. It’s not safe for me psychologically or physically," he says

By Arwa Damon and Zeynep Bilginsoy, CNN

January 29, 2015

Some Christians Deny Gays Their Funerals- Is this Christian as in Christ?


When Jesus declared that mourners shall be comforted, he surely did not mean to exclude the families of deceased LGBT people, right?
Pastor Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries church in Lakewood, Colorado, seems to think otherwise. Just minutes before the funeral of Vanessa Collier, Chavez discovered that the commemorative video included photos of the deceased woman expressing affection with her female wife, with whom she was raising two children. The pastor informed the family that the pictures could not be shown or the memorial couldn't continue at his church. Humiliated, the Collier family picked up the dead woman's casket and hauled it across the street to a funeral home. 
It's impossible to say how many Christian churches have treated the families of LGBT people similarly, but we know Chavez's isn't the first. In 2014, a Tampa congregation canceled Julian Evans' funeral the day before the service. Pastor T.W. Jenkins made the decision after reading Evans' obituary and learning he was gay.
Such debacles beg an important question: Should Christian churches extend not only dignity and compassion to deceased people who didn't believe or live according to devout Christians' standards? 
There is no formal funeral liturgy in the Bible and no standards for who can participate in such rites. The scriptures contain no prohibition against hosting funerals for those who did not live according to certain standards. Christians can thank God for such an absence, because a "no sinners allowed" standard for funerals would be impossible to apply consistently.
The Bible condemns greed, but I can't fathom a church denying funeral space to a millionaire who didn't contribute his fair share to charity. Have you ever heard of a church declining to host a funeral for an obese person because the Bible denounces gluttony? Or more seriously: If a white father refused to let his daughter marry a black man whom she loved, can you imagine a church refusing him a funeral because he was a racist?
Such inconsistency incited dozens to protest New Hope's treatment of the Collier family. One sign said, "You will not find Jesus at New Hope but you will find hypocrisy." In Florida, Pastor Jenkins said allowing Evans' funeralwould be "blasphemous." Maybe he should have said it would be "hypocritical" not to. For if churches refuse to host funerals for those they believe were "sinful," then churches will not be hosting any funerals at all.
Some believers know this, which is why you'll find loads of online articles by conservative Christians with titles like, "Three Keys to Preaching the Funeral of an Unbeliever" and "How to Lead an Unbeliever's Funeral." Clearly, you can be a non-Christian and have a funeral. But according to some, you can't be non-straight. What's the difference? Such an inconsistency lends credibility to the assertion that some Christians are specifically targeting LGBT persons with condemnation. 
Author Anne Lamott once said, "You can safely assume you've created God in your image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." American Christians must reflect on whether they are becoming conduits of a God whose name is “Love” or crafting God into an image that reflects their own biases.

Lessons of the Reagan ranch: America must rediscover the simple, civil life

For this, we might reflect on the centrality of compassion to the Christian faith. The Apostle Peter said that Christians should be sympathetic, and the Apostle John wrote that those who lack compassion do not have God's love inside of them. "Mourn with those who mourn," the Apostle Paul urged. 
The virtue of compassion is even more prominent in the life of Jesus Christ. As 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, "If you would sum up the whole character of Christ in reference to ourselves, it might be gathered into this one sentence, 'He was moved with compassion.'" 
Jesus extended kindness without exclusions, conditions, or asterisks. No one was triaged before Jesus embraced them. Instead, Jesus seemed to dish out extra helpings of compassion to those that first-century conservative religionists marginalized "sinful" or "unclean"—lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, Roman oppressors, and the demon-possessed.
So when it comes to hosting funerals of LGBT people, let us ask, "What would Jesus do?" Really, think about it. Can you honestly imagine the indiscriminately merciful Jesus telling a weeping family of a deceased LGBT person to scram? Of course you can't. So why would Christians tolerate such behavior within their ranks?
To be clear, pastors have the right to refuse services to whomever they wish. Our Constitution grants such protections to religious institutions and houses of worship. This should not change. But constitutional protections do not exempt churches from public criticism — and in this case, the criticism of hypocrisy is well deserved.
Even those Christians who disapprove of homosexual behavior can accept that the dead deserve to be treated with dignity, and that Christian compassion should be extended without condition. For the sake of the faith itself, Christians should rise up with a pointed finger and shout, "This person's bad behavior does not represent the rest of us." Otherwise, the Christian faith in the West may not survive the atrocities continually committed in Jesus’ name.

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