This is what’s called leveraging the power a media platform to speak up thoughtfully and clearly about issues that matter.
Duke was one of the first employers to make benefits available to same sex partners in 1994 as a way to be inclusive and supportive of the needs of all faculty and staff, and this support will continue.
Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration at Duke, following the approval of Amendment One in North Carolina. While the voters’ decision is extremely disheartening and causing ridiculous action already, we shouldn’t overlook the statements being made by those opposed to the amendment. Civil rights and social change happen, but often at slower speeds than makes sense. It’s a lost war in NC for now, sure, but by continuing to speak out about equal rights for all people and maintaining fair policies where possible, change will happen (thanks, Mr. President!). NC hasn’t historically been a leader with human rights anyway.
Fair to be cranky about the vote outcome. Good to optimistic that this will not be a precedent for other states. Best to continue and increase the consciousness of civil rights and responsibilities of communities to represent and take care of the people in them.
Give me an artistic license so I can sing to my captors in Syria. Let me embroider an eiderdown pillow for the Rutgers gay student to fall onto under the George Washington Bridge. Let me create a magic dragon with a special cape to protect the young unarmed black teenage boy in Florida before he is shot point blank and killed. Let me make a painted shield of protective wildflowers for the 3 Jewish children and their rabbi father killed by the madman in Paris. If a work of art can bring awareness towards changing these horrors let us begin the act of creativity now - It is not too soon!
Karen Finley, performance artist and activist, in a speech made on March 21, 2012 at the opening of Because Dreaming Is Best Done In Public: Creative Time In Public Spaces, which features her 1998 work 1-800-ALL-KAREN.
Words can’t describe how moved I was both emotionally and towards action, and those sentiments were widely present throughout the room. It’s incredible how people can wield words into powerful tools to, in all seriousness, change the world.
Karen, by the power vested in my by nature of existence, I grant you artistic license to keep using your voice to creatively shape public discourse and influence society’s actions.
Interview with Deborah Block of Athlete Ally
Deborah Block, a fellow Tufts graduate with an admirable passion for promoting equality and understanding among peers, helped to found the nonprofit Athlete Ally. Along with founder Hudson Taylor, Deborah is committed to making sure that all athletes - regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other defining trait - are treated with dignity and respect among their peers, especially in the sports context. I spoke with her about Athlete Ally’s growth and vision.
Jen Bokoff: What moment stands out to you as a defining moment in establishing the mission of Athlete Ally?
Deborah Block: Definitely when my Co-Founder Hudson Taylor was a guest on Thomas Roberts’ show on MSNBC. Thomas heard about Hudson and our cause through Twitter and sent him a direct message that he’d like to meet him and potentially bring him on the show. That’s exactly what happened. The day the show aired live, the number of our Facebook likes, pledge signatures, and Twitter followers sky-rocketed. A few months later, because of a press release we sent out, Hudson was presented with PFLAG’s Straight for Equality Award at their 3rd Annual Gala, an award that Maya Angelou had received years back. A few months later, we were on the front page of nytimes.com and Hudson was named The Huffington Post’s “Person of the Day.” This national press coverage was defining in getting the word out about LGBT inclusion in sports through mainstream news sources that write about much more than just write about LGBT issues. Through this, reaching mainstream athletes and advocates who can help make a real difference became tangible.
JB: The premise of Athlete Ally is that no group should be disadvantage or bullied in the sports arena; we should act as one. What’s your approach to sustainably combating bullying both on and off the playing field?
DB: Athlete Ally is grounded in the idea that athletes are leaders in their communities, whether that be in middle school, high school, college, or professional sports. Those athletes who are chosen as captains of their teams are not picked just because they’re great athletes; they’re picked because they also exhibit true leadership skills on and off the field. They have the ability to motivate their team and be a role model through all of their actions. Our goal at Athlete Ally is to empower athletes - particularly those who are straight - to be role models and combat homophobia by, for instance, challenging derogatory language on the field, in the locker room and in their daily routine. It’s our hope that as more athletes promote LGBT inclusiveness and respect, others will follow.
JB: Women’s (psuedo) equality in sports was largely spurred by Title IX. How do you think Athlete Ally can reach the same or greater impact with true equality across lines of gender and sexuality in sports?
DB: When we started Athlete Ally, it was clear that stereotypes in male sports are far different from stereotypes among women athletes. On male sports teams, you commonly hear the expression that you need to “man up” or “not be a pussy” or “stop throwing like a girl.” But within female sports, there’s the automatic assumption that women who play sports are butch or a lesbian. Although men’s and women’s teams face a separate set of problems, Athlete Ally encourages a similar solution. If straight athletes on men and women’s teams stand up for inclusiveness and team unity among their teammates and challenge derogatory language and stereotypes, they can empower their peers to challenge homophobia and stand together as a unified team.
JB: You must have learned a lot setting up your own nonprofit, from governance, to publicity, to defining goals. What can you share with us?
DB: Goodbye 9-5. To get Athlete Ally off the ground, I worked closely with Hudson and his wife Lia to work through everything from getting our website set up, to creating a mission statement, to filing for a 501c3, to marketing the cause to the press, and more. Something important that I didn’t realize before we started is that if you’re putting together an organization for a cause people truly believe in, you can get a TON of help for free. We ultimately brought on pro-bono lawyers, a pro-bono accounting firm, a pro-bono publicist, a pro-bono public relations firm. And by working closely with another LGBT organization, we also built our website for almost nothing. As a new nonprofit, we were working with a non-existent budget, so the fact that some of the most respected professionals in their fields were willing to come on board and help us just because they believed in what we’re doing was both humbling and inspiring. Another tip: Get used to 2am conference calls. The adrenalin rush of starting something new and exciting can be so intense that sometimes you and your teammates are up and ready to do work, even in the middle of the night.
JB: If people want to help the cause, what can they do?
DB: Through our cornerstone Ambassador Program program, we work with students on college campuses across the country to bring Athlete Ally to their school. We give these ambassadors the resources they need to meet with their school’s athletic directors, present to Student Athletic Advisory Committees, LGBT support groups, coaches, and team captains and encourage them to sign our Athlete Ally Pledge. This pledge asks students, athletes, and sports fans to commit to challenging homophobia in sports. Every month, we have new ambassadors who sign on to spread the cause and speak to athletes at their school. If someone wants to help, the first things they can do are sign the pledge online, share the pledge link with their network on Facebook and Twitter, and ask others to do the same. The reason why Athlete Ally is gaining so much momentum is because this is a cause people believe in and want to support.
In the year since it was founded, Athlete Ally has had incredible success, including getting 4,864 pledges to make teammates feel respected on and off the field. They also have had numerous press pieces and recently partnered with the NCAA. Their Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube Channel also have quickly built up an engaged following. Read more and support Athlete Ally by exemplifying respect and leadership!
And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.
Hillary Clinton’s call to action in her historic LGBT speech in Geneva.
Issues of equality for all humans regardless of geography, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, appearance, age, medical conditions, and any other assignment or trait are extremely important to me, and also will never go away. I’m proud of the work Clinton has done and the stand our country is beginning to take; human rights is a fight that deserves strong people behind it, and distinct courage to lead the movement. Her call to action is not difficult, and it pains me to think that this is not intuitive to many people. We can and should all make a concerted effort in every action of every day to treat others with dignity and kindness, as her words can certainly be applied beyond gay people, too, to any group of people, to any person.
Have you met Miss Gender?
This incredible documentary podcast by Jay Frosting featuring Ashley is an audio and visual commentary on a transgender girl’s transition and her adventures becoming a girl. It’s well-constructed, completely genuine, smart, and innovative. I like that Jay and Ashley are longtime friends, and that the format is just a sincere conversation. It’s not trying to achieve anything monumental, I don’t think, but in sharing an experience full of anecdotes with a generally not transgender audience, it does, in fact, monumentally put a very real, unassuming face to an otherwise foreign and perhaps slightly ‘weird’ idea. In other words, this podcast has a super comfortable feel with a normally more edgy subject, and this engrosses a listener quite effectively while also having potential to change attitudes. Granted, this podcast shouldn’t fully construct a listener’s view of every MTF, but it’s not trying to be that at all. In summary, it’s charming and engaging.