The Big Gay Prom is coming up this month. “Prom-I-Con” will be the 10th prom hosted by the Gay Alliance.
It’s hard to believe that the Alliance started the prom only a decade ago. The Youth Program began around 1999, but volunteers had met regularly with youth for some years before that to offer support. Then in 2005 came the first Big Gay Prom. It usually attracts over 200 youth.
The prom is not only fun for the youth, it is their only chance to have that dream dance where they will be free to be themselves, meet new friends and socialize with other youth who have had many of the same experiences.
And some of those experiences have been terrible. LGBT youth are still harassed, beaten and even killed. So far in 2015, at least five trans youth have committed suicide, driven to take their own lives by years of bullying.
That’s the message our society has always given LGBTQ youth: be “normal” like us, or die/kill yourself. And that is the message sent by conservative extremists today, and by heterosexual youth who have been encouraged to hate and bully others.
When a gay British aristocrat was caught and then fled to the continent back in the early 20th century, King George V’s comment was, “I thought chaps like that killed themselves.”
That’s what gay, lesbian, bi and trans people are supposed to do, according to “Traditional Values”.
And that’s why we need youth groups, GSAs and all LGBTQ organizations. That’s why we need the Day of Silence and Pride and bans on ex-gay torture “therapy” for youth.
We must reject the bigotry and vicious hate masquerading as Christianity (or any other religion) and reject the message “You are bad and wrong and should die.” Saying that to anyone is cruel and irresponsible – telling children to hate and kill themselves is about as immoral as you can get. But that’s what conservative extremists are doing, despite their hypocritical denials.
It’s time to end this. It’s time to say once and for all that hate-based rhetoric and discrimination (like Indiana’s “religious freedom” law) are profoundly immoral and incite bashing, murder and self-destruction.
In upstate NY we saw the result of conservative hate speech in April when a corrections officer resigned after posting that he hoped citizen execution of gays, as pushed by that California ballot amendment, would become legal — and the first “faggots” he’d kill would be his gay neighbors.
When youth see Pride marches and other evidence that gay people can live happy, fulfilled lives, they become stronger and realize that they have support, that they are not “bad” or “wrong” and that their lives are precious. In turn, today’s youth are becoming role models for younger LGBTQ kids and examples of heroic strength for those who would abuse them and try to destroy their self-respect and even their lives.
Our youth also inspire older LGBTQ people with their courage and leadership. Youth are leaders of today as well as tomorrow.
The East Coast Two Spirit Society is a new not-for-profit organization, serving the Two Spirit Native American and First Nations communities of the North Eastern Region of Turtle Island (North America).
The mission of the organization, as posted on its web page ec2ss.net reads, “The East Coast Two Spirit Society (EC2SS) is devoted to Two Spirit Native American and First Nations communities and the reduction of bias and discrimination due to lack of information. The EC2SS provides information to the general public and support and services to Two Spirit Natives, formerly known as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming.
“EC2SS works to increase the positive visibility of Two Spirit communities and to provide safe, supportive opportunities for social, traditional and recreational interactions that are culturally appropriate to them. EC2SS also strives to reach Two Spirit youth and their families, to provide emotional support, care and a community of people who have experienced the challenges of being Native and Two Spirit, often while living and working in Native and other communities where they may not be fully welcomed or supported themselves.”
The Leadership Council is made up of six individuals from different Native nations, living in different states, but who presently reside in the North East region of North America. Working in many fields, each member of the Leadership Council is also an artist in a variety of mediums, including the performing arts. Each member also plays a role in the planning of the EC2SS Annual Gathering, and in creating a truly safe and welcoming atmosphere where our Two Spirit community can experience the joy and freedom of being their authentic selves.
The Chair of the organization, Sheldon Raymore is from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in La Plant, South Dakota. Currently residing in NYC, Sheldon is a competitive grass dancer, competing on the National powwow circuit. He is an artist, a designer and co-facilitator of the weekly powwow dance practices held in NYC.
The Vice Chair of EC2SS is Janis Stacey, who resides in Eastern Pennsylvania and is a Co-Chair of the 2015 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference planning committee. She also serves on the board of Trans Faith. Janis is of Dakota and Cherokee blood, and has supported a variety of organizations and participated in many efforts involving Native American, Racial, Gender and LGBT issues.
Sadé Ali lives in Delaware and serves as the Treasurer on the Council. She is affiliated with the Pictou Landing First Nations Reserve in Pictou Landing, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is First Nations Mi’kmaq, Two Spirit and a member of the Sturgeon Clan. Sadé is an author, a trainer on healing from historical trauma and works with Tribal Nations in the US as a government contractor.
Gréggoire Martello, a member of the Eastern Band Cherokee who resides in Pittsburgh, PA. wears many hats. He serves EC2SS on the Leadership Council as the Secretary, Scribe and as the Registrar for the EC2SS Annual Gathering. Gréggoire is an Educator and Interpreter at the Senator John Heinz Historic Center (Smithsonian) and a Native American Interpreter with the Meadowcroft Rockshelter & Historic Village. He is a Representative/Member of the NMAI, INAFA, BAA, BSA, ITG, SA and the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center.
Personnel and Veteran’s Affairs are taken care of by Kelly Baumgartner. Kelly, who is a US Navy Veteran of Cherokee decent, has worked with LGBTTSQI youth and as a Victim Advocate where she lives in Rochester, NY. She believes that the health of the People can be improved by empowering them with the knowledge and ability to grow their own healthy, organic food. Kelly is also dedicated to helping our Two Spirit Veterans find the support and services they require.
Last but certainly not least is Ty Defoe. Ty is the youngest and newest member of the Leadership Council and will be taking the lead in Youth Services.
Ty Defoe (Giizhig), is from the Oneida and Ojibwe tribes of Wisconsin. He is a Grammy Award winner for work on “Come to Me Great Mystery: Native American Healing Songs”. He is a two-spirit/trans* activist, cultural pioneer, writer, musician, and is known for his cultural education, hoop and eagle dancing. As a multidisciplinary artist, Ty has gained recognition in many circles around the world.
Among current highlights, Ty received an Indigenous Heritage Festival Award. This award is given to artists who have made a major positive impact on indigenous people and issues of the world. A NEA award grant for work on “Drum is Thunder, Flute is the Wind,” 2016 Robert Rauschenberg Artist in Residence, and 2015 Yale Institute for Musical Theatre for book and lyrics on “Clouds Are Pillows for the Moon” (w/ composer Tidtaya Sinutoke).
Ty, is a devoted mentor at the Alaskan Cultural Heritage Center & Pineridge Playwrights Initiative. He also is a member of the East Coast Two Spirit Society. He received degrees from California Institute of the Arts, Goddard College, and recently from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch School of the Arts. Ty is TCG’s Leading the Charge: equity, diversity, and inclusion fellow. Dramatist Guild member. tydefoe.com
The traditional roles of Two Spirit People are to live in service of the People, those in need as well as Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. The Leadership Council members each serve the People and their communities in different ways, bringing to the table an overabundance of talent and life experiences. Each wishing to use those experiences and abilities to help Two Spirit Elders and Veterans receive the services they require and deserve, and to support the youth who are living in a time of epidemic rates of suicide among their peers, and in their Native communities.
If you or anyone you know is Two Spirit and in need of support, contact any one of the Leadership Council at ec2ss.net and leave a message and a safe way to contact you.
You can see the East Coast Two Spirit Society at the Philadelphia Pride Parade, the New York City Pride Parade and the Pride Parade in Rochester next July.
The Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today reveals 25 Community Champions who have made significant contributions in the struggle for LGBT rights across Western New York.
The Champions represent a diverse cross-section of Western New York’s LGBT and allied communities, and have worked to further equality across workplaces, education, arts and entertainment, politics, communities of faith, and more. Community Champions will be honored at the Pride Agenda’s 25th anniversary celebration Spring Dinner on Saturday, May 16 at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, New York. Community Champions were selected by a committee following a nominations period that was open to the public.
The 25 Community Champions are:
| John Altieri
John Cullen, PhD
Former Mayors Robert Duffy, William Johnson and Thomas Richards
Sandra Frankel, Former Brighton Supervisor
Samuel Antonio Brett Sanchez
Dr. William Valenti
“We’re so excited to celebrate these 25 outstanding members of Western New York’s LGBT and allied community in this very special silver anniversary year,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. “We look forward to honoring these extraordinary individuals and generally having a great time on May 16, as the Spring Dinner always proves.”
“These Champions have followed their hearts knowing their work was the ‘right thing to do’ with disregard for their own personal consequences,” said Community Champions Committee Co-Chair Emily Jones. “The courage, tenacity and unshakable focus have created a community where LGBTQ people may thrive.”
The Spring Dinner is the largest LGBT event in Western New York. The evening draws hundreds of LGBT supporters and allies. Since the inception of the Spring Dinner, the Pride Agenda has publicly recognized a member of the Western New York community for their commitment and work towards the mission of furthering equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers with a Community Service Award. This is the first year 25 Community Champions will be honored in conjunction with the organization’s 25th anniversary.
The 2015 Spring Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 16 from 5:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester. The evening will be hosted by Netflix’s Orange is the New Black star Lea DeLaria with the keynote address delivered by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Additional information, including sponsorships and tickets, is available at prideagenda.org/SpringDinner.