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Ban Conversion Therapy in Erie County PA

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on May 1, 2018 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Good evening Members of Erie County Council

Before I prepared my remarks for this evening, I asked PA Representative Mike Schlossberg what suggestions he had that would give my presentation greater impact. His advice was to share a personal story.

My name is David Moore, and I represent the 26,000 supporters and followers of the Pennsylvania Equality Project. We are an organization dedicated to fighting for full equality and fairness under the law for the LGBTQ community of Pennsylvania. I am also the founder of the Gay Straight Alliance at Conneaut Area Senior High School. I have spoken with students who have survived conversion therapy attempts, and know first-hand the pain they have endured. I also stand here today as a ten year survivor and fighter of papillary thyroid cancer, and as a result have retired from teaching.

I am here today to talk about the need to implement a ban on conversion therapy in Erie County. The strain of cancer I have, Tall Cell Variant Papillary Thyroid cancer has no cure. Coincidentally, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or in any way having a non-heteronormative sexual or gender identity is not a disease, and thus, requires no cure. Health professionals who offer a cure for being LGBT are peddling snake oil. That claim comes from numerous professional health care, social work, and education organizations.

According to the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, approximately 20,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 17 will undergo attempts at conversion therapy from licensed health care professionals before they reach the age of 18 in the 40 states that currently allow conversion therapy. An additional 57,000 youth will undergo conversion therapy attempts in all 50 states at the hands of religious or spiritual advisers. Nothing under Pennsylvania law prevents that from happening in Erie County.

Throughout US history from 1890 to the present, numerous conversion therapy techniques have been used by health care professionals seeking to change a person’s identity, including talk therapy, which is currently the most commonly used technique today. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, other methods include aversion treatments such as inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis, providing electroshock, or having the individual snap an elastic wrist band when the individual had same-sex erotic thoughts.

What are the harmful effects of conversion therapy? According to research conducted at San Francisco State University, young people who are LGBTQ who live in non-supportive environments and undergo conversion therapy are 8 times more likely to commit suicide, 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3 times more likely to turn to illegal drugs. According to Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania already faces an opioid epidemic. We need not make matters worse, even by one child, by allowing conversion therapy to continue.

Numerous professional organizations have taken a stand against conversion therapy, including the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry who finds:

"... no evidence to support the application of any “therapeutic intervention” operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological. Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such “conversion therapies” (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility. Additionally, there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, “conversion therapies” should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents."

The American Medical Association states further:

"Our AMA… opposes, the use of 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation."

On December 20, 2016, the city of Pittsburgh became the first municipality in Pennsylvania to ban the practice of conversion or “reparative therapy” under Section 628 of Title VI of the city’s municipal code. Their ordinance makes illegal the practice of conducting conversion therapy within the city of Pittsburgh by any health care professional who is paid for his or her services.

The city of Philadelphia followed on July 11, 2017 with a similar ordinance. Philadelphia code 9-903 imposes a penalty of loss of the required commercial activity license, and a $2,000 fine for each instance of conversion therapy. The city of Allentown followed Philadelphia’s lead on July 20, 2017. Reading and Doylestown Borough passed ordinances in December last year, and State College did so in February of this year.

The Commonwealth has yet to pass a statewide ban on conversion therapy. House Bill 1177 is presently stalled in the Health Committee of the General Assembly, while Senate Bill 44 shares a similar fate in the Pennsylvania Senate. Lacking any further action from the Pennsylvania legislature, minors in Erie County lack the protection afforded them in the aforementioned municipalities. In the bill pending before the legislature, the General Assembly declared,

Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming. The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researches in the United States have recognized this fact for more than 40 years.

They continue by saying,

The American Psychological Association convened a task force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, and substance abuse.

Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly recognize that the Commonwealth has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In particular, the bill seeks to protect minors against exposure to serious harms caused by conversion therapy.

The Pennsylvania Equality Project has drafted a petition with 8,136 signatures that seeks to ban conversion therapy throughout Pennsylvania. A similar petition for residents of Erie County was released earlier this evening. While our organization recognizes the need to honor the First Amendment freedom of religion, that same freedom should not be used as a weapon to allow children to suffer the damaging effects of conversion therapy. Therefore, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Equality Project in light of the inaction of the Pennsylvania legislature, I call on Erie County Council to adopt an ordinance that would ban health care practitioners from performing conversion therapy in Erie County.

Thank you

Does it get better?

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on March 13, 2018 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

For some children and young adults, the promise that on some nebulous day in the future, life will improve, seems empty and unfulfilling. For LGBTQ+ youth, a life without bullying, teasing, abuse, and neglect from peers, birth families, and school officials seems unreal. For LGBTQ+ couples living in same-sex relationships and families in Philadelphia, two different foster agencies have made perfectly clear that homosexuality is contrary to their religious beliefs, and for those families, the prospects of foster children in the city are bleak, despite the need for foster families. 


When does it get better? How will life improve? Who is leading the effort to make life better? Unfortunately, no clear, simple answers exist to any of these questions. However, we can all make a difference. We can voice our opinions, and make clear our demands for change when we VOTE for officials who support the LGBTQ+ community. When we attend Pride events, and speak with one, loud, strong, unified voice, we make clear that as a group, we have the power to make lasting change. We can provide today's youth with a voice for change. 


Equality PA and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress have been forceful advocates for change across Pennsylvania for several years now. Locally, across the Commonwealth, organizations such as the Northwest PA Pride Alliance, TransFamily of NWPA, TransFamily of Central PA, and others have made a difference and have advocated for change. They rely on our community for support. When the Day of Giving comes each year, make a contribution to one of these organizations. Consider donating to the Pennsylvania Equality Project. As we transition from social media presence to a 501c3 organization, know that we are planning steps to make Pennsylvania better.


How do you respond to someone who asks, "will it get better?" Stay tuned to this space as we present our plans for the future of the Pennsylvania Equality Project, and watch us grow. Share with us your advice, and help us pass it along to the LGBTQ+ youth of PA.

What will 2018 bring?

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on December 31, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

With the country taking several large steps in the past year toward the right or even far-right side of the spectrum, one might expect my forecast for 2018 to be even gloomier than my forecast for 2017. However, I am not entirely pessimistic. I do believe we have considerable work to do to improve our local communities, and improve our Commonwealth. All civil rights organizations in Pennsylvania, and there are plenty to choose, will need all the support they can get from people who support our causes. Thus, my prognostications for 2018 are:

1. The United States Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, and against the Colorado Human Rights Commission. This decision will be a 5 to 4 victory for the conservatives who believe that businesses should be allowed to decide what clientele will enter their shops. Soon enough, across the country, the definitely intended consequence of this ruling will be signs that read "No Gays Allowed." Imagine that sign at hotels, restaurants,  coffeeshops, and other businesses. Worse yet, imagine signs that say NO LGBT people permitted at hospitals, schools or universities, and government agencies. This ruling alone would set back not just marriage equality, but more broadly, equal rights in general.

The way to retaliate against this ruling will be to convince businesses, large and small, to post signs in their store windows welcoming all people regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  Companies large and small will need training on inclusivity, and making their work space free from discrimination. One other way to address this ruling is to push the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass the bipartisan Pennsylvania Fairness Act. We need to continue reaching out to our elected representatives and senators in Harrisburg and encourage them to pass this bill.

2. The Erie County Council will approve an ordinance making Erie County the first county in the Commonwealth to ban conversion therapy on minors. While Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Reading, and Doylestown Borough have already wiped out this heinous and cruel hoax of a therapy, Erie County will take the lead and address the problem swiftly. To that end, the Pennsylvania Equality Project will need continued support from our Erie County friends and potentially need to address Erie County Council in person. Shy of the legislature in Harrisburg address and approving the bill to ban conversion therapy, municipalities and counties will have to respond at times that Harrisburg cannot or will not.

3. The National Insitutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control will have their funding for HIV and AIDS research and prevention slashed drastically. Donald Trump will make the case that the crisis is practically over, and that the states need to take up a greater share of the costs that stem from infection. Furthermore, both NIH and the CDC will be restricted in discussing HIV, AIDS, and STIs within their budget requests from Congress. This has not happened, and from the news I have read, does not appear to be forthcoming. However, if words like "transgender" and "diversity" can be disavowed by the Trump administration, then HIV and AIDS can be equally curtailed.

4. The Department of Education will continue to have its budget slashed in hopes of trimming the deficit for the over $1.5 Trillion in tax breaks for corporations and the überwealthy. In the process, public schools will lose most of the funding they receive for guidance counselors, drug prevention programs, and anti-bullying efforts. The Department will direct states to fund these programs entirely on their own. In Pennsylvania's case, the legislature will make up the shortfall by directing local school districts to seek an increase in property taxes. The alternative will be a series of unfunded mandates that will cause school districts to increase borrowing to pay for these programs, if they are to be continued.

5. Governor Tom Wolf will be re-elected as Governor of Pennsylvania in November. The results will be so close, that the Republican opponent, Scott Wagner will demand a recount. The Governor will sign a bill this spring that will increase funding for county health departments to continue the ongoing fight against opioid addiction, and provide funding for police departments to use Narcan.

6. With Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania's Physician General by his side, Governor Tom Wolf will announce that insurance for counseling and medical procedures for  transgender youth will be assured through the CHIP program. I predict that Governor Wolf will veto a bill this spring that would attempt to remove such coverage. .

7. With the guidance and assistance of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, thirty more school districts will develop Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs. School district administration and school boards across Pennsylvania will agree that the time has come to recognize that by allowing a club to form, bullying issues will likelier be addressed, and students will feel safer at school.

8. The Pennsylvania Equality Project will have successful "Ban Conversion Therapy Rallies," in Mercer, Armstrong, and Butler counties. As a result of these rallies, greater awareness of this issue will be heard across western Pennsylvania.

9. Tragedy will strike at Pittsburgh's Pride Parade, when water will fall from the sky. It will not, in fact, be raining men.

Those are my 9 predictions for 2018. I hope at least some of these come true. We are in the fight for equality together, and everyone's voices must be heard. Please take a moment to share these predictions, and stay "woke" in 2018.

Happy New Year,

David

Some Gloom, But No Doom: Reprint

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on December 31, 2017 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

This post was originally on our previous website. It is worthy of reading just to see if I came anywhere close with my prognostications. Check out the predictions for 2018 on my next blog post tonight!

With 2016 coming to an end, it is time for my predictions for the new year. I am not very optimistic about the chances of much civil rights legislation advancing in Pennsylvania or in Washington. In some ways, I think we will lose many of the rights we have gained, or at least had taken for granted. Thus, my vision for 2017 is:


1. Donald Trump will be sworn into office with minimal fanfare. Kanye West will feel snubbed since he was not chosen to host for the evening, and he will launch his presidential candidacy within minutes of the inauguration. Scott Baio will serve as master of ceremonies for a former-star studded evening that will include Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. Meanwhile, on ABC, an evening with Madonna, Beyonce, Elton John, and every other celebrity who turned down a bid to perform at the inauguration will host a benefit concert for HIV-AIDS awareness.

2. The concert will lead the Nielsen ratings over the television series premiere of The Apprentice Cabinet.

3. Senator Ted Cruz will push for his First Amendment Defense Act. Both the House and the Senate will hold hearings on the bill, and despite dramatic back and forth between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the bill will clear final hurdles in the Senate, and arrive at President Trump's desk. He will sign it, and immediately, businesses will put out signs saying "No Gays Allowed." You can take steps to prevent its passage by signing our petition.

4. A new strand of HIV called HIV-2 will become an even deadlier threat. As a result of intense lobbying by Vice President Mike Pence, money that would have been allocated to deal with such a threat will be used instead for other projects, such as electroshocking gay youth.

5. Betsy Devos, the new Secretary of Education, will promote a plan to Congress that will virtually remove all federal funding for education, unless states are willing to institute plans to direct block grant funding to religious-based schools. States will be forced to develop voucher programs, and public schools will continue to suffer from lack of funding. Anti-bullying efforts will be left to private organizations.

6. Non-profit entities such as GLSEN will not be allowed to offer their brochures or programs in schools, because the new voucher program will include a clause that denies LGBTQ groups access to K-12 campuses.

7. In terms of the blood ban against gay men, the FDA will reinstitute more stringent guidelines that will deny gay men to donate blood, even to themselves. As a result, blood banks will notice a 20% decrease in the number of donors they have had from previous years.

8. A record number of people will turn out when PEP marches on the capital in Harrisburg this June to demand passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. Despite our best efforts, legislators will adjourn the session without progress on it, nor the PA 2017-2018 budget. Schools across the Commonwealth will suffer as a result.

9. Erie County will be the first in Pennsylvania to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors. Philadelphia's and Pittsburgh's citywide bans will serve as the basis for the legislation. The Human Rights Commission for Erie County will offer any other counties that inquire, any additional information about why this ban is necessary.

10. Attendance at Pride events across Pennsylvania will be at an all-time high as a record number of straight allies discover all the fun they have been missing. While glitter stockpiles will dwindle, supplies will be replenished in time for Labor Day.

That's it, folks. Some of these predictions are meant to be silly or absurd. Some are meant to be serious wake up calls for times to come. The threat against LGBTQ youth is worse than ever. Meanwhile, we have to fight to protect some semblance of the Affordable Care Act. Abolishing it entirely, which is something Donald Trump has pledged to do, should not happen unless Congress first has in place, a plan that will provide even better coverage for the millions of Americans who otherwise would be left to die for lack of health insurance. With that most unpleasant thought in mind, I wish you all the very best and brightest for the new year, 2017! #LongLiveEquality

In solidarity,

David

PEP Equality Award & Lifetime Achievement Winners

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on December 16, 2017 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

The Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Equality Project (PEP) proudly announce the winners of this year’s Equality Awards. Jason Landau Goodman, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress; Caitlyn Strohmeyer, Facilitator, Transfamily of Erie; David Moore, President and Founder of the Pennsylvania Equality Project. Furthermore, the Board proudly announces that Janice Rael is the winner of this year’s PEP Lifetime Achievement Award for her advocacy and activism in the LGBTQ community in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 1992.



Janice Rael is the Founder and President of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, DVAU. Janice, who has lived in South Jersey for most of her life, is a grassroots activist who has focused on various church-state separation issues throughout the years, including religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBT equality, supporting public education, and promoting science literacy. In addition to running the Delaware Valley Americans United Chapter, Janice is a Co-Organizer of Gloucester County Humanists in New Jersey. She co-organizes several Philadelphia-area secular groups on Meetup, including Philadelphia Atheists Meetup. Janice also serves on the National Leadership Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Janice was formerly a co-chair of the Philadelphia LGBT Leaders and Activists Coalition called The Summit, a grassroots activist group that fought for marriage equality and LGBT rights in Pennsylvania and beyond. Thanks to her work with all of these groups, she currently sits on the Executive Committees of the Secular Coalition for New Jersey and the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania.

 

Jason is the founding Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. He has been a leader in LGBTQ youth advocacy for over seven years as the first person to work directly and specifically with LGBTQ youth on the statewide level in Pennsylvania. A fifth generation Pennsylvanian, Jason is from Lower Merion Township. He is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (C’11, Design’14) and a current law student at the University of Pittsburgh. Jason began his work in community organizing in 2010 through starting and successfully spearheading the effort for a local non-discrimination ordinance in Lower Merion. The ordinance was unanimously adopted and made Lower Merion the first municipality in Montgomery County to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Jason is a 2010 Jonathan Lax Scholar and has been named one of the top 12 LGBT Youth Leaders in the United States by Campus Pride. The Philadelphia Gay News named him 2010 runner-up for Person of the Year, a 2013 Person to Watch, and Best Youth in 2015. In 2011, he was invited by the White House as one of five college youth in the nation to President Obama’s LGBT Pride Month Reception. In 2012, he was selected by the White House to participate in the first LGBT Emerging Leaders program. He spoke at the United Nations for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in 2017. His work in the LGBTQ community has been profiled in newspaper articles and online blogs across the country. 


Caitlyn Strohmeyer is the President of and a facilitator with Transfamily of Erie.

 

David Moore founded the Pennsylvania Equality Project (formerly Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania) in 2011. In his time as the leader of the organization, he has built it into one of the larger statewide, grassroots LGBTQ organizations in Pennsylvania. The organizations has held rallies and other events to raise awareness to win marriage equality, ban conversion therapy, add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against hate crimes, and has fought for passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. Most recently he became co-adviser of the Gay Straight Alliance Club at the school where he teaches.

 

The PEP Equality Awards were established in 2013 as a way to recognize the efforts of dedicated advocates across Pennsylvania. Previous award winners include: Paula Johnston of PEP, Senator Daylin Leach, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, Clerk of the Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County, D. Bruce Hanes, and Representative Brian Sims.

Why are we even having this conversation?

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on December 12, 2017 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

(Doug Jones (D) and Roy Moore (R) competing for the US Senate seat from Alabama)

While most children in northwest Pennsylvania are checking the snowfall to see whether they will be staying home from school tomorrow, I am playing the role of political junkie and checking out the results of the special election in Alabama for the US Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became Attorney General. Some might say that this is not a matter for the Pennsylvania Equality Project to even consider. The candidate selected by the people of Alabama is their business and not ours. I wholeheartedly disagree. We must engage in a political dialogue as a nation, and as a people. We must stop the rancor and political discord that has led us to the point we are now.


Roy Moore is fighting a campaign in which he claims that the "establishment Republicans" are out of touch and are attacking him. According to the Hill, "the Republican establishment actually wants Jones in there because they think they can beat him in two years without a contest," Moore said. "Of course, the Democrats want Jones in there for their vote. So I am fighting both the Republican establishment out of Washington as well as the Democratic Party." He is convinced that he will be fighting against both the GOP in Congress, and against the Democrats in order to support his brand of politics. So what is the Roy Moore brand?


As an Alabama Supreme Court justice, Roy Moore was removed from the bench when he violated the state's canon of ethics for failing to follow a Federal District judge's court order to remove the Ten Commandments statue from the Courthouse grounds. In 2015, he was suspended again from the court for the remainder of his term for violating the canon of ethics. This time, he sent orders instructing probate judges to violate the US Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, that made marriage for same-sex couples legal in all fifty states. In his most recent controversial comment, Roy Moore said that he believes that the marriage equality decision from the United States Supreme Court was worse than the 1857 Dredd Scott decision to uphold slavery. According to the Advocate, should Roy Moore prevail in the election this evening, he will be, "the Senate's most extreme anti-LGBT member."


Therein is the problem. Roy Moore's brand of Republicanism is one in which lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender neither have nor deserve to have any rights. He has said on more than one occasion that the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution after the Tenth Amendment are the cause of many of the problems in the United States. According to CNN, "Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured."


Given Roy Moore's record of vitriolic hatred against the LGBTQ community, and the allegations from several women who claim that he sexually harassed and assaulted them while they were still teens, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice does not deserve to win and hold the U.S. Senate seat. The injustice that he has unleashed on the people of Alabama becomes our problem because it allows his brand to have a voice in Congress, while the people who accuse of him of crimes must wait patiently for their day in Court. Roy Moore would have an even louder microphone with which he can spread his hate far beyond Alabama.


Furthermore, a Roy Moore election would send the message to LGBTQ youth that hate and homophobia win. The Donald Trump approach toward women is rewarded by voters who overlook his significant shortcomings and put him in office. Fortunately, as I conclude writing this blogpost, Doug Jones was declared the winner of the election by the Associated Press. So, I ask again, why are we even having this conversation?

In Solidarity,

David


On Giving Thanks and Gratitude

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on November 23, 2017 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

As today is Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to take time to reflect on the good things that have happened throughout the year and in our past, and to prepare for the coming struggles that lie ahead. Our organization has grown tremendously in six short years, and considerable change has come not just to the LGBTQ community but to our nation, and in turn, our world. Thus, I leave these remarks for all to consider.


I would like to take this opportunity to share some personal reflections about my own life and how they apply to the Pennsylvania Equality Project. First, I admit with no great fanfare, that I am happy in my life as a gay man, and I am equally happy to be married to a woman who has been by my side for the last 28 years. She is incredible simply for putting up with all the work I have done over the years. Much of the Pennsylvania Equality Project's success comes from her ideas, and understanding of the LGBTQ community. However, because I am married to a woman, I find myself with incredible privilege, that I freely accept. I am a white, middle aged male, who by most standards is quite fortunate. For all these things I am grateful. My privilege makes my need to give back to the LGBTQ community all the greater.


Apart from founding the Pennsylvania Equality Project (formerly Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania), I have stood on the front lines in the fight to win equal marriage rights from 2011 through 2014. I have written letters, emailed, and spoken in person with legislators from across Pennsylvania. I have marched in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Erie, and Pittsburgh as part of the fight for marriage rights. I have written and delivered petitions to the Governor seeking an end to conversion therapy, for the Fairness Act, and soon will deliver a petition seeking a change to hate crimes law seeking to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.


More recently, I stood before the school board of the district in which I teach and sought official recognition of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club, which as of November 9 is now functioning in the Conneaut School District. I am the co-adviser, and we have already held our first meeting. We have a subsequent meeting scheduled for after Thanksgiving, and we will be advocating for change. My students could not be happier with the progress, and they realize that finally their school has a welcoming place for them.


Since July 2016, I am an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church. We recognize the need for each individual to follow one's own truth toward life's end. Thus, we recognize that all people have inherent value, worth, and are deserving of dignity and respect. We have two simple tenets in our belief system: 1. Do that which is right by others, and 2. Defend other people's right to freedom of religion. As a personal aside, I am an atheist. I don't believe in a higher power. That said, I don't condemn or defame those who do. I admire their search for the truth, and their acceptance of a belief system that encourages them to do good for other people.


It is my belief system, not a belief in deities, that has led me to reach out to many in need. First, I have been working with some people living in Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan who are seeking asylum out of their respective countries. It is not easy work, and it frequently leaves me feeling disappointed that I cannot do more, and at a faster pace, to help them. They are gay men who live under constant threat of being persecuted, tortured, or killed just because they are gay men. In one particular case, my contact in Libya was dismissed from his college studies and told not to return to the University because he is gay. Despite my efforts and numerous emails to government officials, I have not yet been able to get these men to Europe.


My privilege demands that I fight toward and end to injustice. It demands that I work to ban conversion therapy, that I remember and advocate for the plight of transgender people, especially those of color. My privilege demands that I fight for the safety and protection of our LGBTQ youth from bullying and harm so that they can lead fulfilling and productive lives. Pennsylvania Equality Project holds Meet and Greet opportunities to provide safe space for like-minded people to gather to share in friendship and to build our community. I am obligated to make that happen, not just for the organization, but for the people who are the organization. It is not enough for me simply to walk away from the less fortunate; rather, it is my duty to be grateful for what I have and give what I can to those who need.


What more can you do? How can you express your gratitude for the good things you have, while giving back to the broader community? How can you open safe spaces for the vulnerable in your neighborhood who need extra support and kindness? Come back to this blog from time to time, as I share what our organization is doing to improve Pennsylvania and our community. Be thankful, and enjoy the holiday.


In Solidarity,

David

I am

Posted by david_m94@hotmail.com on November 12, 2017 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)
Greetings and welcome to our new blog pages,

As the President and Founder of the largest grassroots statewide LGBT organization in Pennsylvania, I am happy to be able to offer my thoughts here on our blog pages again. We are gladly and proudly accepting input from our supporters, and are seeking guest blog writers. If you would like to join us, please submit your comments to paequality@hotmail.com.

The sentence beginning with "I am..." is a powerful one. It defines our character and our identity. It says to the world who you are as an individual. How you end that sentence is entirely up to you. No one else can end that sentence for you, other than you. I posted this very question on my personal page, and a few people ended it with "gay." That's a perfectly fine answer, but it was far from the only answer. One person wrote "complicated, and not easily defined."

That last sentiment is true for many of us. I choose to complete that sentence, not with a word, but with a string of thoughts. I would turn that sentence into a paragraph. My choice for defining myself is this.

I am a teacher, who cares deeply about his students. I am a gay man, but I am married to a woman and have two grown sons. I am proud of my accomplishments, and regret my mistakes. I am a lifelong learner, who never stops reading, writing, and thinking daily. I am happy about my family, and am grateful for every day I have with them. I am a Democrat, but I am willing to listen to opposing views, and respect the people who espouse them. I am accepting of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and who do not fit into any of these categories. I am aware of the privilege I have for being a white male, and I know that I have to do a better job listening to people of color and allowing them space and time to express their needs and bringing to light the forces fighting against them. I am grateful to live in a nation that allows me the freedom to live my life as I see fit, and thankful for the military men and women who defend those rights. I am grateful for the veterans who served their time in our military and have defended my rights. I am aware that I need to be a better, more thoughtful listener. I am a cancer fighter and survivor, and will be until I die. I am alive and I am happy.

How you define yourself is up to you. I hope you include being a supporter of the ideals for which Pennsylvania Equality Project is fighting. Welcome to our new blog space. Define this space as you see fit, and please join in the conversation. Tell us who you are, and who you want our organization to become. Comments welcome.

In Solidarity,
David