To Whom it May Concern:
re: The "Great Southern Gay & Lesbian Festival"
It has recently come to the attention of the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Alliance of Pride, Inc. that an event bearing the above name is scheduled to take place on Labor Day weekend at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. Actually, we were first alerted to this event when a representative of Artists Against AIDS [who represented to this paper that they were "not involved"-ed.] called to request a copy of our vendor's list for 1996.
The New Orleans Alliance of Pride is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization incorporated in 1989 that has, since its inception, sponsored, funded at produced New Orleans' Annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival. Due to the manner in which the above mentioned event has been marketed, there is considerable confusion afoot in the Lesbian and Gay community of Greater New Orleans regarding Pride's possible involvement. We regard this as a very unfortunate circumstance, especially in view of the fact that as a non-profit organization, we are often hard-pressed to come by this kind of expensive publicity.
The Officers and the Board of Directors respectfully request that you immediately cease and desist using the phrase "Lesbian and Gay Festival" in connection with any event not sponsored by New Orleans Alliance of Pride or an IALGPC member organization. Furthermore, proprietary information regarding vendors or participants in PrideFest is not available for public use. Please acknowledge receipt of this message by return Email within 24 hours, as we may seek legal counsel in this matter. You may call Stephen Graffeo, Co-Chair, at 504.949.1974 if you have any questions regarding this request.
-New Orleans Alliance of Pride, Inc.
I sat here and read your note from the July 25/August 7 issue of AMBUSH magazine a couple of times before I could even sit down and format a proper response to your misrepresentations of the TG community at large. Perhaps you have managed (though I do not feel that this was your intention) to point out the need for better clarification about transgender issues within your local medical community.
I am especially surprised by the fact that - even though you indicate that you have been involved with gender identification for years - that you have almost completely ignored approximately 50% of the transgender population by the lack of attention paid to female to male individuals -some of whom are not purely transsexual. It certainly makes me suspicious of your qualifications in your field, given such a grievous error. I also find it unusual that someone of your purported standing, would not seemingly have much current knowledge of transgender individuals (I should note: I am using the term "transgender" as a blanket term for anyone who transcends the gender assigned to them at birth, and including crossdressers, the intersexed, transsexuals, and others). I would also love to hear you cite the sources of the percentages you seem to brandish about, as these seem far out of line of many other published reports.
Yes, you are correct that there are a number of crossdressers for whom crossdressing is more of a fetish, but there can be both gay and straight individuals in that category. Many others do prefer to live within more than one gender publicly, to any myriad of levels. Some are very secretive, and some are very open about their chosen gender expression. Likewise, these individuals may be gay, straight, or bisexual. It was rather surprising to me that you showed a high deal of compassion for gay crossdressers, yet chose to attack straight crossdressers as you have, even referring to the lesbian bars that are accepting of such individuals as only "so-called lesbian bars."
You also have labeled transsexuals with the following: "And again in many cases the Transsexual will seek out male companions, and lovers, and usually when the surgery is complete, begin to compete as a female, in the heterosexual world, with certain minimal exceptions" Speaking as one of these "minimal exceptions," I can assure you that there are plenty of gay, bi, and lesbian transsexuals out there - certainly more than you seem willing to note in your letter.
As far as the argument with the Human Rights Campaign, please do attempt to understand that those of us who are transgender wish for the same things that others in the overall queer community seek: legal protection from losing our jobs, the right to marry, and a general feeling of acceptance. We seek the rights that are guaranteed within the Constitution of the United States of America. In fact, I find it interesting that you cannot understand the plight of transgendered individuals, and their argument with HRC, yet also define the HRC's goals as "to bring those guaranteed rights to all have been overlooked, or forgotten." The transgendered have been forgotten, even by the HRC.
For instance, the recent ENDA legislation, while covering an individual who is gay or lesbian by orientation very well, does not cover a transgender individual, regardless of orientation, and (in fact, because of that) leaves the door open for termination of any individual based on the way they are perceived - because the "look like" a transgendered individual gay or lesbian. What does that mean? A early-in-transition female to male, or a butch lesbian will be covered equally under ENDA - both can lose their job. It works in the opposite manner as well.
I find this discussion about including transgenders in the Human Rights Campaign interesting. I read Dr Weisberg's letter calling for the exclusion of transgenders from the Human Rights Campaign and then, remarkably, several days later in the Times Picayune editorial section ( July 29, 1997) there was an article "Is Tiger Woods Indifferent To Bias" by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The immediate issue discussed was the fact that Tiger Woods played golf at the Lochinvar Golf Club of Houston, a club closed to women. The club's policy came to light when a female producer for CNN/Sports Illustrated was denied entrance. She was later allowed access to an area out of sight of club members. Tiger Wood's response to those who suggested that a discriminatory club is an inappropriate place for an icon of anti-discrimination to play golf was "I can't be a champion of all causes."
Pitts points out that Wood's image makers have positioned him as a symbol for anti-discrimination and he recalls Nike's commercial featuriing Tiger Woods dealing with golf's long history of discrimination. He says "for him to respond with indifference when asked to stand and deliver is small and hypocritical."
Pitts continues, " As a young man of color excelling in a field that has been historically closed to people like him, how dare Tiger Woods shrug off discrimination against women as, apparently, no big deal? It burns me to see people who have known prejudice turn around and engage in-or, in Woods' case, tolerate-the same odious practice. Human memory is short apparently. And human beings are woefully shortsighted. How else to explain our frequent inability to see the common thread among our varous biases? .... How in the world can put upon peoples-the very ones who should know better-always rationalize (or again tolerate) bigotry against others? It only goes to show that our deepest biases spring from some primitive part of our selves, some place logic is hard put to reach."
He says " Pitts is a young man caught in something bigger than he is, Cesar Chavez, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and every other American who dared to believe that " all...created equal" meant exactly that. The challenge he faces is to become what his handlers said he already was, to rise to the level of his hype, to be worthy ..... And to learn that there is a difference between surface and substance. Greatness is not a TV commercial."
I do not need an M.D. to tell me right from wrong. I have supported HRC and even watched their ENDA commercial on Ellen. Now HRC faces the same dilemma Tiger Woods faces when he tolerates discrimination against women as no big deal. (HRC seems to think employment discrimination of transgenders is to be tolerated...no big deal.) There is a difference though. The Human Rights Campaign is an organization which is nominally dedicated to "human rights." As such, they need to face their their own indifferences and rise above the level of their own hype. There is a difference between surface and substance. Get some substance HRC and stop the hypocrisy This is getting odious.
[Ed. note: We've recerived many letters concerning this issue and will run them in the future as space permits.]
As with every tragic situation of such magnitude, the Andrew Cunanan murder spree and his subsequent suicide under pressure from the "better late than never" manhunt, raises many more questions than it answers. The bizarre transformation of one human being, (who went from a popular, well-liked figure in San Diego's gay community to a murderer of gay people) coupled with the violent deaths of five other human beings, leaves many of us wondering about how this could have happened. Why would Cunanan do such a thing?
The gay community was traumatized and fearful in the midst of the manhunt. Many of us in West Hollywood were looking over our shoulders before we opened our front doors. The gay communities of Miami and San Diego were on even more alert. There was a great deal of anger about the insufficient attention paid to the Cunanan case before the Versace murder by law enforcement authorities. America got to see first hand how the priorities of law enforcement can be impaired by homophobia.
While the media continues to sensationalize the story in order to sell papers, one unreported byproduct of the tragedy was that for a brief moment gay and straight communities had come together.
Unified public pressure was brought to bare to catch Cunanan and the (unfortunately) normal rift between gay and straight was briefly overcome. Of course, this commonality of purpose co-existed with the standard anti-gay fare, like the notion that this murder spree was merely an extension of the "bizarre gay lifestyle," or that Cunanan's motive was revenge for being HIV infected, (promoting the assertion that HIV+ individuals are a threat to society in more ways than one). Nicole Ramirez-Murray, a long-time San Diego gay leader who emerged as an important spokesperson on the situation, skillfully and factually disputed these assertions, heading off a "spin" which could have damaged our long-term efforts toward equality and understanding.
The unsensational question raised by this tragic situation is whether it opens up an opportunity to build more understanding between gay and straight America? Are violence and tragedy the only circumstances that will bring people together these days? As a gay political leader who works everyday to build bridges between gay and straight America, I constantly ask myself and others what needs to happen in this country to close the gap, so we can come together in times other than of great threat? Is there opportunity for greater growth and understanding between gay and straight America? What would that entail?
Differences and conflicts between rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight have come to permeate American political and social life. The differences in our everyday lives are no longer a stimulant for curiosity and exploration, but are rather the causes of anger and hatred. Every issue has become so highly politicized and so thoroughly partisan, that America is seriously divided and polarized. It now takes a tragedy to bring Americans together-for the decency which is so fundamental to being an American to show it's face. The rest of the time we are busy being manipulated to distrust each other, and to oppose each other.
How do we overcome that distrust and resist that manipulation? Ironically, the Cunanan tragedy may have shown us a little bit of the way. The gay community-which has shaped it's politics by emphasizing it's differences with straight America, (and ended up isolated as a result)- found itself emphasizing its commonality with the rest of America, and we became closer for it. Perhaps there is a lesson here that all Americans would do well to learn.
-Jim Mangia, National Secretary, Reform Party
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