Sochi – And Far Beyond

It’s almost impossible not to be moved by the artistry and images of the Olympic Games – not to mention skating commentator Johnny Weir’s outfits – but this time around, it’s all felt different. The Sochi Games have come to symbolize much more than athletic competition. Through a combination of overt host-country anti-LGBT hostility and savvy activism, Sochi has become a kind of coming out for global LGBT rights. Perhaps never before has the question of our rights had such prominence on the world stage. 

LGBT rights and the Olympics
rainbow ringsLGBT rights and the Olympics have been linked before. Back in 1982, in one of San Francisco’s many “LGBT firsts,” the inaugural Gay Olympics took place in Golden Gate Park’s Kezar Stadium. The International Olympic Committee infamously sued to bar organizers from using “Olympics” – and thus were born the Gay Games. (Side-note: Horizons is proud to have made the very first foundation grant to the Gay Olympics/Games that same year.)

That was a very different time. While the “Gay Olympics” controversy certainly got attention, it wasn’t by any means all supportive. In fact, even the concept of LGBT athletes remained quite radical back then. Continue reading

Creating Change: then and now

They say that everything’s big in Texas, and that was certainly true for the annual Creating Change conference in Houston last week. Sponsored by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force for the past 26 years, Creating Change ranks as the largest such gathering of LGBT people and allies anywhere.

CC CollageI remember when …
I happened to be at the very first Creating Change, at which maybe 100 of us gathered at the Hotel Washington, then a formerly lovely hotel that had faded enough that the Task Force could afford it. Back then, I lived in D.C. and volunteered at the Task Force, and for the second Creating Change wrote grant proposals to find some funding support. As grants for LGBT causes were then rarer than blizzards in Houston, we were beside ourselves when we hit our goal of $10,000.

While all that was exciting, and there was some vague sense of “this could be the start of something,” none of us then could envision what it’s become. Continue reading

In honor and in sorrow

Nelson_MandelaThe televisions, computer screens, and radio waves are and will be filled with the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. As well they should be. Perhaps no other figure, anywhere in the world, has commanded the kind of admiration and respect that this man has over the past 30 years.

It is difficult to know what to write at a moment like this, as words will never seem adequate. Yet it’s impossible not to try. The world has lost a historic and transformative leader, a man who stood with both courage and with pride; a man who understood the challenge, the necessity, and the enormous power of forgiveness; a man who fought for freedom, equality, and dignity for a whole people that had suffered unimaginable wrongs. And in doing so, with great and unwavering integrity, he inspired not just them but the entire world.

MandelaMandela’s vision was broad, encompassing not only those of the rainbow of racial and ethnic groups, but LGBT people as well. In all of Africa today, it is only the South Africa that Mandela led that has extensive legal protections for LGBT people, enshrined in its very constitution. That milestone would not have happened without the fierce and brave advocacy of LGBT South Africans themselves – nor without Mandela’s inclusive vision.  

Nelson Mandela’s legacy is – and long will be – vast in South Africa and far beyond. And while neither South Africa nor the world are today anywhere close to the ideals he championed, they are both far better off for his towering leadership.

All of us at Horizons Foundation join with you and hundreds of millions around the world in awe of his accomplishments, and in mourning his passing.

RD sig 09_2007 first thin

Roger Doughty
Executive Director

A dream, a movement, and a hero

March on WashingtonThis Wednesday, August 28, marks a momentous anniversary, 50 years since hundreds of thousands of people poured into Washington, D.C. for the March on Washington, the “march of marches” in the civil rights movement. It was on this day, 50 years ago, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his immortal speech, and though his soaring finish has been quoted and replayed millions of times – if not quite as many as the “I have a dream” section – still his words bear remembering: 

 

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

(Full text available here.)

I imagine that, if he spoke today, Dr. King would expand the list of those “able to join hands” those he named explicitly in 1963. But the call for freedom, for freedom “at last,” remains as indispensable a call in 2013 as it was a half-century ago.

More than a “civil rights” march
This week’s anniversary could hardly be more timely. While the past June brought thrilling news for LGBT rights, the same court also gutted the Voting Rights Act just the day before Windsor and Perry came down. Continue reading

Another hero leaves us

Sarria ThumbnailHeroes and heroines fill the LGBT history books. Then there are the countless thousands whose courage and contributions may not have made it into any history books – but have helped make history all the same.

And there are some who’ve written whole pages in those books. Among those was José Sarria, who died, far from the city he helped shape, two days ago. In the 1950s and 60s, Sarria was the soul of the famous Black Cat Bar at the edge of North Beach, where countless people went to be entertained, to be among their LGBT kin, and to be safe – the regular police raids notwithstanding – from a hostile and uncomprehending world outside the club’s doors. Continue reading

A Grand Day

Dear Friends,

We won!
By now you’ve heard the 2013SCOTUSRainbowgreat and grand news: the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA and restored the right to marry for California same-sex couples. This day, June 26, 2013, joins a handful of others as truly historic, world-changing milestones on our long road to justice, dignity, and freedom.

At last
At last, survivors like Edie Windsor will be spared having to deal with rank discrimination while grieving their partners’ loss. At last, binational couples – thousands and thousands of them – will be able to sponsor their spouses for green cards, and the stain on our nation’s laws known as the Defense of Marriage Act will be erased.

And, yes, at last, after five years of struggle, loving couples from San Diego to Modesto to Eureka – and all points in between – will be able to choose to marry.

And, yes, oh happy words to write: The insult to all of us – LGBT people and all lovers of fairness and freedom – that was Proposition 8 is dead.

I remember another end-of-term Supreme Court decision, now 27 years ago, when the court upheld anti-sodomy laws in the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick case. I remember so easily the rage that I felt upon hearing the news.

Today is so, so blessedly different. Today, we have not one, but two, splendid legal victories. And they’re much more than simply courtroom triumphs. The process of litigating these cases – and the other challenges to DOMA in particular – that turned America into a countrywide classroom in which the absurdity and wrongfulness of DOMA and Prop 8 were there for all to see.

All of us, together
All of us at Horizons Foundation extend many, many congratulations to these cases’ plaintiffs, their attorneys, and the legal teams. They have helped make history. 

History, however, has been made by every single one of us who has donated, marched, persuaded, protested, written, canvassed, voted, lobbied, educated, spoken out, or litigated to move LGBT people down this road to justice, dignity, and freedom. History happened today – and in all the thousands of days and hours and minutes of hard work, generosity, vision, and commitment that led to today.

We all have a great deal – a grand deal – to be proud of.

With profound gratitude and in deepest pride,

Roger Doughty, Executive Director of Horizons FoundationRD sig 09_2007 first thinRoger Doughty,
Executive Director

No matter what… celebrate!

2013PrideFlagMy first San Francisco Pride took place 21 years ago. I’d become involved in planning the 1993 March on Washington, and someone had obtained the giant rainbow flag, the one that stretches for something like half a city block. Dozens of volunteers carried it. My job was to walk alongside and exhort spectators to toss money into the flag.

By the end, I’d shouted myself hoarse but had lived a magical hour. I’ll never forget turning onto Market Street down near the Embarcadero, looking up through that canyon of buildings, the street lined with thousands of excited people, and that vast flag in front, its colors fluttering in the morning breeze.

We all have our “first Pride” stories, chapters in our own tales of awareness, acceptance, and embrace. This time of year, especially if you’re a victim of “Pride Day fatigue” – that “been there, done that” feeling – take a moment to remember your first Pride. I’ll bet you can remember the thrill, the sense of discovery, celebration, and simple power, too.

Holding Our Breath
This year’s Pride feels a little different. Right now, it’s as though we’re holding our collective breath. We’re keeping an eye on Supreme Court blogs and legal listservs waiting for The Decisions to come down. It might be tomorrow – or not until June 27, the very eve of Pride weekend –and the last day of the court’s term.

For us, of course, these decisions will be more than headlining news items; they’ll be more than historic events. They’ll be markers – important markers – along our road to equality, justice, and freedom.

No Matter What. . .
The Decisions, though, don’t tell the whole story. Not by any means. For irrespective of what nine justices have to say, I know three things to be true this Pride.

First, we have an enormous amount to be proud of. Just look at where our community stands today – now 12 states plus D.C. with marriage equality. More openly LGBT people in public office than ever before. Soldiers getting married. Nearly 60% of Californians voicing support for same-sex marriage, and even higher percentages favoring nondiscrimination protections.

We – all of us, together, no matter what the Supreme Court rules – are moving a mountain. Rock by rock, and after we’ve chipped away, decade after decade, that mountain has started to crumble under the weight of its own falsehoods.  And that’s something to be deeply proud of, in this Pride season and for many to come.

Second: we’ll still have a lot of mountain to move however wonderful – or disappointing – the rulings turn out to be. Except in the most optimistic scenarios, same-sex couples will continue to be excluded from marriage equality in more than 70% of the United States. Public opinion trends notwithstanding, in more than half of the states, it will still be legal to fire someone for being LGBT. Life hasn’t gotten better yet for tens of thousands of LGBT youth who are surrounded by hostility and ignorance. In Russia, “gay propaganda” has just been outlawed, with severe penalties promised those brave enough to defy the ban.

Third, it’s our individual and collective pride that will propel us to keep at that mountain. We know that we demand, as we always have, no more than equality. No more than simple justice. No more than freedom. Nor do we – nor will we – accept less than full equality, justice, and freedom. No proud people would. 

. . . Celebrate!
The freedom we’ve always sought includes the freedom to celebrate – to celebrate ourselves, to mark each of our journeys from shame to pride, from isolation to community, from powerlessness to power. Freedom to celebrate what we’ve accomplished – together.

That immense rainbow flag that rippled down Market Street was held up by many, many hands. The flurries of coins tossed into it came from many pockets. The shouts arose from many voices. And whatever the Supreme Court says, it’s just that – all of us, acting and giving together – that will win us what we all have dreamed of for so long.

As every year, with gratitude and pride,

Roger Doughty, Executive Director of Horizons Foundation

RD sig 09_2007 first thinRoger Doughty
Executive Director

LGBT Rights: Everywhere

IDAHOI just saw something very disturbing.

It’s a short clip showing what happened in the streets of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, earlier today, when thousands of people turned out to shout down – and shut down – a modest rally for LGBT rights. Today is International Day Against Homphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), and what makes today so important is right there for the world to see. See it for yourself here.

All too common
The scene is all too common: a small band of courageous activists, of people refusing to let an ignorant society circumscribe their lives, set upon, surrounded, and endangered by our antagonists. As the recently released annual Department of State Human Rights Report makes all too clear, what we saw today in Georgia could be practically anywhere around the world. Russia, Indonesia, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, China, Albania, Belarus, Iran, Fiji, Iraq, Mexico – and scores more.

Or right here in the United States of America. Continue reading

Time to Give OUT!

I remember that October day so clearly. It was 1987, the day of the second great LGBT march on Washington – and the first time I’d found myself with so many others like me.

Seas of … us.

A quarter century later, the internet has birthed ways of coming together that none of us dreamed of then. Millions of us. Coming together on-line, of course, isn’t the same as being in one place at one time. But the potential is huge.
A new way to give
Now there’s something brand new – and incredibly exciting – that can bring millions of LGBT people together around one of the most important things any of us – or any ally – can do. It’s called Give OUT Day and it’s coming on May 9, 2013. Give OUT Day banner cropped

Give OUT Day is this brilliant idea to have a single day on which LGBT people coast to coast donate to LGBT nonprofit organizations that help, serve, and save hundreds of thousands of LGBT people – every day. Without these groups, the LGBT movement would be pretty much nowhere. Without them, LGBT communities from California to Maine to Louisiana would be unrecognizable. So would many of our own lives. Continue reading

Where history is made

I hardly need tell you that this is a big week. Not one but two landmark LGBT rights cases being argued before the Supreme Court. Discussion of our rights on every news-related website, in every magazine, on every newscast. All eyes – across the country – on who we are and whether our birthright to the same freedoms granted unquestioningly to others 2013SFRallywill be recognized and protected by our government. Continue reading