All of a sudden, it’s that time of year again. Holidays. Incipient consumer insanity. Friends-and-family time.

And to lead it all off comes perhaps the best of all: that special moment that we give over to gratitude. It’s so easy to be filled with gratitude this year. I’m grateful for the spectacular progress our movement continues to make on marriage equality. I’m grateful for an Administration that’s making LGBT rights a foreign policy priority. Grateful for the millions of people opening their minds and hearts to the dignity of LGBT people.

I’m grateful for the scores of nonprofit groups that work day in and day out – and sometimes night in and night out – to serve and advocate for our community. Grateful for the hundreds of generally underpaid and often overworked people who staff them. Grateful for the thousands of volunteers – from board members to food servers to door knockers to envelope-stuffers – without whom most nonprofits would all but cease to function.

I’m grateful there’s rain in the forecast.

I’m grateful for the donors whose gifts power our movement. Grateful for the leaders – local, national, and international – who are strategizing and building for the future, for a world in which all LGBT people live lives graced by equality, dignity, and justice; and grateful for the countless heroes and heroines whose deeds and sacrifices and vision brought us to the yet-imperfect but so very much better moment we’re in today. Grateful, too, for all those who remind us that our work remains far from finished.

Personally, I’m especially grateful for Royce and that my parents have made it through a tough year. I’m grateful for Horizons’ selfless and committed board and for great and talented and driven colleagues. And I’m so profoundly grateful to everyone – everyone – who supports Horizons Foundation and our community.

 I joke sometimes that my high school guidance counselor somehow neglected to mention the career option of becoming a professional homosexual. I’m so grateful to have found my way here anyway, and have the immense and humbling privilege of working with and for so many superb people, who do so much to make this world a better place.

Thank you for your part – perhaps the many parts – that you play. May you have a warm, wondrous, and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

Not Just Ferguson

I’ve been thinking a lot about Michael Brown. About what’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Not to mention what didn’t happen. And now about Eric Garner, whose death by New York police chokehold we’ve just learned led to no indictment either.

Maybe you have, too. It all doesn’t go so neatly with the winter holiday season ahead, but these killings hang over this country and we cannot, as we too often have, brush the tragedies away.

Precisely what took place during those fateful minutes back in the Missouri summer may not ever be known for certain. What we do know is that we’re left with another police killing of an unarmed African American man – with no one held accountable. The family of Michael Brown is left to wonder why a prosecutor chose not to push for indictment, why a governor did not name a special prosecutor. We’re all left – at the very least – with doubts that the outcome would have been the same had Michael Brown been white or Darren Wilson black. And the news that no charges will be brought in Eric Garner’s death raises at least as many – and as disturbing – questions.

More than these alone

Justice -and injustice – in the death of Michael Brown matters. A great deal. So does justice and injustice in the death of Eric Garner. At the same time, irrespective of either grand jury’s decision, we can’t look at these in isolation. They have to be seen in the context of race in America. In the context of an America in which black men are more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than white men; an America in which African American parents routinely warn their sons about danger from the police. Not to mention an America where the wealth of the average Latino or African American household is but a fraction that of white households, and where educational opportunities for so many students of color still badly lag those for white ones.

History – and a time to look at ourselves

Of course this is – or ought to be – deeply troubling to everyone simply as citizens and as human beings. And it should certainly matter to LGBT people. More than a third of LGBT people identify as people of color, a portion that grows even larger in younger age groups. And while police misconduct against people of color and against LGBT people (as LGBT people) can’t be equated, we should know something about the reality of police abuse. It takes little historical digging to remember that the LGBT movement has also fought decades of police bias. Today, even as many police departments have improved, that’s still true in hundreds of states, cities, and towns from Florida to California (and especially for transgender people and LGBT people of color).

This is also a time for us to be honest about bias in our own community. Lots of studies have shown that prejudice can shade our attitudes and actions even when our conscious beliefs are avowedly not biased. How might that show up? Could that be, for instance, partly why so few LGBT organizations are led by people of color? Or why so many LGBT people of color talk about experiencing racism in our community? Could it partly explain why the movement’s central priorities haven’t generally included issues like the rates of HIV infection among young gay and bi men of color or the disproportionate poverty that affects LGBT African Americans and Latinos?

What are we fighting for?

Horizons Foundation believes – as do I – that what we’re fighting for is more than legal equality based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We’re working for a society in which LGBT people – and all people – are able to live lives characterized by dignity, equality, and justice. That means in every aspect of their lives. And that means – and Ferguson means – we still have a long, long way to go.  As Emma Lazarus famously stated, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free. ”

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Roger Doughty, Executive Director

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

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.

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Roger Doughty
Executive Director

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

Memories of Camp

The year, 1973. The place, Camp Makajawan, a Boy Scout camp secreted far up in rural, wooded Wisconsin. In my then 12-year-old eyes, Makajawan meant mosquitoes, uniforms, and stifling, sticky heat – and the general torment of young gay boys like me. At that age, the thought of “being gay” never occurred to me. Boy Scout FlagBut while I was lucky to be just athletic enough to escape full-faggot status at school, somehow the Scouts saw right through that.

The other boys in my patrol called me the usual names. Older boys threatened with tales of awful “initiation” rituals. No one wanted to tent with me. I was afraid whom I’d run into on a trail or near the showers or the outhouses.

Not that I’m alone in having had a bad experience at camp, Boy Scout or any other. Continue reading

“…Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall…”

There it was. Right there in the President’s inaugural address, about three quarters through. “The most evident of truths,” he stated, is “that all of us are created equal,” and that this truth “is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall….”U.S. President Barack Obama gives his first speech during his inauguration ceremony as the 44th President of the United States in Washington

Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall. Sites of events that proclaimed, each so bravely in its day, that women, that African Americans, that LGBT people, stood in the embrace of equality – and moved America closer to its most vaunted and most precious ideals.

Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall. Continue reading