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

Why we still give

Yes, that was none other than Maggie Gallagher herself – the take-no-prisoners founder of the National Organization for Marriage – quoted last week as admitting that her side had lost its fight to stop the scourge of marriage equality. Her troops, she wrote, “are in shock … awed by the powers now shutting down the debate and by our ineffectualness at responding to these developments.”

It can’t but be a great day when Maggie Gallagher concedes defeat. Like Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly and Lou Sheldon and Frank Shubert, she’ll now fade into a footnote – if that – in the histories of the LGBT movement.

But hold that champagne …
It might be tempting to see Gallagher’s lament as another sign that the LGBT movement has, after decades of struggle, landed on a kind of glide path to equality, freedom, and justice. Can we just start taking it a little easier? Let history take its course?

Quite simply, no. We can’t hang up our marching shoes. We can’t lay back. And we can’t put away our wallets. Not while LGBT people in more than half the United States have no legal protection against basic discrimination. Not while 40% of homeless kids identify as LGBT. Not while thousands of LGBT elders have to go back in the closet to get services and transgender people can’t find housing or jobs.

Most of us know we’d be fools to wrap ourselves in a kind of smug cloak of inevitability. We know that Roe v Wade not only didn’t fully secure women’s reproductive rights, but those rights have been steadily chopped away in the 40 years since. We know that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t end racial discrimination. And we know that’ll be true with LGBT rights as well.

… we’ve all still got roles to play
One other thing that most of us know: equality, freedom, and dignity don’t come for free. Literally. Winning them costs money. Yes, of course, there needs to be much more than just money; we need courage and passion and good leaders and smart strategies, to name just a few.

But money’s needed for all of those. Money is like the water that simply has to flow if a farmer’s crops are going to grow.

Give OUT Day square Logo for Facebook profile pictureAll of us have roles to play. On May 15, every LGBT person and our allies has an exciting and novel opportunity to power our movement simply by giving. May 15 will be the second annual Give OUT Day, a single day on which thousands upon thousands of LGBT people will contribute to groups they care about. In its debut year in 2013, Give OUT Day raised more than $600,000 for nearly 400 organizations across the country. More than 600 have registered this year.

Find out all about it at Find a group you care about. Give to a nonprofit you’ve never heard of. Give to a queer youth organization, or an elders nonprofit or one helping victims of anti-LGBT violence or a cultural group. Or give to an organization that once helped you.

The important thing is to give. Tell your friends to give. Tell your co-workers. Spread the word. Together, we make not just a difference, but a movement.

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.

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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