Monday, August 9, 2010

Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!!

Boulder Pridefest will be September 11, 2010, on the Pearl Street Mall! Right now we are seeking volunteers for the day and have several fun opportunities for people to get involved!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Nature of Change.

Last week I attended an event hosted by the Anti-Defamation League  (ADL) in Boulder. They brought in Frank Meeink, a former skinhead, who speaks out against hate. His story was moving and, in some ways, inspiring. It's inspiring to know that some people can overcome their inner demons and try to do good. Because he works with ADL, I was more interested in hearing his story of change. But I still have to wonder -- he is a successful man with a good job, a life partner, and children. In speaking out in this way he is can definitely make a difference -- he spends a large amount of time speaking with groups of at-risk kids about the path he took and why it's a bad path. And he gets a lot of good attention for this speaking. And he has a book that he is making money from that I don't see any evidence is being donated to ADL or other progressive groups. So, all-in-all, he's come out of this pretty well. 

My question is one of restitution. I know he can't really ever apologize enough or actually "make up" for what he did. But I am curious, aside from things that make him feel good about leaving this all behind, has he done the hard work of facing what he did in a very real sense? Has he sought out the people he harmed and sat with the consequences of his choices? Has he offered them some kind of assistance or service? How are they? How are the people he brutalized? How are the people he recruited? How are the victims of those he recruited? 

I didn't stay and ask those questions. To me, Frank's is still a story of power. And while it is the good power over the worst in us, it is a story of someone learning to use their power in a different way. I am not entirely convinced it is a story of change. When I look at our movement, our queer voice, I wonder about our stories. Pride is the celebration of Stonewall. A time when a small section of our community stood up and said "No more". And we still, as a community, do not fully embrace the leather and trans community that was the majority of that moment. In our search for equality, we have often left behind the very people who gave us the courage to move toward equality. Is our movement seeking change or assimilation? And would we recognize the difference?

Despite these musings, I can really get behind Frank's final message: "it is our job to do the next right thing- to take care of each other". It is inspiring to believe that one human being can move from such hatred to something so much more connective. It inspires me to believe in the power of what we are doing together. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is it just us, or justice?

Is it just us, or justice?*

In November 2009, a VOICE: Voices of Immigrant Children for Education and Equality member dropped by Boulder Pride, Boulder County's LGBTQ Community Center, to deliver flyers about an upcoming screening of the documentary, "Papers." "Papers" is a movie about undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status. Many youth without papers were brought to the United States at a very young age. One of the youth featured in the movie is Jorge -- a gay, undocumented Latino youth. The VOICE member and Boulder Pride member had an extensive conversation about the intersectionality of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) rights and immigrant rights, and a new collaboration was created.

To many, the connections between the two movements may seem tenuous. To us, the Immigrants' Rights community and LGBTQ community have many causes in common.

Of course, there are people who are both LGBTQ-identified and undocumented and live on the margins of the margins. Also, there are same-sex couples in bi-national relationships, where immigration laws and marriage laws are barriers to family unity. While a spouse in a heterosexual union can sponsor his or her immigrant partner, the same does not hold true for same-sex couples. Nationally, an estimated 50,000 LGBTQ couples are affected by unstable immigration status.

Both communities have had our families disrupted by political lines, which includes narrow, inaccurate definitions of "family." As a result, both groups often have to reclaim and redefine what family means to them. Both groups often live in the shadows in our society and take on very real risks with our decision to "come out."

Despite our contributions, both groups are not always welcomed in our cities and towns. Additionally, both groups often experience harmful, hurtful untrue stereotypes, prejudice and can be the victims of violent hate crimes. Members of both groups sometimes internalize these harmful messages, which can lead to feelings of isolation, fear and self-hatred. As a result, some members of both groups try to hide or assimilate to survive.

Both groups experience discrimination and narrowed opportunities in employment, the military, education and in other institutions. An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. Without a path to citizenship, these students have limited educational and professional options and are stuck in limbo. Each year, countless LGBTQ students drop out of school because of unrelenting harassment from their classmates. Teachers often lack the training to address the needs of either group, or how to create safe schools for them.

Both groups have been scapegoated around issues of jobs, health care and "family values" and have been used as political footballs by politicians during election time. Members of both groups often don't know our legal rights and may be afraid to call law enforcement for help.

As for strengths, members of both communities often 'walk in multiple worlds' and have the powerful perspectives that come with this awareness and experience. Members of both groups exhibit profound courage to simply live our lives.

When members of LGBTQ communities choose to come out, we are "breaking down the myths, and destroying the lies and distortions," to quote Harvey Milk. When undocumented youth speak out about our status, we are doing the same thing. As Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez said, "No community can be successful in achieving full equality while tolerating discrimination against others."

Boulder Pride and VOICE will continue to work together to explore our causes in common. Despite institutional discrimination, members of both communities still very much believe in the unfulfilled promise of "liberty and justice for all." Rather than working for just us, we will work in solidarity for justice.

By Cathy Busha (Boulder Pride) and Emily Gendler Zisette, speaking on behalf of VOICE. Members of VOICE did not sign their names for fear of being targeted or deported.

*Thank you to Mandy Carter for the phrase "Just us or Justice."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Take Back the Night Speech by Cathy Busha

Take Back the Night Event at Front Range Community College

Westminster, CO

Read April 22, 2010 by Cathy Busha

I heard a quote on National Public Radio this week that I want to share with you because it made me smile. It was an interview about Dorothy Height, who passed away this week at the age of 98. Dorothy Height was the President of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years. President Obama called her the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Ms. Height was on the platform at the Lincoln Memorial, sitting only a few feet from Martin Luther King Jr, when he gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963. In fact, she was the only woman on the stage.

In the NPR interview, someone shared a story that she was once getting ready to speak to a large audience, much like this one, and said to Ms. Height, “Oh. I am so nervous.” And Ms. Height calmly instructed, “Organize your butterflies.”

So that is what I’m doing right now, too. Organizing my Butterflies. :)

My name is Cathy Busha and I am proud to serve on the staff of Boulder Pride, Boulder County’s Community Center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied community, and I’m so proud to be here tonight.

Thank you to Jessy and your class for the invitation to speak. I commend you for putting together an excellent community event and for understanding the connections among all forms of oppression. You know that no one is free until we are all free…and that we must do this work together.

Tonight we mark Take Back the Night. It is a important night in other ways, too. There is a significant immigration bill in Arizona that concerns me, it is Earth Day and it is the day that Fred Phelps was scheduled to come to Boulder. I also want to talk about the role of men in our work and the imperative of building positive community.

How do all of these ideas connect to Take Back the Night? Let me see if I can make the connections…

Saturday is the last day for Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona, to veto Senate Bill 1070. If she does nothing, SB 1070 will become law. SB 1070 requires local law enforcement to determine an individual's legal status if there is reasonable suspicion that he or she is in the U.S. illegally. Essentially, it legalizes racial profiling. It makes an entire group of people suspect simply because of their color of their skin.

Now why do I - a white, lesbian, US citizen - mention SB 1070 at a Take Back the Night event? I am reminded of a quote by James Baldwin: “…if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

In the words of Mandy Carter, when we understand that the fight for safety is not about just us, but about JUSTICE, we will begin to create meaningful, lasting social change.

Every day in Boulder County, without a path to citizenship, hard-working undocumented people leave for work in the morning, not sure if they will be returning to their families that night, fearful that they may be arrested and deported.

Every day in Boulder County, transgender women and effeminate gay men leave the house, not sure if they will make it through the day without being harassed or attacked…not sure they will make it back to their home alive that night.

If SB 1070 becomes law, 20 years from now we may be asked, “How did you let that happen?” I encourage you to Google SB 1070 to learn more and find out what you can do to support our brothers and sisters in Arizona, before this same dehumanizing law comes to Colorado.

Next, I wanted to acknowledge that today is also the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, which is just a year older than me.

If Dorothy Height is the Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement, then Rachel Carson is the Godmother of the modern environmental movement. If you don’t know who Rachel Carson is, don’t feel badly. I didn’t learn about her until I was 24 years old and in my first graduate class – in fact, it was a women’s studies class.

I learned that she grew up in Pennsylvania, just like I did. I learned that in 1962 she wrote a pivotal book called, “Silent Spring.” It is a beautifully-written, well-researched book and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t. Sadly, “Silent Spring’s” messages are even more urgent for us today.

In “Silent Spring,” Carson exposed and explored the dangers of our increasing use of pesticides and chemicals. She explained how spraying trees harms the water and ground for us and future generations. At the time, this concept of deep ecology was a revolutionary scientific thought. Carson showed how all in nature is connected, and that we, as people, are simply part of nature. Of course, Native Americans deeply understood and practiced this idea for centuries.

Why do I mention Rachel Carson at a Take Back the Night event?

First, it was a crime that I had not learned about Rachel Carson in my education until I was 24 years old. How many other amazing women have simply been dropped out of history? His Story. In this sexist culture, how many other women have been silenced?

Second, just as Rachel Carson taught us everything in nature is connected, we must understand that an act of domestic violence or sexual abuse committed in a home hurts us all because we are all connected. Domestic and sexual violence are not private crimes – these individual acts harm our collective humanity.

And as difficult as it can be, we must also remember that the person who is choosing to use violence is also part of our community – part of us.

I share this because sometimes in the anti-violence movement in an effort to raise awareness and support victims of violence, we demonize and dehumanize people who choose to use violence. We want to push them out of our community and into a prison industrial system that is racist and classist by design - that locks up people for profit.

What does it mean for us to create a paradigm and a response that honors the humanity of everyone – including those who have hurt us? What does it mean to begin thinking about options like restorative justice? I’m not saying it is easy work and I’m not at all suggesting we condone any act of violence.

Instead, we must begin to understand that we are all – all of us - connected to one another. What if we understood that, like each individual aspen tree, we actually share the same root system? If we work to address issues of violence from that place of compassion and connection, we will no longer be working against violence, but perhaps working for peace and love and justice. Our solutions may begin to address root problems of violence rather than symptoms. We may begin to actually see an end of violence. We may finally Take Back the Night…

Finally, today is also the day that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church were scheduled to come to Boulder. Westboro is the group that pickets by holding bright neon signs with extreme images and language of hatred and violence against Jews, the LGBT community, Catholics and others…

Phelps makes me sad…but perhaps not for the reasons you may think. He makes me sad because he mobilizes people in a way that I, as a community organizer for the past 15 years, have not been able to. As a community organizer, I am sad that it takes Westboro’s extreme messages of hate to shake people out of their complacency and bring them together. As I heard someone say this week, “We need a common enemy to come together.”

Is that really true?

What if instead, we gathered to celebrate one another as a community? What if we showed up en masse for each other’s graduation ceremonies? Or for the birth of a child in our community? Or when one of us has the courage to come out or transition? What if we made signs that said “Welcome to our Neighborhood!” when someone new moves in?

Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? Yet, I hold this vision of building a progressive community that is for something positive rather than against something negative.

I am reminded of the year I worked at a state university as the Director of the LGBTQ Office. A student leader came to me and said, “We want to protest at the President’s office.”

Intrigued, I said, “Tell me more.”

And she said, “Well, we don’t have a resident hall that has rooms that are safe for transgender students,”

“Oh,” I said. “Actually, the President has asked me to research other state universities that do have gender neutral housing. He asked me to develop a list of options and then meet with student leaders to discuss what would work here. Would you like to be a part of that committee?”

“Oh” she said, looking disappointed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I thought you’d be excited that the President supports housing for transgender students?”

“Well, I do. But it’s just that we really wanted to protest. Is there something else we can protest against?”

So why do I share this story at a Take Back the Night event?

So often we put our collective energy against something. For many, Take Back the Night is a night to raise awareness about men’s violence against women. We often talk about how women are victimized by men – which happens far too often and we must name.

I’ve been hit four times in my life, including a punch in the face that made my lip swell. All four of those violent acts were committed by the same woman – my first female partner.

What does it mean to begin to understand that gender oppression also hurts men, and that some women also use violence? What does it mean to not be against men, but be for peace? What does it mean to interrupt the myth of safety of the lesbian utopia? What does it mean to have an analysis that is more complicated and honors multiple truths?

I am reminded of another story from the year I worked at the same state university. I was facilitating a social justice workshop. We had 30 women sitting on one side of the room, and 30 men on the other, facing each other. The women shared painful stories of times they had been called misogynistic names by men, when they had been made to feel unsafe and times they have been victimized.” Women sobbed as they shared their stories. Finally, one woman stood up and looked at the men across the room with anger and disdain.

She said, “Here we are, crying and pouring out hearts out and you’re all just sitting their, unemotional and stoic. Don’t you care?!?”

Most of the men dropped their heads and eyes in (further) shame. One young man had the courage to stand up. He said, “I wish you could see the knot in my stomach and feel the burning in my throat. It’s so hard to hear your stories and I wish I could cry…”

So we asked him, “Why aren’t you able to cry?”

And he shared, “As a child, I remember being bullied and beaten by my dad for crying. I don’t remember the last time I cried. I don’t know how to cry anymore.”

We asked the group of 30 men, “Please raise your hand if you identify with what he’s saying,” and they all raised their hands. Everyone one of them said they were afraid to cry or had forgotten how to cry – a basic human need. They went on to share how difficult it can be to be a ‘real man’ and how they have done things they are not proud of to try to live up to this socially created idea of manhood – so they wouldn’t be labeled “fag.” They promised to redefine ‘manhood’ for themselves and work on changing the culture of manhood for other men and boys...and for women.

Men are not the enemy. In fact, most men are good men. What we want is peace and justice and safety for everyone. We must begin to include men in our work in meaningful ways, which honors their experiences, too. Men also suffer because of the limited roles and emotions we allow men in our society. In fact, the only emotion that is socially acceptable for a ‘real’ man to express is anger. Perhaps this is why many men wanted to counter-protest Fred Phelps - perhaps they wanted a concrete excuse to display their anger and rage.

Or perhaps they wanted to feel connected to others – to feel part of a caring, mobilized community.

If so, let’s not wait for Fred Phelps to mobilize and gather together again…to be connected to one another.

In closing, how do we begin Take Back the Night for all of us? How do we build a vision that includes each of us, connected together as a community - immigrants, transgender people, poor people, elders, youth, people who are incarcerated, people with disabilities, Muslims, and all the others who have been pushed to the margins?

We must work from the place of compassion and deeply understand that we are all connected – even to the people we don’t like or who have harmed us. Indeed, as queer people know better than most, love takes courage.

It is not easy work – but to create meaningful, lasting social change, I believe it is our only work.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Boulder Pride Organizes Community Food Drive in Response to Potential Protest by Westboro Baptist Church

Boulder Pride, Boulder County's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning Community Center, has learned that a controversial group, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), is scheduled to come to Boulder and the Denver-Metro area to hold small protests next week. WBC plans to picket schools, religious institutions, and community organizations. Their protest schedule includes several locations in Boulder on Thursday, April 22.

From a statement by the Anti-Defamation League: "Typically WBC sends a small group (less than ten) of its members with offensive, brightly-colored signs to stand on street corners and in front of targeted institutions. The group's members may chant or scream bigoted phrases. WBC's primary goal is to attract attention, especially from the media. While this group and its hateful messages certainly have a "loud bark," we advise communities not to engage directly with them via counter-protests."

To create a positive way for the community to respond to WBC, Boulder Pride will be collecting food at the Boulder Pride House (2132 14th St in Boulder, between Pine and Spruce) on Thursday April 22 from 7am to 7pm.

As Boulder Pride Board President Dave Ensign shared, "Rather than focusing our collective energy against WBC, this Food Drive offers LGBTQ people and our strong Allies in Boulder County an action-based, community-focused response. We hope our community will respond by donating lots of food!"

Aicila Lewis, Boulder Pride Executive Director, commented, "I read a Mother Teresa quote: 'I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.' This Food Drive is in the spirit of being for something positive rather than putting our energy against Westboro."

"We are incredibly strong and resilient community who, despite negative social messages and institutionalized discrimination, not only 'come out' and survive - but thrive and contribute in significant, positive ways to make Boulder County a better place to live," observed Cathy Busha, Boulder Pride Program Director. "This Food Drive represents Boulder Pride's efforts to build a strong community for everyone in Boulder County."

All items collected will be donated to Community Food Share, Boulder and Broomfield Counties' Food Bank. Please drop off all non-perishable, unopened food items at the Boulder Pride House on Thursday, April 22 between 7am and 7pm. All items are welcomed - the items most needed by Community Food Share include canned fruit, fruit juice, cereal (hot and cold), tuna, peanut butter and pasta sauce. Please no home canned products or unsealed bulk products. In addition to food items, you can also donate diapers, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste and toothbrushes. You can also drop off food at Naropa Pride Alliance (Student Affairs Building, 2130 Arapahoe) from 9am to 5pm on Thursday, April 22nd.

We are also seeking volunteers to help staff the Boulder Pride House on April 22, as well as individuals to drop off baked goods and snacks to feed volunteers and community members who drop off items on April 22.

We will also be collecting donations at Boulder Pride's monthly Happy Hour at Hapa Sushi (1117 Pearl Street) from 5-7pm on Wednesday, April 21st. Please bring your items with you and join us!

For more information or to volunteer, please contact Cathy Busha at or 303-499-5777.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Have you got your hate on?

So Fred Phelps has been talking about coming to Colorado (again) and it's really got me thinking about the nature of hatred. I remember the first time I heard about Fred. I was a young, recently out, lesbian, living in Provo, Utah. Matthew Shephard had just been murdered. The visual imagery of his beaten body was all over the (relatively new) internet and it was incredibly disturbing. When my cadre of friends in our underground world of lesbianism in Happy Valley heard that a man was going to carry vicsious and cruel signs to the funeral of this man, we were incensed. We were enraged. We were engaged. We talked about driving out to Laramie to be part of the counter protest. We couldn't believe anyone could be that heartless.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago -- I was privileged to attend a screening of Anyone and Everyone in Lafayette that Boulder Pride had co-sponsored. The film is a documentary about families who have had a child come out and how they have responded and what it has meant. It was incredibly moving (see the trailer below). One mother talked about the great commandment, to love one another, and how we must choose to love our families and our children in these moments. It was profound. I was touched. I was moved. I was engaged.

I know it's been said to the point of sounding cliche. And I don't mean to diminish the work we need to do or the hurtful result Fred has. But let's realize it's the last gasp of a clearly wounded and poorly functioning being. And I think, in the end, love will win. And when we respond with love to these hateful messages. When we use these opportunities to feed our communities with positive service and experiences, we win. They cannot stand against the strength of love, unless we let them. Unless we give them power by engaging with their hateful behavior.

The Anti-Defamation League has published a Community Advisory with some suggestions on how best  to respond to this group. They also have a published background that is very informative.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Puertas Abiertas

::::said in a snarky voice, while rolling eyes::::

“Ricky Martin came out? Oh, now
there’s a shock. Duh. Like we didn’t know.”

Yes, yesterday Ricky Martin announced via a powerful statement on his website, in English and Spanish, that he is “proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

Rather than celebrate his courage and personal liberation, based on Facebook responses I read, many LGBTQ people seemed to respond with apathy or even a hint of scorn: “Who cares?” “About time.” “So what?” “Oh, is he a hero now?”

‘Sí’ is my answer.

Because you see, it *still* does matter that we come out.

Not long after I came out to my mom (which went like this: “Mom. There’s something I want to talk to you about” “You’re pregnant?!?” “Um - Not exactly. I’m a lesbian.” “Oh.”), my mom and I were watching the “Rosie O’Donnell Show.”

Rosie was walking around on stage as only Rosie can walk, and I said, “Rosie is a lesbian, too.”

My mom responded, “No she’s not” (this was before Rosie came out). So I said, “Yes, she is” to which my mom said, “Has she ‘come out’?” and I had to answer, “No.”

While an undergraduate in college (before I came out to myself and was still dating men…oh, those wasted years) I had a professor who was rumored to be a lesbian. Many years after I graduated and after I had come out to myself and just about everyone else I knew, I asked my former professor about it: “Why don’t you come out to your classes?”

Her response: “Oh. If people pay attention, they figure it out. I don’t need to ‘come out.’”

You see. For some Pomo Homos (post-modern homosexuals), the act of ‘coming out’ is soooo 1986. The theoretical argument goes that by ‘coming out’ queer people maintain oppression - straight/non-trans people don’t have to ‘come out’ so why should we?

So why should we? Research overwhelming demonstrates that when a non-LGBT person knows an LGBT person, they are much more likely to support civil rights and social change for them. It's the unsexy part of political work. Mutli-million dollar slick campaigns can't take the place of a good old-fashioned "coming out" story.

On the personal level, to face our fears and throw open the closet door is one of the most singular powerful acts of liberation and social change a person can make.
If you don’t believe me (or Ricky Martin), give it a try this week. Come out to someone new and see how it feels.

As Harvey Milk pleaded in 1978:
"Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene."

So thank you Ricky Martin.
Yes, our gaydars have been going off ever since you danced and sang with Menudo…but you had the courage to say it. It still does matter that a person says it outloud and proud.

...and somewhere this morning a closeted, scared gay Latino teen suddenly has a new hero :)