Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Importance of a First Kiss

Seal of the United States Department of the Navy
Image via Wikipedia

Today history was made. It was just a few seconds in the life of two women - but it made news across the country. It's a Navy tradition to have a couple do the first homecoming kiss. A raffle is done on the ship and the winner gets to be the first to greet their loved one and give "the first kiss." Today that kiss was done by a lesbian couple for the first time. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta bought 50 raffle tickets and her name was chosen. Her girlfriend, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell was among the many family members gathered to meet the sailors as they came home. For more details on the historic kiss I recommend this article.

It's small moments like this, the everyday ones that most people take for granted that LGBT individuals dream of. In one of the links I looked at an individual commented, "Why is this news?" On the one had I couldn't agree more. It shouldn't be news. It is just normal everyday life. A ship comes into port, a plane lands at an airport, a car arrives at a house. People head to greet their loved ones that they haven't seen in days, weeks, month. They embrace - they kiss. It's not earth shattering. It's not news worthy.

Unless it's the first one after that happens after a law said you couldn't do it.

Then it puts a smile on your face for the whole day. Progress. All we want is to do the everyday things. All we want is to not make news.


The video of the event and a short interview with the women is below.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

The Straight Guy Did It

The holiday season brings many parties and activities for folks to attend and celebrate with family and friends. One of those activities in Phoenix is the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce's Festival of Trees. Trees, wreaths and menorahs are decorated and raffled off to raise money for a local youth organization and Equality Arizona, an LGBT political organization. Seems like a great event for the LGBT and allied community to get behind.

Until this was posted on their Facebook page

Wonder Man (@wondermann5) did a great post a few weeks ago titled "How Does the Salvation Army View Gays." The short version is - Unwed folks shouldn't have sex. Therefore, gays having sex can't be a part of the Salvation Army. (Don't ask me what happens in states that have marriage equality).

So why would a Gay and Lesbian organization be "honored" to have the Salvation Army joining their event? Also, why would it be one of very few announcements for the event unless they thought it would add "honor" to their event by having a national organization participate? Well many others had similar questions. After a few comments were left on that Facebook post this response was given

Hey this looks good. Reaching out and opening doors, hmmmm that could work, right? Then about a week later after getting a few more negative comments this was posted

So the Salvation Army staff is excited to be a part of the event. Good to hear. This reaching out stuff is really working. Right up until three days later when an article hit Echo Magazine. This article really brought it to the community's attention and individuals were calling for the chamber to pull the Salvation Army tree from the event. Within two days of the article hitting, the Chair of the GPGLCC, Tony Felice sent this email:

Dear Members: 
As some of you may know there is some unrest in our community about the Chamber accepting an Angel Tree from the Salvation Army for our Festival of Trees event tomorrow. Some in the community have demanded we pull the tree from our event. 
The tree was inadvertently offered to us and one of our board members who happens to be straight, accepted the tree without knowing that the Salvation Army is an anti-LGBT organization. You should know that our Chamber is comprised of about 40% straight allies. Not all of them are aware of the social issues we face. As a community, we are dependent upon the support of our straight allies in order to advance our causes. We simply do not have the numbers to do so on our own. So, when things like this happen we have to be flexible and understand we are all in this together. 
To be clear, we are not partnering with the Salvation Army in any way. Nor do we support or condone their anti-LGBT stance or activities. We are not donating any money to them nor is the Angel Tree to be raffled off. Angel trees, which also can be found in Valley shopping malls, are covered with the names and gift wishes of needy children. Anyone can choose to take one of the angels, shop for that child and drop off their donation at various locations. We don't know, but some of those children may grow up LGBT. The tree is for children, not the organization. 
I have talked to those who are angry and I understand their frustration. I have urged them to turn that anger from us and direct it towards those groups against us. 
I have decided as the Chair to not pull the tree from our event. Ultimately, as the leader of the Chamber the responsibility falls to me and weighing all advice, counsel and demands that is my decision. 
1n10 will bring their own Angel tree to the event and be displayed. Our guests can choose whether to support those trees instead of having that choice taken from them. If they chose to make a donation for a child, please urge them to tell the Salvation Army they have done so as a LGBT person. Now that sends a great message to be sure. 
I believe that during this time, the holidays, it is important to extend an olive branch, even if it is to those like the Salvation Army who are against our community. Our community is about love and tolerance. By pulling the tree it sends the wrong message. Do I think some will be mad? Absolutely, but in end, I believe it is the right thing to do. 
-Tony Felice, Chair

For me possibly the most offensive thing that has happened in this was in the one sentence I highlighted in the letter. So the GPGLCC goes from statements of "trying to open doors" and that the "Salvation Army's staff is very excited" to "the tree was inadvertently offered to us" and one of the straight board members accepted the tree.

Wait, I'm confused. How can you be opening doors when the Salvation Army gave it to you by accident and the person that accepted it just said ok? There is no education being done at that point. I am sure the Salvation Army is now aware that this is an event put on by a Gay and Lesbian organization, but that is more because of the community's opposition to their participation and them being forced to be educated than the GPGLCC doing the education at the beginning.

But the bigger issue is why is the sexual orientation of the person that accepted the tree made an issue? There are many in the LGBT community that are unaware of the Salvation Army's policies. Why bring it to light that the person is straight? The tone of that paragraph really struck me. It basically said - "Hey it wasn't us gays - the straight guy did it. But be nice because we need their support so just smile and move on." Way to throw the ally support right under the bus. I found that whole paragraph to be condescending to any ally. The line that says, "So, when things like this happen we have to be flexible and understand we are all in this together," basically said to me when the straight folks don't get it we just need to shake our heads and move on. Again this confuses me. An ally wants to stand with us. They want to get it. The letter states the GPGLCC does not "support or condone their anti-LGBT stance or activities." Then how are they allowing one of the Salvation Army activities to be held at their event? It would seem to me like the straight board member would prefer the ideals of the GPGLCC were upheld instead of being patted on the head and then thrown under the bus.

Oh and by the way, those Facebook posts have been deleted. Makes it easier to send that letter if you don't have anything else contradicting you I guess.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Now Hiring: President of the Human Rights Campaign

It was announced a few months ago that Joe Solmonese will be stepping down as the President of the Human Rights Campaign when his contract is up at the end of March. It is now up to the Board members of HRC to find suitable candidates. However, with this position seems to come with a tremendous amount of scrutiny from the LGBT community. I wonder if this will be looked at as one of the best jobs in the LGBT community or one of the worst. Can someone handle not only the pressure from the anti-gay groups but the constant second guessing and armchair quarterbacking that comes from our own community. While I believe in holding leaders accountable, you just have to wonder, who thinks they have what it takes.

Oh and by the way, it takes a lot. Let me share with you a portion of the job posting. You can see the full posting here. This is the portion that focuses on the role details and the competencies the Board is looking for. If you think you have what it takes I say go for it and apply! Just make sure you have skin as thick as an elephant.

The Role of the President

The President reports to the Boards of Directors of both the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and is responsible for the overall management and leadership of HRC’s activities and programs. The President’s job is to develop and implement HRC’s strategic vision, its policies and programs to advance the interests of its membership and the LGBT community as a whole. The new President will be charged with leading this important organization during a time of great change and progress in the country. The President will be working every day to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by identifying and overcoming societal and legislative barriers to LGBT equality. At the same time, s/he will be working to engage, educate and empower millions of fair-minded Americans to advocate for equal rights for the LGBT community.

Specific responsibilities include:

Provide vision and focus for a dynamic organization. HRC is a large, diverse and highly motivated organization with activities occurring simultaneously in many locations and on a variety of issues, with a unique combination of professional staff, volunteers, allies, boards, donors, and members. The President must be able to inspire, motivate, coordinate and honor these multiple constituents in ways that advance the mission of HRC and maintain the highest standards of service and integrity.

Build, maintain and continually inspire a work environment to achieve the highest standards of performance and accountability. One of the hallmarks of HRC's mission is to assure workplace equality for all LGBT employees. HRC strives to attain those goals with its own employees by fostering a workplace that welcomes and embraces diversity and encourages industry, teamwork and mutual respect. The new President must not only embrace these values, but continually lead in creating an atmosphere that promotes teamwork, client responsiveness, diversity, accountability, professional development and succession planning – and helps the organization adapt to changing and disparate needs within the community.

Manage through change. The effectiveness of HRC as a civil rights organization will depend on how well it manages uncertain changes in the political environment and how nimble it can be in responding to external changes. Managing these changes in ways that keep HRC relevant and central to the movement will be critical for success.

Represent and lead HRC in the most positive manner, enhancing HRC’s visibility and influencing public opinion. The President of HRC has the ability to reach government and business decision-makers and influence public opinion on issues vital to HRC’s mission. It is essential that the new President be able to convey HRC’s activities (and those of the broader LGBT community) effectively and persuasively to thought leaders and the broader public through a wide variety of communication tool.

Lead the development and promotion of legislation and public policies that positively affect LGBT families and their children, as well as, oppose legislation and public policies that would adversely affect LGBT families and their children. HRC’s President also is the strategic visionary on how to elect candidates for public office who will sponsor and support HRC’s legislative agenda and the creation of equities for LGBTs throughout society, as well as oppose those candidates who have promoted policies and legislation adverse to LGBT families.

Attract new members, allies, strategic partners, advocates, donors and volunteers. HRC continues to grow and diversify its membership, which has helped to expand its impact. The new President must be able to lead HRC in building on its growth by effectively finding new ways to retain and attract a broader membership base. S/he must be skilled in coalition building, working in partnership with other LGBT and civil rights organizations to tackle legislative and policy needs on the state and federal level.

Engage diverse constituencies. Diversity and inclusion are strategic imperatives for HRC and necessary for the continued success of the organization. Diversity and inclusion have been embedded in HRC’s mission since it was founded in 1980. In the last several years however, HRC has provided diversity and inclusion objectives more sustained support internally by providing staff and resources to cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment at every level of the organization. In addition, HRC has developed significant relationships externally to evidence its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The President must work to broaden public support for LGBT equality by engaging fair-minded people and partner organizations that represent the multiple dimensions of diversity, including ethnicities, national origins, ages, sexual orientation, gender identity, beliefs, religions and faiths, geographies, experiences, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and levels of physical ability.

Lead the development of educational programs that positively affect the societal and cultural condition, as well as shift public opinion. HRC’s next President will continue to build upon the dynamic educational programs and tools of the organization such as the Corporate Equality Index, Healthcare Equality Index, Family Project and Religion & Faith programs. S/he also will push for innovation and the creation of new programs consistent with HRC’s strategic plan that will educate and gain a broader understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the LGBT community.

Candidate Profile 

HRC is seeking a charismatic, visionary, and strategic leader with public policy acumen. The President will be a poised, confident and energetic leader who is capable of leading an organization and movement during a time of great evolution and change. The President will be a force for constructive dialogue and relentless advocacy – passionate and productive in his/her pursuit for social justice.

The ideal candidate will have a sophisticated understanding of the policy environment and be a passionate ambassador for the organization whether it be in front of a camera giving an interview on national television or in someone’s living room. In addition, because its members are woven into the fabric of numerous local communities, the new President should be able to help HRC effectively build upon and leverage these critical and decentralized constituents.

While the President must be a decisive, visionary leader, this individual also must have outstanding interpersonal skills. The successful candidate will have a style that is collegial, approachable, affable, flexible, direct and diplomatic. The President must be skilled at building bridges and developing relationships in a variety of settings with diverse constituencies. The President must have the service-orientation necessary to lead a member-driven and supported organization.

Specific competencies include:

Strategic Vision: The successful candidate will have a demonstrated record of setting priorities and leading organizations to success. S/he will be a strategic thinker who will work with HRC’s senior Staff and Board leadership team and Board of Directors to establish plans and methods to achieve its mission while providing the strategic direction necessary to evolve the organization. S/he will be capable of working with others to develop differentiated strategies with multifaceted approaches to address disparate audiences, cultures, and political contexts.

Communication and Development Skills: The successful candidate will be an inspiring and persuasive communicator who can articulate HRC’s vision and direction effectively through mass media, debate, lobbying, public speaking, writing, networking, fundraising and one-on-one discussions. S/he will have the ability to connect with and secure results from world leaders, government policy makers, corporate leaders, partners, donors, Board Members and staff.

Leadership: In addition to the critical, externally-focused competencies, the successful candidate must also possess outstanding leadership skills that will enable him/her to oversee the management of a complex, member-focused organization. S/he must be an involved and inclusive manager, who will ensure HRC functions in an orderly and fiscally responsible manner. The President will have a track record of recruiting, retaining and motivating a professional and highly performing staff. The successful candidate must be able to set strategic direction for the organization, prioritize and define clear goals for staff, and manage performance toward achievement of those goals. The candidate will be an inspirational leader to the staff, and encourage openness, transparence and mutual respect. Further, the candidate must have the executive skills to manage various Board and membership constituencies as well as leverage the energy of a dedicated, diverse, and growing membership.

Interpersonal Acumen: The successful candidate must be a person of the utmost personal and professional integrity with a high level of energy. Candidates must possess the right combination of self-confidence balanced with humility and a healthy sense of humor. The successful candidate needs to be gracious in manner and comfortable in any situation. S/he will be confident enough to hire and retain strong, smart people, and possess an understanding of his/her own strengths and weaknesses.

Judgment: The successful candidate will have the demonstrated ability to make timely and clearly communicated decisions and take appropriate risks to achieve results. Likewise, s/he will be thoughtful about deploying the organization’s budget in a way that maximizes outcomes aligned with HRC’s strategic plan and core institutional values while managing risk. S/he will listen to and learn from key stakeholders inside and outside of the organization and will be an inclusive and independent thinker, who can manage ambiguity and devise solutions even when a clear path is not evident.

Passion and Shared Values: The successful candidate will have a passion for ending discrimination against LGBT Americans and an absolute commitment towards realizing a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. At its heart, HRC is about making a difference in the lives of everyday people. The successful candidate will not only have earned the appropriate leadership credentials across their career, but be implicitly anchored by HRC’s core values.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview on the Joe and Babe Show

Last night I was interviewed on QTalk Arizona's The Joe and Babe Show. If you aren't familiar with it, QTalk Arizona is Arizona's LGBT Podcast Network. It features a wide variety of shows on topics that interest the LGBT community. You can find a detailed list of the shows here.

I had a great time at the interview. Joe Dugandzic and Babe Caylor are a lot of fun. Oh and they are good at their homework too! We talked about parenting, activism and how to juggle it all. Plus a topic I was surprised they even knew about.

I was very impressed with their studio and all the buttons and gadgets. Way more complex than my little podcast. Real microphones and all! There was an added surprise by a local media person that also attended to take pictures. I was very surprised by the extra attention.

I think you will enjoy the show. Have a listen and check out some of their other shows too.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Time as an HRC Board Member Comes to an End

This weekend my time as a Board of Governor for the Human Rights Campaign came to an end. While it doesn't mean the end of my volunteering with the organization it does end 4 years in a leadership role that provided me with some extraordinary opportunities. One of those opportunities was being the Area Representative for our steering committee. I can not say enough about my fellow volunteers. Their dedication and sacrifice continues to inspire me.

 During my time on the Board, our committee received awards for our accomplishments by HRC national and by the LGBT community in Arizona. While these awards are always nice, what meant event more to me were the individuals that came to me and thanked me for making a difference. These were small but powerful moments. Moments I don't usually handle well. I usually just shrug it off and say, "Oh it's no big deal" or just wave my hand in dismissal and move on to the next point of order. Eventually, I learned to pause and say, "Your welcome, there is lots more to do, I could use some help so let me know if you want to be on the team." I'm not into taking credit, I'm in to building a team and creating coalitions so more work can get done quicker. However, I learned that sometimes it was important to others for them to say thanks, for them to acknowledge the progress. I understand this. There have been many people I have been able to thank for their work and their sacrifices for LGBT equality. It just took me awhile, about 8 years, to realize I am also one of those people.

In my final weekend as a Board of Governor I spent my time working on a bullying issue at a local school, running an HRC booth at a festival, and watching President Obama speech at the HRC National Dinner on the computer. I honestly couldn't think of a better way to finish out this time. I love working booths at these events. I enjoy sharing the mission of HRC and educating people on the issues. I love working with new volunteers and seeing so many people from our community. The energy at the booth for me is addicting and it's always hard for me to leave. Yesterday though I wanted to leave. I wanted to make sure I was home and ready to see President Obama address the 3,000 attendees at the HRC National Dinner. My daughter was sitting next to me when the live feed started. She saw the HRC logos and Joe Salmonese take the stage. She went back to watching her show as she is used to seeing HRC stuff on my computer. Then Joe introduced the President. Her attention instantly turned back to my screen. She asked, "Mom were you there when President Obama spoke?" I smiled and said, "This is happening in D.C. right now. Instead of being there I get to be here and watch it with you." She smiled leaned on my shoulder and we watched our President speak. I won't say the 9 year old really stayed focused on my screen for the whole time. However, the fact that she knows what HRC is, that I meet and work with elected officials, that the reason I go to meetings and give up some family time is so that our family can one day be treated equal means a lot to me.

So my title has gone from HRC Board of Governor, Steering Committee Co-Chair, Area Representative, Political Co-Chair to just HRC Political Co-Chair. So what are my plans now?


There is lots more to do, I could use some help so let me know if you want to be on the team.

Titles mean nothing. Actions mean everything.

In HRC Speech, Obama Says, "I'm Going to Continue To Fight Alongside You"

Last night, President Obama spoke at the Human Rights Campaign's Annual Gala Dinner. While many people have been critical of President Obama and feel he has not done enough for the LGBT community, the fact is he has done more for our community than any other President. HRC endorsed President Obama for the 2012 election a few months ago. While some felt this was too early, I personally don't see an issue with it. Clearly, his record shows he is a strong supporter of LGBT rights. Besides, what are they supposed to do = endorse Michelle Bachmann? One highlight of the speech was when President Obama called out the Republican Presidential hopefuls for ignoring a recent incident at one of their debates. A gay soldier sent in a video question asking if they planned to undo Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Members of the audience booed the soldier. The Republicans made no mention of it. In his speech last night the President made this comment on the incident, "We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the President of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be Commander-​in-​Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient." Here is the full video of the speech. The written transcript follows the video.


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President at the Human Rights Campaign's Annual National Dinner

Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C. 
7:26 P.M. EDT
 THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  It is great to be back.  (Applause.)  I see a lot of friends in the house.  I appreciate the chance to join you tonight.  I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga.  (Laughter.)  She was wearing 16-inch heels.  (Laughter.)  She was eight feet tall.  (Laughter.)  It was a little intimidating.
Now, I don’t want to give a long speech.  Cyndi Lauper is in the house.  I can’t compete with that.  (Applause.)  But I wanted to come here tonight, first of all, to personally thank Joe for his outstanding years of leadership at HRC.  (Applause.)  What he has accomplished at the helm of this organization has been remarkable, and I want to thank all of you for the support that you’ve shown this organization and for your commitment to a simple idea:  Every single American -- gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender -- every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society.  It’s a pretty simple proposition.  (Applause.)
Now, I don’t have to tell you that we have a ways to go in that struggle.  I don’t have to tell you how many are still denied their basic rights -- Americans who are still made to feel like second-class citizens, who have to live a lie to keep their jobs, or who are afraid to walk the street, or down the hall at school.  Many of you have devoted your lives to the cause of equality.  So you know what we have to do; we’ve got more work ahead of us.
But we can also be proud of the progress we’ve made these past two and a half years.  Think about it.  (Applause.)  Two years ago, I stood at this podium, in this room, before many of you, and I made a pledge.  I said I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell African Americans to be patient in the fight for equal rights a half century ago.  (Applause.)  But what I also said, that while it might take time –- more time than anyone would like -– we are going to make progress; we are going to succeed; we are going to build a more perfect union.
And so, let’s see what happened.  I met with Judy Shepard.  I promised her we would pass a hate crimes bill named for her son, Matthew.  And with the help of my dear friend Ted Kennedy we got it done.  Because it should never be dangerous -- (applause) -- you should never have to look over your shoulder -- to be gay in the United States of America.  That’s why we got it done.  (Applause.)
I met with Janice Langbehn, who was barred from the bedside of the woman she loved as she lay dying.  And I told her that we were going to put a stop to this discrimination.  And you know what?  We got it done.  I issued an order so that any hospital in America that accepts Medicare or Medicaid -– and that means just about every hospital -– has to treat gay partners just as they do straight partners.  Because nobody should have to produce a legal contract to hold the hand of the person that they love.  We got that done.  (Applause.) 
I said that we would lift that HIV travel ban -- we got that done.  (Applause.)  We put in place the first comprehensive national strategy to fight HIV/AIDS.  (Applause.) 
Many questioned whether we’d succeed in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And, yes, it took two years to get the repeal through Congress.  (Applause.)  We had to hold a coalition together.  We had to keep up the pressure.  We took some flak along the way.  (Applause.)  But with the help of HRC, we got it done.  And “don’t ask, don’t tell” is history.  (Applause.)  And all over the world, there are men and women serving this country just as they always have -- with honor and courage and discipline and valor.  We got it done.  (Applause.)  We got that done.  All around the world, you’ve got gays and lesbians who are serving, and the only difference is now they can put up a family photo.  (Laughter.)  No one has to live a lie to serve the country they love.
I vowed to keep up the fight against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  There’s a bill to repeal this discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed.  But until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts.  I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it’s time for it to end once and for all.  It should join “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the history books.  (Applause.)
So, yes, we have more work to do.  And after so many years -- even decades -- of inaction you’ve got every right to push against the slow pace of change.  But make no mistake -- I want people to feel encouraged here -- we are making change.  We’re making real and lasting change.  We can be proud of the progress we’ve already made.
And I’m going to continue to fight alongside you.  And I don’t just mean in your role, by the way, as advocates for equality.  You’re also moms and dads who care about the schools your children go to.  (Applause.)  You’re also students figuring out how to pay for college.  You’re also folks who are worried about the economy and whether or not your partner or husband or wife will be able to find a job.  And you’re Americans who want this country to succeed and prosper, and who are tired of the gridlock and the vicious partisanship, and are sick of the Washington games.  Those are your fights, too, HRC.  (Applause.)
So I’m going to need your help.  I need your help to fight for equality, to pass a repeal of DOMA, to pass an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill so that being gay is never again a fireable offense in America.  (Applause.)  And I don’t have to tell you, there are those who don't want to just stand in our way but want to turn the clock back; who want to return to the days when gay people couldn’t serve their country openly; who reject the progress that we’ve made; who, as we speak, are looking to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions -- efforts that we’ve got to work hard to oppose, because that’s not what America should be about.
We’re not about restricting rights and restricting opportunity.  We’re about opening up rights and opening up opportunity -- (applause) -- and treating each other generously and with love and respect.  (Applause.)
And together, we also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they’re gay or transgender -- who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they’re different.  We’ve got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility.  That’s why we held a summit at the White House on bullying.  That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on this issue.  (Applause.)  This isn’t just “kids being kids.”  It’s wrong.  It’s destructive.  It’s never acceptable.  And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way.  (Applause.)  I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves.  That’s what I want them to know.  (Applause.)  
Now, I also need your help in the broader fight to get this economy back on track.  You may have heard, I introduced a bill called the American Jobs Act.  (Applause.)  It’s been almost three weeks since I sent it up to Congress.  That’s three weeks longer than it should have taken to pass this common-sense bill.  (Applause.)  This is a bill filled with ideas that both parties have supported -- tax breaks for companies that hire veterans; road projects; school renovations; putting construction crews back to work rebuilding America; tax cuts for middle-class families so they can make ends meet and spend a little more at local stores and restaurants that need the business.  
Now, you may have heard me say this a few times before -- I’ll say it again:  Pass the bill.  (Applause.)  Enough gridlock.  Enough delay.  Enough politics.  Pass this bill.  Put this country back to work.  (Applause.)  HRC, you know how Congress works.  I’m counting on you to have my back.  Go out there and get them to pass this bill.  (Applause.)  Let’s put America back to work.
Now, ultimately, these debates we’re having are about more than just politics; they’re more about -- they’re about more than the polls and the pundits, and who’s up and who’s down.  This is a contest of values.  That’s what’s at stake here.  This is a fundamental debate about who we are as a nation.
I don’t believe -- we don’t believe -- in a small America, where we let our roads crumble, we let our schools fall apart, where we stand by while teachers are laid off and science labs are shut down, and kids are dropping out.
We believe in a big America, an America that invests in the future -- that invests in schools and highways and research and technology -- the things that have helped make our economy the envy of the world.
We don’t believe in a small America, where we meet our fiscal responsibilities by abdicating every other responsibility we have, and where we just divvy up the government as tax breaks for those who need them the least, where we abandon the commitment we’ve made to seniors though Medicare and Social Security, and we say to somebody looking for work, or a student who needs a college loan, or a middle-class family with a child who’s disabled, that “You’re on your own.”  That’s not who we are.
We believe in a big America, an America where everybody has got a fair shot, and everyone pays their fair share.  An America where we value success and the idea that anyone can make it in this country.  But also an America that does -- in which everyone does their part -- including the wealthiest Americans, including the biggest corporations -- to deal with the deficits that threaten our future.  (Applause.)
We don’t believe in a small America.  We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the President of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed.  (Applause.)  We don’t believe in that.  We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens.  (Applause.)  We don’t believe in them being silent since.  (Applause.)  You want to be Commander-in-Chief?  You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.  (Applause.) 
We don’t believe in a small America.  We believe in a big America -- a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America -- that values the service of every patriot.  (Applause.)  We believe in an America where we’re all in it together, and we see the good in one another, and we live up to a creed that is as old as our founding:  E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.  And that includes everybody.  That’s what we believe.  That’s what we’re going to be fighting for.  (Applause.)
I am confident that’s what the American people believe in.  (Applause.)  I’m confident because of the changes we’ve achieved these past two and a half years -– the progress that some folks said was impossible.  (Applause.)  And I’m hopeful -- I am hopeful --
THE PRESIDENT:  I’m fired up, too.  (Laughter.)  I am hopeful -- (applause) -- I am hopeful -- I am still hopeful, because of a deeper shift that we’re seeing; a transformation not only written into our laws, but woven into the fabric of our society.
It’s progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens, who are propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard.  (Applause.)  It’s playing out in legislatures like New York, and courtrooms and in the ballot box.  But it’s also happening around water coolers and at the Thanksgiving table, and on Facebook and Twitter, and at PTA meetings and potluck dinners, and church socials and VFW Halls.
It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife.  (Applause.)  It happens when a soldier tells his unit that he’s gay, and they tell him they knew it all along and they didn’t care, because he was the toughest guy in the unit.  (Applause.)  It happens when a video sparks a movement to let every single young person know they’re not alone, and things will get better.  It happens when people look past their ultimately minor differences to see themselves in the hopes and struggles of their fellow human beings.  That’s where change is happening.  (Applause.)
And that’s not just the story of the gay rights movement.  That’s the story of America -- (applause) -- the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union.  (Applause.)  You are contributing to that story, and I’m confident we can continue to write another chapter together.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.) 
7:45 P.M. EDT

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Poetry From a Friend

When I started my Taekwondo training in 1987, I was a Freshman in high school and a man named Rex Veeder was the highest ranking Black Belt in Arizona. He was my instructor's instructor's instructor - like a great grandpa, if you will. Rex was a leader and someone I looked up to and respected. While I didn't get to work with him often, when I did, it made an impression. 

Four years later I moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. Rex was a professor there and helped me start a Taekwondo club on the campus. He was a great mentor and was always there if I had any questions or needed any help.

Rex moved to Minnesota and became a professor in St. Cloud. We spoke rarely as the years passed. 

Then came Facebook. We connected and would make occasional comments on each other's posts from time to time. Now, I am very out on social media. If people didn't know I was gay before...well it doesn't take long to figure it out. I hadn't come out until well after Rex moved to Minnesota, however, he has been very supportive of me and of the LGBT community.

This past weekend Rex performed a reading that kicked off the Second Annual Above the Clouds Pride March held at the campus where he teaches. He posted it on Facebook and I have his permission to re-post it here. I found the words very powerful and hope you will too.

Mr. Veeder, thank you again for your leadership. For standing up. speaking out, and giving hope.

Above The Clouds on Judgement Day
by Rex Veeder

[Imagine as you read this rock guitar as duet. Or, put on some Jazz and go down deep.]

Above the Clouds on Judgment Day
(What good is wit if not savage?) 
 Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon, 
 I am with you in Rockland 
where you are madder than I am 
where we remember together the all night winter-party of Normal Illinois  
and memory is a Mexican volcano  
where I am young and you are gay  
and we Buddha on the road 
waiting to be killed or dragged as you said 
off roof tops waving genitals and manuscripts. 

Poets doing politics
Are rodeo clowns looking for a barrel.
I don't mean to complain
only flash a grin at the bull
But, so many politicos
(the politicians of Inquisition)
JUDGE the sick, lonely, old, poor, people of color, and the gay
that I guess I'll make an adjudication about the judges.
It's judgment day.

So, marriage is for hetros only,
someone wants to vote on legal love
reminding us it's a nation of laws
 not justice
why arouse us
with  blatant provocation --
are you crazy,
are you drinking LSD tea?
If you can’t  imagine yourself gay
At least imagine what it’s like to be gay
And step away for God’s sake.

How about an invocation
a necessary provocation
to rile the steel-crusted knights of
supply-side rightness --
I'll even challenge liberals
to stop ending the world with a whimper and
come out in the streets.
It's  high noon
and town’s folks have to get it up.
Show some balls
or ass.
What if Brave Heart were gay
and raising his kilt to moon the Brits
REALLY pissed them off?
There might have been no bloody battle at all,
only a huddle of family-value knights
confused and outraged,
writing Magma Carter into
the wee-willy hours of the morning,
their maces, broad swords and spears piled in the corners
like declarations of penis envy
with bright heralds fluttering
in invitation
or speculative expectation.

Being Gay in Minnesota must be
like living with Peyote in the drinking water,
Minnesota with its optimistic blue sky
and white Fluffy clouds
and cows with incredibly pink udders.
Suddenly, a vision at once utterly funk-dance
and gay
and yes queer
billows out into the streets
like deathly hollows smoke from the Mall of America.

And the politicos who hide in the cloud are afraid
of themselves and the world
demand a law to insure isolation's rules,
command with rage the vigilantes of misplaced rightness
to loose the hounds on the highway to hell --
so sure,
so nice,
so ripe with envy,
with skully grins for the sound-bites
with proclamations at tea against
a revolution
OUR revolution
that rings like a brass alarm bell
that to be born "the other"
is to find in queerness
a world more vast and kind
than white bread, white milk, and white fish.

In the schemes of the straight and narrow, Leprechauns
(they MUST be gay)
escape from prison and
cart kettles of gold
to a bow-end denied them
since the road to rainbow end is not straight . . .
no three wishes, no magic, not even the gold
and all the while those who escape march the streets
ringing cowbells,
chanting: "Bring out your queer. Bring out your queer."

And the queer do come out
along with all those who feel strange
or have been the other
who died to themselves
or to the world
or found DELIGHT a habit
delight that is by birth chosen
not to be prayed away
but saturated with joy --
God in all the glory
funk-dancing in the streets
with God’s brothers and sisters
stating publicly to the slayers of love:
"Bring it on politicians of inquisition;
your days are numbered,
and you can't count anyway.
Hell, you don't count at all."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Certified

Photo by Pete Souza

Today, President Obama signed the certification that will lead to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" finally being gone on September 20, 2011. Some were not happy with the delay in certification, however, for a change like this in the military I am very satisfied with 7 months.

There has been a lot of information coming from the White House today and I wanted to share some of that. 
First is the press release from President Obama.

Office of the Press Secretary
July 22, 2011

Statement by the President on Certification of Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011. 

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country.  Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Next is an email sent by the President to organizations like HRC and individuals who worked hard to make this victory possible. 
Last year, I visited Afghanistan. I was there to thank our men and women in uniform, the brave Americans who have given so much on behalf of this country and who make me so proud to be Commander-in-Chief.  At one of America’s bases there, I was shaking hands and taking pictures, walking along a pretty tight crowd of service members.  A young woman in uniform pulled me into a hug.  She leaned in close so I could hear her over the noise and whispered, “Get ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ done.” 
I said to her, “I promise you I will.” 
A few weeks later, after a struggle that lasted almost two decades, I signed a law to repeal this policy.  I signed it with absolute confidence in our men and women in uniform, in their professionalism and in their capacity to adapt to this change, just as they have adapted and grown stronger with other changes throughout our history.  And I signed this repeal knowing that our military would be stronger – and our nation safer – for the service of patriotic gay men and women who would no longer have to live a lie in order to defend the country they love. 
Today, in accordance with this law, I signed the certification that will end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” once and for all.  The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also have certified that the military is ready for the repeal.  Sixty days from now, on September 20th, the repeal will be complete and gay men and women will be able to serve their country openly. 
On that day, I’ll be thinking of the young woman I met in Afghanistan.  And I’ll be thinking of the countless others like her, straight and gay alike, who love this nation and the ideals for which it was founded, and who have signed up to serve so that we might all live in freedom and uphold this simple creed: we are all created equal. 
Thank you for helping to make this victory for our country possible. 
Barack Obama

Finally I wanted to include a copy of the actual certification document

This is a great day. The end to this awful law finally has an expiration date.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

McDonald's Gay Ad in France is a Conversation Starter

I happened to catch this ad by McDonald's today in the Telegraph. I Tweeted, Facebooked, and Google+'d (yes twitter has the best social media verbs but that is another discussion). I realized that there was more I had to say on it so I am doing things a little backwards with with writing after already putting it on social media but oh well.

First here is the video...then we can discuss.

I guess the video was actually released a year ago but I missed it somehow. Maybe because I don't live in France.  Regardless of when it came out, I have seen it now and I love it. I love how it shows just one of many conversations that happen daily in which LGBT individuals have to decide whether or not to come out. Many people just don't realize how often this happens. Then the decision comes - do I out myself or not? We don't actually know what the father and son discuss over fries and that is ok. Part of me really wanted to see the conversation start. Something like, "Dad, I've got something to tell you." However, is McDonald's really the place to have that conversation with Dad?

Sometimes I think that is what holds us back from coming out. Is this the right time and place? I wish that wasn't the case. I wish people felt like it was something to discuss anywhere at anytime. Doing that takes the stigma out of it that talking about being gay is only something to do in private. I understand that many risk their jobs and others could risk their safety. That's why for those of us that feel safe and secure we must not miss these opportunities. It will only help to make things better for those that can't.

Another thing I thought of as I watched this was, how many conversations did this start? Not necessarily between teens and their parents but among all generations - maybe with friends or even co-workers. Just someone commenting they had seen the commercial and liked it would be enough for an LGBT individual to recognize they had an ally and be more comfortable coming out. Even just a parent that wants their child to know they are loved no matter what could comment on the commercial in a positive way. I see many good conversations that can happen because of this.

Do I see how there could be bad conversations, of course. People could learn a close friend or family member is not accepting. However, I choose to believe that both the good and bad conversations are good. The bottom line is the more things are in the open the better.

Thanks McDonald's. I can't wait for the day we see things like this in the U.S.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two Special Voices in New York

On June 24th, New York became the 6th state to pass marriage equality. I'm not going to "report" on the details. If you like you can just Google and read about that. What I do want to bring attention too is one state Senator in particular that voted in favor of marriage equality, Senator Mark Grisanti. 

He was sworn in back in January of this year. It didn't take long for the pressure to ramp up on marriage equality. Here is a brief time line leading up to Friday's vote.
  • After Lady Gaga asked concert goers to reach out to Grisanti and ask him to vote yes he responded in a radio interview on March 8, 2011, saying: "Civil unions and all the proponents that go along with that, I have no problem with. I have a problem with the term marriage itself. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. It's been a term, a term of ours for years that has been around for thousands of years. It's like calling a cat, a dog. I don't think that that needs to be changed."
  • On May 17, 2011, it was reported that Grisanti had publicly stated that he would vote "no" on same-sex marriage.
  • On June 17, 2011, it was reported that he had changed his position on same-sex marriage to "undecided".
What I appreciated most was was his speech on the Senate floor on how he came to this decision. Please take some time and watch his speech below.

The second person I would like to discuss is my Aunt, who is 70+ years old. She has lived in upstate New York on a farm or in a small town her whole life. She always keeps up on state politics and other current events. She had sent me a quick note when the State Assembly passed the marriage equality bill through and that she was sure the Senate would do the same. I was glad at least she was confident. I knew we still had a fight on our hands at the time.

Apparently my Aunt knew what she was talking about because eight days later she was emailing me again. This time it was almost 11pm NY time and marriage equality had just passed the Senate. The subject: We made it in NYS. We'll come back to that.

 Here is the rest of the email
Hi ladies  - as you may have already heard  -   NYS is passing the "equality in marriage'  act this evening  -  job well done!
   Just wish the news folks would refrain from the term "same sex marriage act" -   that doesn't cover nearly any of the principles of this bill and really gives it a negative connotation rather than educating the public on the real need and assets of the bill.
                                                                                    Love A.
Simple right. But let's remember this is from a small town 70+ year old woman...not exactly the best demographic on this issue. What struck me first was that she just gets it. The end. The fact that she really gets it prompted me to post it on my Facebook and Tweet about it. If this 75 year old woman can get it then I know we can make this happen. If we come out, live open, educate people on how this discrimination effects us, we can change hearts and minds. We can do this.

While I got responses I had expected, a bunch of likes, a few re-tweets, etc - I also got a response I didn't expect. It was actually the first response from twitter. Here is the conversation

Let's just say that this conversation made me write a much stronger reply to my Aunt. Something that was probably going to be WOO HOO! turned into this


Thank you so much for your note. I hope you don't mind but I put it on Facebook. The understanding that you have and the support that you give is something many others in the gay community miss because their family has disowned them. I do not take it for granted and it has meant so much to me as has the support of my parents and many others in the family. The fact that this family never wavered in its support is a true statement to what family means and I believe a true statement about how you all were raised by Gram and always be there for each other.

So again thanks.
So, for me, there were two heroes on that night. One, a Senator that showed true courage by realizing that he might not know everything and seeking to understand all aspects of the issue. The other, a woman who reminded me day to day conversations matter and that I am so lucky to have a family that goes beyond the concept of just being related to each other. I am part of a family that you can count on to be there for you and give you support when needed.

By the way A., I owe you a hug.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Death of Paula Brooks and the Apology from Bill Graber

Previously I had written that I was hoping to speak with Bill Graber and get an explanation and an apology regarding the deception that had happened by him pretending to be lesbian blogger - 'Paula Brooks', founder of the blog Lez Get Real. I am happy to say this conversation has happened. While I had planned on it being a private conversation that I would just acknowledge happened so readers would know, Bill gave me permission to do a post on it.

Bill and I spoke for about a half hour. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I’m sorry I was such an ass.” There were no excuses, in fact it was backed up with a few more statements of I’m sorry for various things. While I accepted the apology I also needed to get some things off of my chest. It was important to me that Bill understood that my issue was the lying that happened on a personal level (see the Google chat example in my previous post).

Me: Why tell me these stories about Deb, the kids, etc?

Bill: It was part of the character.

Me: I understand, but that wasn't what was important about the character for me…you had me at politics. I am a politics junkie and I respected Paula’s mind on the issues. We could discuss and debate many political topics. That’s what I enjoyed. You and I didn’t flirt and we didn’t discuss personal things all the time. So the need to go there with me I just don’t understand.

Bill: I was manipulative. I was trying to get to people’s emotions because sometimes I needed them to do and write something emotional. It was wrong…but many times it was effective. People wanted to talk to the surfer mom. They told her things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. We had the best information of any of the blogs. That was because of the surfer mom. In fact, what I find is people are mad because I killed 'Paula.' They are mad because their friend is gone.
Me: I just don't understand the need for all the lying and manipulating of us on a personal level. For me it was not needed. I wanted to write. You didn't need to manipulate me to do so. I logged, in wrote my stuff, and logged off.
Bill: When the next time I pretend to be a lesbian surfer mom I'll be sure to ask you on how to handle it.
Me: It's really not even funny to joke about doing it again. 

I was also curious about the other cast of characters. Let’s face it…this felt like the end of some move that I just didn’t see the ending coming. I’m one of those people that like to see the credits and know who played their roles. This was no different.

Me: Who are the kids…are they real?

Bill: They are my Grand kids. I’m sure you noticed the progress of time throughout the pictures. Had to be someone I knew.

Me: I put one of the pictures you sent me of them in a post. I will remove it. It's not my intention to do them any harm with all of this. My anger is not at them.

Bill: Thanks, I’m sure my daughter would appreciate it. She is just as mad as my wife.

Me: I can only imagine. You seem to have a shit load of woman pissed at you. Who is the woman in the pictures we see as ‘Paula’ on all the social media?

Bill: My sister when she was 20…keep it all in the family.

Me: What about Deb?

Bill: That is from my friends…what happened to them.

Me: But no one died I thought?

Bill: That’s true. I dramatized it. I wanted to get the story on the survivor blogs to draw readers to Lez Get Real.
Me: But people donated money. That was a horrible deception. What happened to that money? 
Bill: It all went to charity. I made sure nothing came to me. That was hard. Every time there was a hit on the story on a survivor blog I felt bad because I knew it had happened to them for real and they were looking to real support and the story they were reading was a fake. 

This was a pretty low point. To use this death to essentially gain more readers for the blog. It was all about the blog. It seemed that anyone could be sacrificed or hurt to move the blog forward. I was a fairly new writer for the blog when this happened so I wasn't as emotionally wrapped up in it as the others. But to hear him talk about using it simply to promote on the survivor blogs really showed me a new reality. There were no boundaries to who could be hurt. Then we discussed the blog and why this had all happened.

Bill: All I wanted to do was help the LGBT community. I served 25 years in the Air Force. I served to fight for the little people. However, I didn’t even realize the gay community was the little people. I didn’t know anything about it. Then I met a great lesbian couple. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to fight for them because I didn’t feel like I had when I was in the service.

Me: It’s funny. The character of ‘Paula’s Dad’ that I would talk to on the phone is the closest to you. His character was retired military and it took him a long time to come around on LGBT issues but he did so because he learned about it from someone he knew – his daughter. That is to me the closest thing to reality in all of this.

Bill: Yes but the ‘Paula’ character is me too. That was my desire to want to fight for equality. Problem was I didn’t know anything about the gay community. Honestly, I thought all gay men did was go to the park to have sex. I have learned that is not the case. I may have infiltrated a community but the reality is the community educated me. I learned about the strength of the community. I really believe it is the women in the LGBT community that will win this battle. You have the kids, families…your voices are just so powerful. I know there were times writers were mad at me because I would say I was too busy and ask them to write a story. It was because I really did want the blog to be from a lesbian’s point of view…and I am not one. I wanted your (lesbians) voices on the blog. I kept trying to get out but things just kept happening and I was just never able to walk away.

Me: I know you kept saying you were trying to leave.

Bill: I was. You were a problem.

Me: I was?

Bill: Yes you were someone that would come to D.C. and want to meet her. I never thought that would happen. I didn’t know what to do.

Me: Yeah that pissed me off too. I didn’t need my time and that of my friends wasted like that. I wasn't in D.C. to see 'Paula' I had other stuff I was doing. Instead of just saying you couldn't meet you had me waiting for you on two different occasions. I was pissed then and now to learn that it wasn't even real?! That is the shit that drives me nuts. It's the pure manipulation. It leaves us feeling violated.

Bill: I was in panic mode I didn’t know what to do and I am sorry.

Me: So after all this time with these characters and running the blog is it hard to give up?

Bill: Yes…I loved my blog. I worked hard on it to make it something that made an impact. Since the whole thing blew up I have done some interviews and the first thing they ask me is to give them my contacts. Pretty funny, huh? They think I am a fraud yet they want my contacts! What does that say about our blog? They know we were about four days ahead on every story. People wanted to give the surfer mom info. Boy did we get great tips. They were dead on.

Me: Did you give them the contacts?

Bill: Hell no! I gave the blog to Bridget and I’m not going to give someone else the keys to destroy Lez Get Real. I know I hurt her the worst. I am doing everything I can to help set it right for her.

Me: Do you still have access to the blog?

Bill: No I am locked out. It’s all hers now.

Me: Sounds like that is for the best.

It was a good conversation because I am a person that likes closure. So to be able to confront Bill with my anger and ask him the questions I needed to have answered feels good. I am not one to dwell on anger. I find it takes way to much energy. So I am moving on.

There were things in the talk that stood out to me. His use of the words manipulation and infiltration in particular. It seemed like he was a soldier on a mission. While I understood that he was apologizing, I also felt like he was debriefing. Not a lot of emotion. Sincerity, I think, but not emotion.

I imagine this will not be my last contact with Bill. There maybe other questions I have that I would like answered. I wouldn't be surprised if we chatted on and off. I won't be able to ever trust him. The violation was just too much to go back. In fact, the only thing I fully believe is that he loved his blog. I know that because he would lie to anyone to protect it. But frankly, it's hard for me to resist talking with him. After all, once you finish the movie, wouldn't you love to sit down with the writer and see how they pulled off an ending that no one saw coming?

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