Dromm, Queens Center, Village People Cowboy Randy Jones Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Queens Pride

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PHOTO CAPTION: NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from left), NQAPIA Executive Director Glenn Magpantay, API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC Founder Clara Yoon, Caribbean Equality Project Executive Director Mohamed Q. Amin (left to right, holding awards) and other LGBT activists celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.

 

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PHOTO CAPTION: The Original Village Cowboy Randy Jones (foreground, right) performs the hit-song “YMCA” with NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from right) and other attendees at Dromm’s Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival 25th Anniversary celebration at Queens Center Mall.

This week Council Member Dromm hosted a special celebration in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.  Sponsored by Queens Center, the event featured a reception and performances by Randy Jones, the original Village People cowboy, and International Dancer Zaman, a trained Kathak, Orissi, Bollywood, Bhangra and Chutney dancer.

At the event, Dromm recognized API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC, Carribean Equality Project and NQAPIA (National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance), three organizations that have contributed greatly to the LGBT rights movement over the past several years.

“It was a pleasure celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade alongside a host of activists, performers and community supporters,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), founder of the parade.  “For 25 years, this parade has opened the hearts and minds of Queens residents and has helped make the historic gains the LGBT community has seen possible.  I thank Queens Center, Randy Jones, International Dancer Zaman, our honorees and all those in attendance for their contributions to this event and our movement at large.”

“Queens Center was proud to be the venue for Council Member Dromm’s event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the first Queens Pride Parade and Festival,” said John Scaturro, Senior Manager for Queens Center.  “Hosting the celebration in one of the most public spaces in the borough was testament to the progress we have all made in our community and what makes us at Queens Center Mall so pleased to be part of the Queens fabric. Partnering with civic leaders like Council Member Dromm is part our corporate mission to actively participate in our local community.”

Background:

Dromm, who in 1992 courageously came out as an openly gay public school teacher is the paradeʼs founder and a former Co-chair of Queens Pride.  Originally conceived 25 years ago as a response to the homophobic attacks on the Queens lesbian and gay communities by then-School Board 24 President Mary Cummins, the parade has become a wonderful mixture of party and politics welcomed by the local community. The Queens celebration is the first in a series of very special events that kick off a month of Pride activities citywide.

Attack in Jackson Heights Leaves Two Transgender Women Living in Fear

By David Gonzalez

Originally published by the New York Times on April 2, 2017

Gabriela, left, with Nayra, who suffered a fractured ankle in an attack that the police called a hate crime. “I don’t want to see anybody,” Nayra said. “If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.” Credit David Gonzalez/The New York Times

Gabriela, left, with Nayra, who suffered a fractured ankle in an attack that the police called a hate crime. “I don’t want to see anybody,” Nayra said. “If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.” Credit David Gonzalez/The New York Times

Nayra and Gabriela don’t go out much these days, and not just because the two roommates are homebodies. When they venture outside their apartment in Queens, their hesitation is caused as much by emotional wounds as by physical injuries. The two friends are trans women, and though their Jackson Heights neighborhood has a reputation as a welcoming community for gays and lesbians, hate crimes against transgender women have alarmed many in the area.

On the afternoon of March 17, the two women were entering a McDonald’s restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue when they heard a man screaming behind them. When they turned around, they said, he began hurling insults.

“He called us prostitutes, faggots, bitches,” said Gabriela, 33, who, like her friend, spoke on the condition that her last name not be published because of the nature of the assault as well as lingering fear. “I looked at him and said, ‘Girl, this man is crazy.’ He wanted to hurt us.”

Within seconds, the encounter escalated from insults to injuries. The man rushed them, knocking them to the ground as he pummeled Nayra, whose ankle was fractured in the fall. Gabriella said that she had pounced on him but that he had gotten up, grabbed a broken umbrella and used it to beat her on her face and hands.

When he tried to escape, Gabriella chased him, grabbing at the waistband of his pants and slowing him down until the police arrived and took him into custody. No bystanders intervened during the attack, they said.

Now, what has been called a hate crime by the police has turned a neighborhood they love into one they fear.

“I can’t go out and see too many people,” Nayra, 31, said. “If I have appointments, I’ll take a taxi and come back home. I don’t want to see anybody. If I do, I freeze. If I go outside to smoke and I hear a man’s voice, I panic.”

Patrick Omeara, 38, of Oakdale, N.Y., was arrested and faces various charges, including assault as a hate crime. He could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Howard Turman, did not respond to several voice messages requesting comment. The case is in the pretrial stage, and the next court date is scheduled for Tuesday.

Jackson Heights has come a long way since skinheads lured Julio Rivera, a gay man, into a schoolyard and killed him. That 1990 attack galvanized activists and residents, and led to the establishment of the borough’s gay pride parade and a political club that has promoted laws and policies helping gay, lesbian and transgender people. Yet the attacks on trans women — three this year and 16 in 2016, according to local advocates — are an unsettling reminder of the work still to be done.

“People have this idea that New York City is free of violence and progressive,” said Shelby Chestnut, director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “But violence is still occurring against many marginalized communities, and the trans community is deeply affected by that.

“We need to push the public to pay attention to trans issues and see it as a civil rights issue,” she continued. “We are in this moment in society where violence and hatred is emerging in a number of communities, and it exists in New York.”

Nationally, Ms. Chestnut said, transgender women are being killed in greater numbers than any other segment of the L.G.B.T. community. This year alone, she said, there have been seven such murders: Six victims were African-American, and one was Native American.

Advocates said these instances of violence were not isolated but the result of a combination of factors that leave African-American and Latina trans women vulnerable. Harassed in public, rejected by their families and uneasy in school or homeless shelters for men, they are left to fend for themselves and are at a higher risk of becoming victims of violence, advocates said. And the political debate over unauthorized immigrants has left many fearful of speaking out.

“The biggest challenge in working with transgender people is they often don’t have the self-esteem to think they are worth seeking support or help for themselves,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights.

“There is also distrust in going to the authorities, especially the police,” he said. “In the past they have gone there and faced harassment, even at night when they were coming home from the bars. That distrust causes hesitation.”

Nayra and Gabriela encountered some of this after the attack. Although the police who responded were helpful, they said, the detectives who followed up with them at the hospital made them uncomfortable by asking the same questions repeatedly, as if they did not believe them. Nor did the detectives speak Spanish, even though the women, who are Puerto Rican, have limited English proficiency.

Since that encounter in the hospital, the women said, they have yet to hear back from the police.

“We need more laws to ensure the security of trans women,” said Bianey Garcia, a transgender organizer with Make the Road New York. “We don’t need more police. We want the police who are already there to pay more attention to these cases.”

Until then, Gabriela and Nayra are paying extra attention.

“We never had anything happen to us before,” Gabriela said. “Now I walk with fear, like any woman. But now I pay more attention to what I hear around me. I notice more. I look at every little thing. If a couple of people pass by too close to me on the street, I keep walking, wait a little and then look back at them quickly to see if anyone is following me.”

Read more here.

Data disaggregation bills passed in New York City: A Big Win for LGBTQ people and Communities of Color

By Kevin Nadal, PhD

Originally posted by the Huffington Post on November 4, 2016

CACF: COALITION FOR ASIAN CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Mayor de Blasio signing the Data Equity Bills on October 31, 2016.

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Mayor de Blasio signing the Data Equity Bills on October 31, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you belong to different non-majority populations, it can be easy to feel like you are different or alone. You don’t see yourself represented on television shows or movies; you don’t see retail stores celebrating your holidays. You open up history books to learn about groups besides your own, and you sometimes have to travel miles or hours to find food that even remotely matches your grandmother’s cooking skills.

As a Filipino American, born to immigrant parents, I spent my childhood years feeling like my cultural heritage was invisible or odd. I watched TV shows like Punky Brewster and Diff’rent Strokes– never expecting to see any Asian Americans. I learned that the country operated on a Black and White paradigm and that I should just be happy that my parents were able to provide us with opportunities. The few times I saw Filipino Americans on shows like MTV’s The Real World or movies like Hook, I felt validated that ethnic group existed.

At the same time, as I started to identify as gay and as a queer person of color, I genuinely presumed I was the only one. There weren’t any out LGBTQ people in my family, and the few LGBTQ people I saw in media were mostly portrayed in negatively stereotypic ways. Without any role models or friends to overtly tell me it was okay to be gay, I stayed in the closet for the first two and a half decades of my life. Perhaps if I knew that millions of other teenagers were struggling in a similar way, I might have bypassed the depression, the suicidal thoughts, and the pleas to God to make me “normal.”

It is because of these experiences that I wanted to study the communities that were so important of me, and why I pursued my PhD in psychology. As a doctoral student, I faced many research challenges that my peers didn’t encounter. For example, if my peers were interested in studies that understanding differences between major racial groups on certain variables (e.g., Black versus White health outcomes), they could access public datasets with large sample sizes to statistically analyze and compare groups. However, if I wanted to study health differences between Asian American ethnic groups (e.g., Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese or Korean Americans), I would have to collect my own data because those same public datasets usually would not provide information on diverse ethnicities. Relatedly, if a colleague wanted to examine gender differences related to school children or hospital patients (e.g., academic achievement, access to care), they could request access to institutional records to answer their research questions. Yet, if I wanted to replicate a similar study with LGBTQ students or LGBTQ hospital patients, I could not, because the data on sexual orientation or gender identity would never have been collected. Finally, if I ambitiously wanted to report how many Filipino American LGBTQ people there were in the country, I would have to give up entirely, because there simply was no data on the intersection of the two.

On October 31st, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City signed three pieces of legislation – Intros. 251-A, 551-A, and 552-A. The bills which were sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm and Council Member Margaret Chin (and which passed a nearly unanimous City Council Vote), require that New York City agencies use a new form to collect information on gender identity, sexuality, language spoken, ancestry, ethnic origin, and multiracial identity. The form would be voluntary in that the individual could choose to skip any question and would not need to disclose anything identity they did not feel comfortable. The form would be anonymous, in that no one person could be identified based on their answers.

These new policies in New York City are important for a few reasons. First, as New York City is now one of three jurisdictions in the US to pass a data equity law, there is a potential for more advocacy for data equity on all federal, state, and city agencies. For communities of color and immigrants, the impact would be groundbreaking, as it would encourage service providers and policymakers to understand the nuances between groups that are usually lumped into umbrella categories. For example, comprehensive data on Asian Americans could unveil the ways that Asian American ethnic groups differ on issues like poverty, education, and violence. With such information, we would know what kinds of services need to be provided to different groups and what major languages need to be spoken with people to access those services.

Second, because the U.S. Census Bureau does not collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, we do not know how many LGBTQ people there are in New York City, let alone in the entire US. While the Williams Institute at UCLA does their best in estimating the LGBTQ population, we need more definitive numbers. In order to best serve our communities (and to advocate for more funding for research and services), we need to know the numbers of LGBTQ homeless people, LGBTQ incarcerated offenders, LGBTQ-identified students in high schools and colleges; LGBTQ suicide or hate crime victims; and more.

Third, we could also examine trends among multiracial people. Though the U.S. Census Bureau gathers data on multiracial or multiethnic identity, other government agencies tend not to collect, analyze, or disaggregate data on multiracial people. Data equity bills like these advocate for multiracial people to no longer be forced to check a box or settle for an “other”. Similarly, Middle Eastern or Arab Americans (who are often classified as “White” or “Other”) will also be able to self-identify, which could lead to greater understanding and visibility of these communities.

Fourth, having this data is important because it helps our country to celebrate its diversity- a concept that is particularly salient amidst our upcoming elections. While some political candidates have demonstrated commitment to combatting racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia, some candidates have not. Perhaps disaggregated data can influence these political candidates and strategists to recognize population sizes and voting trends of various groups. If politicians knew how much power LGBTQ people, immigrants, and communities of color have in determining elections, perhaps candidates would advocate for the issues that matter to these groups.

But perhaps most importantly, disaggregated data can help these communities to learn how many of them actually exist, which can help them to empower themselves. If LGBTQ people were provided with evidence that they were numerically larger than, or equal to, oppositional religious groups or political parties, maybe they would activate as a collective front. If Asian American ethnic groups knew how many of their community members were affected by particular health, educational, or mental health issues, maybe they could collectively strategize on ways to solve these disparities.  And if communities that historically feel marginalized formed coalitions (like the LGBTQ, immigrant, Asian American, Latinx American, Arab American, and Multiracial people of New York City did), perhaps they would recognize that they have even more of a voice.

I know I can’t change my past, but maybe one way I can positively impact the lives of young people is through my research. In the future, when I learn about a young person who feels like they are “the only one” because their sexual orientation, gender identity, or ethnicity, I can confidently turn to the data and provide them with empirical evidence to show them that they are not alone.

Author’s Note: Thank you to Noilyn Abesamis-Mendoza, MPH of Coalition for Asian Children and Families for her assistance on this article.

Read more here.

Analizan ley para proteger del bullying a estudiantes vulnerables y LGBT

Aunque las autoridades educativas defienden su desempeño, el Concejo asegura que cientos de jóvenes siguen siendo víctima de acoso e intimidación por su orientación sexual, raza o aparienca

 

By Edwin Martinez

Originally published by El Diario NY on October 23, 2016

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José López tiene 16 años y desde que entró a la escuela secundaria, las burlas y comentarios ofensivos de algunos de sus compañeros se han convertido en pan de cada día.

“Me dicen todo el tiempo cosas feas porque soy afeminado, y como estoy un poco gordo, pues me va peor”, comenta el colombiano, quien estudia en una escuela de Queens, y quien por temor a sufrir más rechazo, prefiere ya no quejarse con sus maestros. “Me toca ser fuerte y tratar de ignorar las burlas, pero hay compañeros míos que hasta han pensado en suicidarse. A mí me han empujado, dicho ‘marrana’, ‘miss arepa’, ‘chupa pitos’ y cosas obscenas que para ellos son simples chistes, pero que acaban con cualquiera”.

Y es que a pesar de que el Departamento de Educación de Nueva York asegura que ha implementado varios programas y campañas contra el bullying en los centros educativos, el Concejo de la Ciudad considera que hay fallas gravísimas que ponen en riesgo el bienestar, la salud mental, el desempeño académico y hasta la propia vida de jóvenes LGBT y otros estudiantes vulnerables.

Por ello el Comité de Educación del Concejo comenzó esta semana el análisis de una iniciativa de ley de supervisión contra la intimidación, el acoso y la discriminación en las escuelas, que pretende lograr mayor efectividad a la hora de proteger a los niños más vulnerables.

“El bullying sigue siendo un problema serio cada día en todas las comunidades, empezando en preescolar y poniéndose peor cuando los niños van creciendo”, aseguró el presidente del comité, el concejal Daniel Dromm, al tiempo que mencionó que además de las quejas serias de acoso a niños musulmanes, discapacitados y por cuestiones de raza, la orientación sexual es otro de los elementos que hace más vulnerables a los estudiantes.

“Los estudiantes LGBT son víctimas abrumadoramente de bullying y acoso, y según un sondeo del grupo (GLSEN) sobre el ambiente escolar en el 2013, más del 74% de los estudiantes LGBT fueron acosados verbalmente y el 36% físicamente”, dijo. “Tristemente los malos tratos se extienden a las políticas de las escuelas y sus prácticas”.

El líder político dejó ver su preocupación por el riesgo que enfrentan los menores y mencionó que a pesar de que hay varias medidas antibullying en efecto en la Gran Manzana, el Departamento de Educación ha fallado en cumplirlas.

Casos reportados

“Entre el 2012 y el 2013, el 80% de las escuelas reportó cero casos de bullying. Un análisis de la Fiscalía del estado sobre los datos del 2013 y el 2014 encontró que el 70% de las escuelas reportó cero incidentes”, comentó Dromm, explicando que en el más reciente reporte el 94% de las escuelas reportaron 10 incidentes de bullying o menos. “Aunque ha habido un ligero incremento en el reporte de incidentes en los últimos tres años, el nivel de casos no reportados sigue siendo inaceptable”.

Elizabeth Rose, vicecanciller de la división de operaciones del Departamento de Educación, comentó que en el último año se registraron 4,293 incidentes de bullying, de los cuales 276 fueron por asuntos de género, 201 por motivos de raza, 195 por orientación sexual y 143 por peso, entre otros, pero defendió el desempeño de las escuelas en la protección de los estudiantes.

“El Departamento de Educación trabaja para promover una cultura escolar positiva e inclusiva que esté libre de bullying basado en prejuicios, acoso e intimidación de ningún tipo, a través de una variedad de métodos”, dijo la funcionaria, destacando el programa “Respeto para todos” del DOE. “Aunque hemos dado pasos significativos para construir escuelas seguras, de apoyo e inclusivas para todos los estudiantes, especialmente para los más vulnerables que enfrentan sus retos únicos, sabemos que hay mucho trabajo por hacer”.

A pesar de las críticas, Jared Fox, director de la unidad de enlace LGBTQ del Departamento de Educación, aseguró que en las escuelas ha habido un enorme progreso contra el bullying de los estudiantes LGBT y mencionó la creación en junio del grupo LGBT+ Advisory Council que trabaja con 34 organizaciones para brindar apoyo a los alumnos y a sus familias.

“Hemos entrenado a más de 1,000 coordinadores de padres que están dentro de los más de 2,000 personas que personalmente he entrenado en casi 40 sesiones de desarrollo profesional”.

Toya Holness, vocera del Departamento de Educación, también defendió el proceder de las escuelas en la lucha contra el bullying.

“Nuestras escuelas son más seguras que nunca y tenemos protocolos explícitos y programas de formación sólidos para manejar cualquier incidente que ocurra”, dijo. “Nosotros tomamos los reportes de bullying muy seriamente y seguimos invirtiendo en iniciativas escolares, incluyendo más orientadores y trabajadores sociales, y proporcionando apoyo de salud mental para las escuelas”.

El concejal Rafael Salamanca hizo un llamado al Departamento de Educación para que se enfoque más en las necesidades de protección de los estudiantes vulnerables y mencionó que apoya la creación de una legislación que de paso sirva para educar sobre el respeto a la diferencia.

Por su parte el concejal Ydanis Rodríguez, quien trabajó 13 años en las escuelas públicas, mencionó que aunque los detalles de la iniciativa aun están por definirse, es partidario de una norma estricta con sanciones, que de paso eduque.

Ley contra el bullying

“Tenemos que asegurarnos de que todos los estudiantes sepan que hay una ley que castiga esos comportamientos y aunque no queremos criminalizar a nadie, si es urgente que sepan que vamos a hacer los que sea necesario para que en las escuelas se detenga la cultura de bullying que le ha quitado la vida a muchas personas”, dijo.

Paola Lebrón-Guzmán, líder del grupo LGBTQ Justice de la organización Make the Road New York, se mostró contraria a que la ley que se promueva se base en el castigo y coincidió con Rodríguez en que hay que educar más.

“Debe crearse una justicia para restaurar y eso es una práctica que tiene que partir de los reportes y comunicar mejor que más es lo que está pasando después de esos reportes”, mencionó la activista.

“El Departamento de Educación deben hacer mucho más, no solo presentar reportes sino ofrecer más entrenamientos y hacer seguimiento, porque aunque hay grupos de género y sexualidad en algunas escuelas, solo son para los que quieran estar involucrados, pero no existe para todos los maestros y para la administración”, dijo, al tiempo que mencionó el caso de uno estudiante LGBT de 16 años fue víctima de burla y agresión física en Crown Heights, Brooklyn el lunes pasado como un ejemplo para comenzar a actuar.

“Es inaceptable, ofensivo y desconcertante que eso ocurra y este es un momento importante para las escuelas de Brooklyn y de su escuela en particular, para que involucre a todos el cuerpo escolar a que aprendan sobre la comunidad LGBTQ y cómo ser aliados efectivos”, concluyó.

Datos sobre bullying en las escuelas

  • A nivel nacional el 22% de los estudiantes ha reportado haber sido víctima de bullying
  • Se calcula que cada año 13 millones de estudiantes enfrentan bullying en el país
  • Según el grupo Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) en el 2013 el 74.1% de los estudiantes LGBT fue acosado verbalmente por su orientación sexual y el 36.2% fue víctima de acoso físico
  • Un estudio del Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveló que el año pasado el 40% de los estudiantes LGBT consideró el suicidio y un año antes el 29% intentó hacerlo.
  • Por el bullying, el 60% de los estudiantes reportó sentirse triste o afectado en su vida cotidiana.
  • Se calcula que el 64% de los estudiantes que son víctima de bullying no lo reportan.
  • Las escuelas de Nueva York están señaladas de no reportar todos los incidentes de bullying
  • La Fiscalía de Nueva York descubrió que en el 2013 de las 1,792 escuelas públicas y charter de la Gran Manzana, el 70% no reportó un solo incidente de bullying o discriminación
  • En el 2015 el 94% de las escuelas reportó tan solo 10 o menos incidentes de bullying
  • Actualmente existen leyes y medidas contra el bullying como el “Acta del éxito para todos los estudiantes (ESSA)”, el “Acta por la dignidad de todos los estudiantes (NYC DASA)”, el “Acta de Escuelas seguras contra la violencia (SAVE Act)”, el programa “Respeto para Todos (RFA)” y la Regulación A-832, pero según los críticos parecen ser insuficientes para proteger a los estudiantes de Nueva York.
  • En el último año escolar se reportaron 4,293 incidentes de bullying, de los cuales 276 fueron por asuntos de género, 201 por motivos de raza, 195 por orientación sexual y 143 por peso, entre otros

Read more here.

Talking About Coming Out With the Cast of ‘Fun Home’

By Elizabeth A. Harris

Originally posted by the New York Times on August 25, 2016.

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The volunteers visit schools in pairs. One person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and the other has a family member in one of those categories. They stand at the front of a classroom and tell their families’ coming-out stories.

This month, about two dozen of these volunteers received an invitation that could, perhaps, happen nowhere but New York City: Would they like to get some public speaking lessons from the cast of a Broadway show? It’s called “Fun Home,” and it won a bunch of Tonys.

The show, adapted from the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman through phases of her life as she learns that both she and her father are gay. The show, which won the Tony for best musical, among other awards, is now approaching the end of its run. It is scheduled to close in September and go on a national tour a few weeks later. The volunteers were invited to attend a workshop on Wednesday, and then to stay to watch the show.

“We thought they could learn a lot from professional actors about public speaking skills,” said Drew Tagliabue, the executive director of Pflag NYC, an organization for family members of gay and transgender people. The group runs the Safe Schools Program, which sends those emissaries into classrooms to talk about coming out.

And so it was that about two dozen Pflag volunteers, some in their 20s, clad in sneakers and tattoos, others comfortably into retirement age, found themselves in the very guts of the Great White Way — a windowless, subterranean room in Midtown Manhattan with gray linoleum floors below the Circle in the Square Theater.

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Before them sat six cast members from the musical: Michael Cerveris, who plays Bruce, the father; Judy Kuhn (Helen, the mother); Beth Malone (Alison, the main character); Emily Skeggs (Medium Alison, the character in college); Roberta Colindrez (Joan, the college girlfriend); and Kally Duling (the understudy for Medium Alison and Joan).

But what was planned as a class about how to hold onto an audience became something different. There were two sample presentations, but instead of coaching, there was a conversation between two groups of people, strangers to one another, about how what they do — whether on a Broadway stage or in a busy public-school classroom — is actually quite similar. They tell stories that are not often told.

“I have some advice for anyone who is thinking of coming out, or if you have friends who are thinking of coming out,” said Samuel Nathanson, 24, a Pflag volunteer who tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. “Don’t do it while your mom is driving.”

The Safe Schools Program in New York City began about 15 years ago, not so many years back, but at a time when gay issues received an immeasurably chillier reception in this country than they do today.

“We got a lot of pushback in the beginning,” said Suzanne Ramos, a Pflag NYC board member and the mother of a gay man. “Back then, schools used to say: ‘Oh, we don’t need anything like that. We don’t have any gay kids here.’”

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Today, Mr. Tagliabue and Ms. Ramos said, schools are much more open. During the last school year, volunteers spoke to almost 6,000 students. That is many more students, and often much younger children, than they used to address.

Still, there is resistance. Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democrat who helped found Pflag Queens, and who quietly found a folding chair toward the back of the room on Wednesday, said it took years to get Pflag into certain schools. Mr. Dromm, who is gay, has been involved with the group for a long time.

When Ms. Malone takes the stage, or when Mr. Nathanson stands up to face rows of young people at desks, they are not just speaking to the most obvious audiences. There are gay people who come to “Fun Home” eager to see a story even a little like their own sung on a stage, just as there might be gay teenagers in a classroom relieved to see that when they grow up, they might just be all right. But there are others.

“There are people who come to New York, who show up in the summer and they just want to see what won best musical — ‘We’ll just go see that!’” Mr. Cerveris said. “Those audiences are, in some ways I think, our favorite ones, because we’re not preaching to the choir at that point.”

“And as you go into schools, you may have a couple receptive kids,” Mr. Cerveris continued. “You’re trying to give those kids a sense of confidence and help them feel not so alone, but you’re also, maybe even more, helping other kids who don’t know that their minds need to be opened.”

“The thing that we have discovered so fully,” he added, “is the value of showing up and telling stories.”

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All single-stall bathrooms in NYC to become gender neutral under bill passed by City Council

By Erin Durkin

Originally published by the NY Daily News on June 21, 2016

 Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

All single-stall bathrooms in the city will have to go gender neutral after the City Council passed a bill to mandate the change Tuesday.

The legislation, passed by a vote of 47-2, will require business owners to take down the “men” and “women” signs on one-person bathrooms starting on Jan. 1.

It’s a move to make sure transgender New Yorkers can comfortably access facilities — which backers say will also cut down on waiting for all customers, especially women who usually face longer toilet lines.

“Most New Yorkers take their unfettered access to bathrooms for granted, yet every single day transgender and gender non-conforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their choices may lead to harassment or worse,” said Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Queens), the sponsor.

“Designating single-stall bathrooms as all gender is an easy way to create a welcoming environment for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” he said. “As an added bonus, anyone who is looking for an unoccupied bathroom will now have more options.”

Mayor de Blasio has already issued an order saying that city-owned buildings must allow people to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity.

Larger bathrooms with many stalls will not be affected by the Council’s bill.

Mayor de Blasio signs a bill mandating city facilities to allow people to access bathrooms in line with their gender identity. (NYC.GOV)

The measure is also meant to send a message decrying laws like the one passed in North Carolina requiring people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

Pols there “are perversely obsessed with the bathroom habits of others,” Dromm said. “Their recently enacted anti-LGBT law belongs in the toilet.”

The Department of Buildings will have to determine fines for building owners who maintain gender-segregated bathrooms.

Read more here.

East Village Students Win Fight for LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in Classroom

By Allison Hope

Originally published by DNAinfo on June 17, 2016

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum.  Photo: Colin Schumacher

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum. Photo: Colin Schumacher

EAST VILLAGE — An education company that supplies learning materials to millions of students across the nation will be adding LGBT studies to its elementary school curriculum after one New York City public school fought to make it happen.

BrainPOP, an interactive digital educational company based in the Flatiron that’s used by students in public schools across the city, has agreed to create a new LGBT Civil Rights-specific curriculum by the fall — following nearly a year of pressure from students the East Village’s Earth School as well as an outpouring of grief following the recent tragedy in Orlando.

“Children of all ages are exposed to the terrible news, and as parents and teachers, we are once again faced with having to explain the unexplainable. To help provide kids with context, we’ll be publishing a topic that addresses the historic Gay Rights movement and encourages tolerance and acceptance,” BrainPOP Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Din Heiman wrote on the company’s website Monday — a day after gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people in an LGBT club and wounded 53 more before he was killed by police.

“I do hope that the Earth School children that expressed a wish to see a BrainPOP topic realize that their request was heard, and led to real change even before the events of this tragic weekend,” Heiman added in a separate email to the school shared with DNAinfo New York.

Heiman told DNAinfo he planned to prepare standalone LGBT educational materials ready in time for the new school year.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side's Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side’s Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

The announcement came as welcome news to the students at the Earth School, where fourth and fifth grade students had been calling on BrainPOP to create an elementary school curriculum devoted to the fight for LGBT Civil Rights.

“What is the purpose of education if not to change things for the better?” said Earth School teacher Colin Schumacher, who spearheaded the charge after his fourth grade class realized last year during their civil rights studies that BrainPOP had nothing available regarding the LGBT community’s struggle.

The students sent an email to the company to find out why and to ask that it get added. When the company failed to respond, the students called elementary and middle school principals in the area and asked if they would lend their support. The students sent a second request to BrainPOP with the list of supportive educational leaders, but still heard no response, Schumacher said.

The Earth School’s Principal Abbe Futterman eventually got an email from BrainPOP’s Editorial Director, Jon Feldman, who wrote, “I doubled-checked with our standards provider, and it seems that at present only four states, including New York, have specific standards around LGBT rights. Every one of those standards is at the high school level. While there are high school classrooms that use BrainPOP, we do not create topics that are applicable only to those grades,” according to the email she shared with DNAinfo.

BrainPOP officials wrote in the email that they would consider, “revising the Civil Rights movie to better highlight the connection between the historical movement of the 1960s and the activism it inspired in subsequent generations. This will naturally include the LGBT Rights movement.”

But that wasn’t a sufficient response for the students, they said.

“The kids did not believe that adding LGBT rights as an addendum to any existing video is fair and equal treatment for one of the most significant civil rights movements of their lifetime,” said Schumacher, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at The Earth School, which serves 300 students between pre-K and fifth grade.

The students kept up the battle this spring, creating a standalone website entitled,“Kids for LGBT Rights Now,” which features a multi-faceted effort to push for LGBT-inclusive curriculum in schools, including a video they produced and starred in while wearing a rainbow of different colored shirts, standing in front of various locations of LGBT significance including Stonewall Inn.

The website also includes a blog with updates on their efforts as well as a petition calling on BrainPOP to add LGBT content to its suite of offerings.

On April 29, the students met with LGBT Liaison for the NYC Department of Education Jared Fox, who met with them and advised them on ways to make their advocacy campaign more effective, they said.

“We work closely with schools to develop grade-appropriate curriculum that aligns with the New York State standards and includes positive representations of LGBT individuals and history,” Fox said in a statement. “We support the work of The Earth School in creating an inclusive curriculum and encouraging students to get involved through project-based learning.”

A few weeks later, students met with more city officials including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, her Community Engagement Liaison Mili Bonilla, and City Council and LGBT Caucus Member Daniel Dromm.

Dromm, who faced homophobia as one of the few out gay teachers in the New York City system in the early 1990s, then sent a letter to BrainPOP as well as to Apple CEO Tim Cook, since Apple has been heavily promoting BrainPOP on its products.

“These incredibly inspiring activists have one simple mission. They want BrainPOP, a resource they highly value, to cover history accurately. I look forward to receiving your response about why such content is not on your site and why you have no plans to address its glaring omission,” Dromm’s letter read.

On June 8, the students attended the New York City Council pride celebration where they showed the video the kids produced calling on BrainPOP to create standalone LGBT resources. “The kids were the hit of the evening,” Dromm said. “They received a five-minute-long standing ovation.”

The Earth School students with their teacher had planned to return to the New York City Council on June 21 to be recognized for their work as part of the annual ceremony to highlight the accomplishments of New Yorkers — and the news of their success will make the visit even more powerful, Dromm said.

“Many people have laid down their lives, Harvey Milk and others, in this cause for LGBT civil rights,” Dromm said, “So I think to present history in an intellectually honest way is something we must do.”

Read more here.