“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” Cook writes.
In the essay, Cook says he has been open with many people about his sexual orientation for years, including Apple employees. “Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me.”
“Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me.”He adds that while he never denied his sexuality, he had not publicly acknowledged it either. Writing about his motivation to do so, the Apple boss cites Dr. Martin Luther King:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important.”
Earlier this week, Cook challenged his home state of Alabama, saying it was too slow to guarantee the rights of minorities during the civil rights era, and it is currently too slow to ensure the rights of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cook has encouraged LGBT rights on a national stage as well.
In June, during a CNBC “Squawk on the Street” segment, co-anchor Simon Hobbs accidentally “outed” the CEO as being openly gay while asking columnist Jim Stewart: “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he’s gay at the head of Apple isn’t he?”
Cubs Co-Owner, Laura Ricketts, stops by Windy City LIVE to exclusively premiere the Cub’s “It Gets Better” Video.
Laura Ricketts, Co-Owner of the Cubs and the first openly gay owner of major league franchise, talks with Val and Ryan about the Cubs “It Gets Better” Video. The Cubs will be the second professional sports team to participate in the “It Gets Better” campaign following the San Francisco Giants who released their video earlier in June. It was filmed at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, June 14 with manager Mike Quade, first base coach Bobby Dernier, pitcher Ryan Dempster, center fielder Marlon Byrd, second baseman Darwin Barney and owner Laura Ricketts appear in the video to speak against hatred, bigotry and intolerance.
Currently, there are no openly gay athletes playing in any of the four major pro sports, as the New York Times recently highlighted in an article about New York Rangers hockey player Sean Avery announcing his support for marriage equality in New York state.
About the “It Gets Better” Project Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted – even
The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone – and it WILL get better.
What is the It Gets Better Project? In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.
Two months later, the It Gets Better Project (TM) has turned into a worldwide movement, inspiring over 10,000 user-created videos viewed over 35 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee”, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it.
The website www.itgetsbetter.org is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where our straight allies can visit and support their friends and family members. It’s a place where people can share their stories, take the It Gets Better Project pledge, watch videos of love and support, and seek help through the Trevor Project and GLSEN.
On March 22, 2011, six months following the launch of the campaign, the It Gets Better Project book was released. The book , It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living is on-sale wherever books are sold. It includes essays and new material from more than 100 contributors, including celebrities, religious leaders, politicians, parents, educators, youth just out of high school, and many more. All proceeds from the book will be donated to LGBT youth charities. For more details and to purchase the book, visit HTTP://ITGETSBETTER.ORG/BOOK.
WASHINGTON — As barriers to same-sex marriage fall across the country, gay rights advocates are planning their next battle on Capitol Hill: a push for sweeping legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination, similar to the landmark Civil Rights Act that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed in 1964.
Plans for a so-called comprehensive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights bill are still in their infancy, and advocates say the campaign could take a decade or longer. With Republicans taking control of the House and the Senate in January, they say the measure has little chance of passing in the next two years.
“This will not be an easy struggle,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, who intends to introduce legislation this spring. “It forces a much larger conversation about our values as a country. Are we going to be a country in which we prohibit discrimination of any kind against individuals based on their sexual orientation?”
The effort reflects a new reality for a movement that has had a series of recent victories. Same-sex marriage is legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Gays can serve openly in the military and have a host of new federal protections. On Wednesday, the Labor Department issued a rule barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But gay men and women can still be fired and denied housing in vast stretches of the country, especially in the South and the Mountain West. There are 16 states where gay people lack virtually any legal protections. Officials at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who investigate claims of workplace discrimination, said they had received more than 1,300 complaints involving sexual orientation and gender identity since 2013, when they began tracking such claims.
In Yankton, S.D., for example, Tyler Brandt, 16, said his manager at a Taco John’s restaurant required him to wear a name tag that said “Gaytard.” Humiliated, he quit, and he is now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a claim with the commission. A Taco John’s spokeswoman said the company took the allegations “very seriously” and is in the process of resolving the claim.
In Connecticut, Kerry Considine, a physical therapist at an assisted living facility, tried to add her wife, Renee, to her health insurance policy and was denied; the company was based in Tennessee, which does not recognize same-sex marriages. The company eventually agreed to cover Renee Considine, but not until her wife filed a claim with the commission. Kerry Considine is now suing in federal court, in part to recover expenses incurred when her wife was not covered and also to establish that the denial of benefits was discriminatory.
“If I was a man marrying a woman, there wouldn’t have been a question,” she said.
Against that backdrop, lawyers for an array of gay rights and civil rights groups — including the A.C.L.U., the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and the Human Rights Campaign — have been meeting for the past six months to work on a proposed bill. The Human Rights Campaign has been convening focus groups to gauge public opinion on the plan. On Thursday, it issued a report making the case that a broad civil rights bill would “make ours a more equal nation,” as Chad Griffin, the president of the group, wrote. The Center for American Progress, a liberal research organization, will issue its own report next week.
The push signals a major change in strategy. For the past 20 years, gay rights advocates have tried, unsuccessfully, to pass much narrower legislation banning discrimination only in employment. Now, with analysts predicting that the Supreme Court will soon legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, movement leaders have coalesced around the broader approach.
Eighteen states already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said protections were needed in every state, in all areas of society — including employment, housing, education, public accommodations, jury service and lending.
“When a transgender person changes their first name from Jennifer, say, to Josh, the credit company says, ‘That’s highly unusual, we don’t have credit history for Josh and so we can’t cover you,’ ” Ms. Warbelow said. “But straight married women change their last names all the time.”
Any effort to create a new class of legally protected people — as the 1964 law does for racial minorities and women — is likely to run into serious opposition from conservatives. They are waging a campaign to carve out religious exemptions to state laws after some high-profile court fights, like that of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to work at a same-sex ceremony.
Some conservatives warn of dire social consequences if civil rights protections are extended to transgender Americans.
“This is where the term ‘bathroom bills’ has been coined,” said Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian advocacy group here. “Applying gender protections to public accommodations would mean that you have situations in which people who are biologically male could claim that they have a civil right to use a female designated facility — including restrooms, showers and locker rooms.”
The idea of a national civil rights bill for gays was first proposed in the 1970s by two New York Democrats in Congress, Bella Abzug and Edward I. Koch. But it failed to gain traction and the movement ultimately scaled back its ambitions, settling on the narrower bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, known by the acronym ENDA.
That measure, introduced in 1994, finally passed the Senate last year with the support of 10 Republicans, but only after conservatives insisted on an exemption for religious groups. The exemption infuriated some gay rights groups, which soured on the measure and backed away from it. The bill has not passed the House.
“We’ve made some big tactical mistakes along the way,” said Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues. “Many of our allies felt very burned by the infighting around the last big push for ENDA.”
Despite the defeats, advocates said the time was right to push for a broader bill.
“When ENDA was introduced, the idea that same-sex couples would be able to get married was a fantasy, a fairy tale,” said James Esseks, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and AIDS Project at the A.C.L.U. “Why are we, 20 years later, still asking only for a small slice of the protections that we actually need, and that most every other community takes for granted?”
But advocates and their allies in Congress say they have no illusions. Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, plans to introduce a broad nondiscrimination bill this spring. But asked when such a measure might pass, he said, “That’s a hazy, crystal-ball question.”
Ellen Page This year Ellen Page came out publicly while speaking at HRC’s Time to Thrive conference. She was influenced, in part, by a chat TV host George Stroumboulopoulos held with Dan Savage, who voiced his opinion that coming out is a moral imperative. “The way he spoke left very little leeway, and it really stuck with me”. Page is the latest in a line of LGBT artists who come out after devoting themselves to queer-themed projects, and if you want to label that a fashionable phenomenon, be her guest. “Even if it did become a trend, who cares?” Page says. “Let being yourself become a trend”
Birth announcements are happy occasions to celebrate — even when they come 19 years after one’s actual birth.
Yolanda Bogert of Jimboomba, Australia, printed a retraction on Monday to the original birth announcement for her 19-year-old son, Kai, who was born female, according to the Courier-Mail,
Kai had come out to his mother and father as a transgender man a few days earlier, and his parents agreed they needed to show a sign of support — both to their son and to the world. Yolanda Bogert told the Courier-Mail that writing the retraction was “a no-brainer.”
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released a long-awaited, much-needed guidance document for elementary and secondary schools that offer or want to offer single-sex classes.
Included within the document was an important protection for transgender students that should not be overlooked. The guidance states clearly that transgender students must be allowed to participate in single-sex classes consistent with their gender identity. (In other words, consistent with who they are.) This latest positive breakthrough builds on guidance released earlier this year that made it explicitly clear, for the first time, that Title IX extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity.
The need for this clarifying direction to schools across the country could not have been clearer.
As the ACLU has repeatedly documented, and fought, far too many single-sex programs are based on discredited “science” that is rooted in outdated and harmful gender stereotypes. For example, teachers have been instructed that girls should not have time limits on tests because, unlike boys, girls’ brains cannot function well under these conditions. On the flip side, teachers have been told to firmly discipline boys who like to read, do not enjoy contact sports, and do not have a lot of close male friends by requiring them to spend time with “normal males” and to play sports.
These kinds of sweeping generalizations are especially harmful to students who do not conform to rigid gender stereotypes, including LGBTQ students. Indeed, such generalizations and stereotypes are precisely the sort of discrimination that Title IX was intended to eliminate more than four decades ago, and they should have no place in our public education system today. The guidance released on Monday is clear that schools cannot rely on these kinds of harmful stereotypes.
These recent actions from the Department of Education are important steps forward, but there is still more to do. The Department of Education should release comprehensive guidance for schools nationwide explaining how Title IX protects transgender and gender nonconforming students from discrimination and what steps schools need to take to be in compliance with the law and meet their obligations to these students.
All students deserve the opportunity to attend school free from discrimination because of who they are, including stereotypes about how “normal” boys and girls learn.
In fact, Business Insider named Cook as one of the most important LGBT people in tech back in December 2013.
In light of Cook’s coming-out, we are re-running our list of the most important LGBT people in tech. (We’ve also decided against ranking this list.)
As Business Insider’s Jim Edwards has noted, it’s unfortunate that some famous, successful gay people like Cook might feel pressured to talk about their personal lives while straight CEOs can maintain their privacy.
Still, it takes courage to give up that privacy in order to inspire others to be more open or insist on equality for gays.
Cathy Brooks, a lesbian activist, previously worked at Seesmic and founded a digital marketing firm. She also hosts a podcast about tech/society. But Brooks dropped her career to pursue her passion for dogs back in February 2013. She opened up a private dog park and training academy for dogs in Las Vegas and founded The Hydrant Club, a place for cool canines to “romp and learn.”
Lisa Brummel has been with Microsoft ever since she graduated from college in 1989. Brummel has held a variety of positions at the tech giant, but has since become the executive vice president of human resources. Brummel is the one who informed employees that Microsoft would axe its controversial stack-ranking system — a system that hurt morale by turning teammates into competitors.
Nick Denton is the mastermind behind Gawker Media, the online publishing network behind sites like Valleywag, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kinja, and Lifehacker.
Ray Everett is director of product management and principal consultant at TRUSTe, a privacy management services provider. Previously, he served as director of advertising and privacy at Yahoo, where he made sure Yahoo’s privacy promises held up.
Amy Errett, the CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed, has had a varied career. Before creating the at-home hair color startup, she held management positions at E*Trade, was CEO of lifestyle company Olivia, and general partner at VC firm Maveron.
Ina Fried, an award-winning journalist currently for AllThingsD, has covered the tech industry since 2000. She’s held positions at CNET, where she covered Microsoft and Apple.
Genentech is one of the most innovative biotech companies out there, and a lot of that is thanks to Christy Gaughan, its director of marketing science.
Gaughan has also served as Genentech’s LGBT employee group co-chair.
Jason Goldberg, CEO and founder of Fab and Hem, is a force to be reckoned with in the startup industry. Fab was roiled by pivots and layoffs last year, but Goldberg still raised $165 million in new funding. Fab was Goldberg’s third startup, the previous two being Socialmedian and Jobster.
Chuck Osborn is a long-time gaming expert who’s managing editor at IGN, a leading online media publication focused on gaming.
Prior to joining IGN, Osborn wrote for publications like PCXL, PC Gamer, and NVISION.
Keith Rabois, the former chief operating officer at payments startup Square, joined Khosla Ventures last year as a partner. Rabois was an early leader at PayPal during its eventual sale to eBay. Before becoming a VC, Rabois was a top angel investor in Silicon Valley.
A few years after starting Buddy Media with Mike and Kass Lazerow, the company sold to enterprise industry giant Salesforce. Today, Ragovin is chief strategy officer of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, where he’s in charge of the company’s social marketing solutions.
Tom Rielly is director of partnerships at Ted Conferences, where he manages corporate partnerships. He was previously the founder and CEO of PlanetOut.
In 2012, Kane Sarhan teamed up with Shaila Ittycheria to launch Enstitute, an on-the-job alternative to attending college.
Enstitute helps place aspiring entrepreneurs in apprenticeship-like programs. Enstitute places its students at startups like Thrillist, Tracks, and Bitly. Halfway through its pilot program in 2012, 70% of students received preliminary full-time offers for permanent jobs.
Prior to co-founding Enstitute, Sarhan worked as the creative director at hot New York-based startup LocalResponse.
Ron Shuman joined Tesla, one of the most innovative companies of our time, in November 2013 to head up its HR department where he is responsible for things like recruiting and employee retention.
Darrell Silver, an entrepreneur whose first company Perpetually sold to Dell, is back with a startup called Thinkful.
Thinkful is an online school that offers one-on-one education in the programming language Python and front-end Web development.
Joel Simkahi is the brains behind one of the hottest dating apps for gay men, Grindr.
Grindr first gained popularity in 2009 and has been downloaded millions of times.
Megan Smith is currently chief technology officer of the United States. Previously, she served as a vice president at Google[x] and was one of the masterminds behind Google’s “moonshot” ideas and products. Moonshot ideas need to tackle a big problem, require a breakthrough in technology, and actually offer a solution.
Some examples of moonshot projects include Google’s self-driving cars and its balloon-powered Internet initiative, Project Loon.
Before becoming VP of Google [x], Smith oversaw biz dev at Google’s philanthropic wing, DotOrg.
Darren Spedale is the founder of FamilyByDesign and StartOut, a national nonprofit dedicated to fueling LGBT entrepreneurship. Back in 2010, Spedale rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on behalf of StartOut.
Sara Sperling is currently director of human resources at Snapchat. Previously, she was at Facebook.
Kara Swisher is one of the best tech journalists in the world. She’s known for her solid reporting and scoop after scoop after scoop.
She previously ran tech site AllThingsD alongside Walt Mossberg and founded re/code this year.
Peter Thiel, famous for being Facebook‘s first investor and the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, is the brains behind the Thiel Foundation. As part of the two-year fellowship, 20 teenagers receive $100,000 to drop out of college and start a company.
As both a VC and entrepreneur, Thiel has been involved with companies like Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, and Facebook, where Thiel was the social network’s first outside investor and director.
Thiel is also the founder and president of Clarium Capital.
In his early 20s, Thione launched his first company, Powerset, a search engine startup. That company eventually sold to Microsoft for about $100 million, where it ultimately became part of the tech giant’s Bing search engine.
Disclosure: I used to work with Owen during his time at Business Insider.
Edith Windsor, a former IBM engineer, became an unlikely activist in the gay rights movement. Back in 2010, Windsor sued the government for a $363,053 refund of the estate taxes she had to pay when her spouse passed away. The Supreme Court ultimately decided in her favor, marking the first the US-recognized marriage between partners of the same sex.
The Gay-Straight Alliance at Norwood High School in Norwood, Ohio, is a small but tight-knit bunch. Amira Bauer-Hutsell, a senior at the school, is president of the group that meets once a week to discusses everything from school gossip to current events. For one transgender member who has no support at home, it is the only place to open up and vent.
“It kind of just gives people in the LGBT community somewhere to go, where they can talk and not feel judged,” said Bauer-Hutsell.
The GSA has become an in-house LGBT family, she said, where upperclassmen look out for younger students and even the principal gets schooled once in a while on LGBT etiquette.
“I taught him that ‘queer’ wasn’t a dirty word,” said Bauer-Hutsell.
The club has also slowly opened up the rest of the student body to the gay and transgender community. Joann Payne is a social worker who has worked in the district for 14 years and helped create Norwood’s GSA. She saw the club’s tangible effects last year, when two boys were seen holding hands on the front steps of the school.
Payne recalls a fellow teacher coming up to her to say, “Before GSA, that could never have happened without a whole lot of ridicule.”
Norwood is just one school in the Cincinnati area that’s taking concerted measures to improve LGBT inclusivity on campus. Supportive staff, strict anti-bullying policies, on-campus gay-straight alliances, and LGBT-inclusive curricula are key steps to reducing homophobia and harassment at schools, according to a report released last week by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
The biennial survey looks at the conditions for LGBT students across the country. The year’s questionnaire was conducted online, with nearly 8,000 students from all 50 states answering questions about how they were treated at school. The study shows some marked improvements for LGBT students overall, from lower rates of verbal and physical harassment based on their sexual orientation to the decline of the common campus phrase “That’s so gay.”
But 55 percent of students still reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 71 percent said they heard “gay” used in a negative way on campus.
“Progress is being made in our nation’s schools,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director. “But when more than half of LGBT youth continue to report unsafe or even dangerous school climates, we all have a responsibility to act.”
In 2011, Ohio schools were deemed “not safe” for most LGBT secondary school students, and nine in 10 students reported hearing slurs such as “fag” or “dyke,” according to GLSEN. School liaisons like Shawn Jeffers are trying to change that. Jeffers is the lead trainer for GLSEN Cincinnati; he visits area schools and helps teach students and staff how to create more inclusive environments.
Ohio is the perpetual swing state in every election, said Jeffers, a mixed bag of far-right- and far-left-leaning communities, making it an interesting case study when it comes to LGBT students. When he began visiting schools a few years ago the mere mention of the word “gay” or “lesbian” in GLSEN’s name made teachers uncomfortable, he said. They’d often have to get his visit cleared by an equally uncomfortable school principal, as administrators were hesitant to invite LGBT discussion onto campus in fear of angry parent phone calls or threatened job security.
“I think schools by their nature tend to be risk averse,” said Jeffers.
But things reached a tipping point. In 2009 and 2010, there was a dramatic rise in teen suicides across the country, said Jeffers, often by kids who were out or assumed to be LGBT.
There was Seth Walsh, a gay California teen who couldn’t take the relentless bullying by his classmates and hanged himself in his backyard. There was Asher Brown, a 13-year-old Texan who was taunted at school and then shot himself after he came out. These are just to name two.
School administrators were forced to start addressing LGBT issues on campus, said Jeffers, and in Ohio, much of this support came from the top down. The state passed a law requiring all schools to enact anti-bullying policies, and then in 2012, an additional law was passed requiring a cyber-bullying policy be created as well.
Although these measures are now fairly common in states across the country, the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education took things one step further in 2013. It voted to add language to its anti-bullying policy that explicitly protected students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Only 10 percent of students reported attending a school having a policy like Cincinnati’s, according to the GLSEN report; those that did were less likely to hear homophobic slurs on campus and more likely to have staff intervene when those remarks were made.
So although national progress is slow, it is being made. Its success will rely on administrators making LGBT inclusivity part of the school culture, said Jeffers, and putting the needs of the students first, no matter what their personal beliefs.
As was the case at Norwood High, when the Gay-Straight Alliance was formed about six years ago.
“Our principal was supportive and forthcoming that this was an issue that’s a little bit out of his comfort zone,” said Joann Payne. “But he welcomed the group into the school.”
Jack Antonoff, best known as the lead guitarist for crowd-pleasing indierock band Fun., and — we’ll say it — as the boyfriend of Lena Dunham, is honest to a fault about his personal style.
“I have a very Jewish face,” he says, “so I can get away with almost borderline Nazi looks, like army pants and stuff like that… I grew up in the ’90s; I like big sweaters, grays, fleece. All those things came together to look like a weird Jewish military person.”
Fashion aside, Antonoff doesn’t have much in common with a marine — except, possibly, for his to-the-minute time management, a necessity given his schedule lately. The evening before our shoot, he was backstage at Saturday Night Live, supporting Dunham in her debut as host. The day before that he’d Instagrammed a pic of them on a double date with President Barack Obama and the first lady. Two days after SNL, he was in Dallas, then Austin, to play his new solo project’s first-ever shows at South by Southwest.
That project, Bleachers, exhibits traces of nearly every irrepressibly catchy, stylish pop-rock act of the past 30 years, from John Hughes–soundtrack types like The Cure and Cutting Crew to modern stadium-fillers like the Killers. Just don’t call it a side project. “I didn’t do Bleachers because of Fun.,” he explains. “I did it because I wanted to make my own albums.”
It’s understandable that he’s concerned about the comparison. Just a year ago, Fun. won Best New Artist and Song of the Year at the Grammys, following the success of their Queen-y power ballad “We Are Young,” which catapulted to number one on the Billboard charts following a Glee cover and a high-profile placement in a Chevy ad that premiered during the 2012 Super Bowl. All of which is a lot to live up to. But with Bleachers, Antonoff insists, “It was never like, ‘OK, fantastic, now I’m going to do the opposite.’ It doesn’t sound reactionary or apologetic. It all just fits.”
Of course, there have been upsides to Fun.’s success: When making the Bleachers album, Antonoff had an impressive roster of consultants on hand. They included Vince Clarke of Erasure and Depeche Mode, who helped produce the LP, as well as Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Taylor Swift, both of whom provided feedback throughout the writing and recording process. “I need them to be extremely critical and I need straightforward opinions,” Antonoff says.
You get the feeling he really means it. Bleachers’s first single, “I Want to Get Better,” couldn’t be more straightforward and candid. And it’s a handy mantra considering Antonoff’s extracurricular activity of choice: The Ally Coalition, a sort of grown-up gay-straight alliance he founded in 2012 with his band and his sister, fashion designer Rachel Antonoff, to support LGBT rights. He’s keenly aware that his involvement might come off like straightsplaining, and quickly addresses it.
“There’s a weird line,” he says. “You want to help, but I wouldn’t want to be in the position where, during this massive moment in civil rights, anyone felt like there were too many straight people talking for them.”
His main goal, instead, is properly allocating resources and funds. In practice, this has meant everything from donating a cut of Fun.’s ticket sales to marriage equality organizations to working with high school GSAs. The Ally Coalition has lately directed its efforts toward raising $250,000 to build a community health hub for the Ruth Ellis Center, which provides shelter and services to homeless LGBT youth in Detroit.
Neither of Antonoff’s high schools had a gay-straight alliance. He recalls being bullied at public high school in New Jersey: “I grew up in a time where if you had blue hair, you were gay. Every- thing different was just ‘gay,’ in a very bigoted way.” Transferring to the Professional Children’s School, a performing arts school in Manhattan, was a sea change. “I was one of two straight boys in my entire class — it couldn’t have been a more opposite scenario,” he says. “I feel like it saved my life, in a way.”
For Antonoff, a project like the Ally Coalition is a no-brainer. “Unless you are a white male who’s had the most privileged existence of all time and never had anyone make fun of you — which I can’t really imagine is anyone besides, I don’t know, fucking Rick Santorum — you’ll be able to give a shit about what’s going on.”
With the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, and 19 states now allowing same-sex marriage, there is much worth celebrating in the struggle for LGBT rights. The last three states to begin issuing same-sex marriage certificates (New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) did so as a result of court decisions. In fact, every time same-sex marriage has gone to the courts, it has eventually been upheld. A further 12 states have made rulings in favor with decisions stayed, pending appeals, but if the track record holds, we can expect well over half the country to have legalized same-sex marriages in the near future.
It’s time to turn the impressive network of LGBT activism toward another, even more urgent cause. On Aug. 27, Dan Savage of “The Stranger” posted a now-infamous video of Daniel Ashley Pierce being rejected by his religious family for being gay. It’s a high-profile instance of homelessness among LGBT youth, an all-too extensive problem.
LGBT youth constitute five percent of minors overall, but 40 percent of homeless minors, a discrepancy commonly attributed to ostracism by religious families. As homeless shelters across the board are underequipped, the services catering to homeless youth are even more limited. An estimated 1.7 million minors are homeless in America, yet only 4,000 shelter beds are set aside for youth at all. Even those meager resources are not an option to many LGBT youth, who are often singled out for abuse by other homeless youth because of their sexual orientation. The youth shelter, when it exists, can be just as hostile as the home. Current government-run systems, such as child services, shelters, and foster programs, take almost no account of sexual or gender identity, and LGBT youth sometimes find themselves placed in intolerant foster families.
Back in 2010, Savage spearheaded the “It Gets Better” project, which addressed the tide of rising suicide among LGBT youth by having LGBT adults show how life can improve. But homelessness is a different sort of problem. Sticking it out can be hard enough with a roof overhead and food in the fridge. On the street, young people often turn to crime to survive, have their health deteriorates, and no longer have a permanent address. These factors and more weigh a person down, making it difficult to get a job and a place of one’s own.
It’s time for increased activism from LGBT people and allies in this area. For homeless youth, it doesn’t simply “get better.” It has to be actively made better. This is an opportunity for the community to really pull together and provide for those in the greatest danger.
We shouldn’t stop campaigning for increased acceptance and legal protections, but we also need to expand in certain other directions. Those with the greatest means should found nonprofits and open shelters specifically catering to LGBT youth. As adoption rights are won and expanded, LGBT and allied households can adopt or at least foster homeless youth.
The issue of LGBT youth homelessness reveals that there is still much work to be done in LGBT activism. Amid television images of affluent gay couples, it can be easy to think that homophobia is nearly done; it can be disconcerting to think of how many pockets of hatred remain, and how intense they are. Youth homelessness also exposes the many cracks in the old systems of welfare for minors, but we should see this as an opportunity. With these systems’ failures, the LGBT support network can present itself as a solution to the lack of mercy in more socially Darwinian corners of American life.