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Activist & college student Cameron Kasky is queer & very much here

This past Monday the Columbia uni student and activist announced via Twitter and Instagram that he is queer

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Cameron Kasky (Photo Credit: Instagram account of Cameron Kasky)

NEW YORK – He’s 21 now and a student at Columbia University in New York City, but the path he now travels had a beginning that was extraordinary and tragic and could be defined as a journey of self discovery.

On Valentine’s Day in 2018 Cameron Kasky had just left his high school drama class when the campus exploded in violence as a lone gunman committed acts of atrocity in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

By the time order had been restored to the campus, 17 people were dead and another 17 had been left grievously wounded. Students were in a state of shock, but as Kasky later told investigative reporter Emily Witt for the New Yorker about his immediate reaction after the event; “Can’t sleep. Thinking about so many things. So angry that I’m not scared or nervous anymore […] I’m just angry. I just want people to understand what happened and understand that doing nothing will lead to nothing. Who’d have thought that concept was so difficult to grasp?”

Instead of letting the grief and anger overtake them, Kasky along with fellow Parkland survivors David Hogg, X González, Sarah Chadwick, Ryan Deitsch and 15 other students took action. They formed an activist group, Never Again MSD (#NeverAgain) not only to protest the pandemic of mass shootings and gun violence- they also targeted the politically powerful National Rifle Association, (NRA) and its sycophantic politicians.

In a nationally televised CNN town hall, Kasky mixed it up with NRA endorsed Republican Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.  Kasky queried the senator on whether he would continue receiving money from the NRA;

“Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”  Rubio responded saying, “I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda.”

Kasky repeatedly pressed Rubio about whether he would continue receiving NRA money. The senator deflected although offered he would consider changes regarding some gun restrictions.

Appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres daytime television chat show ‘Ellen’ only days after the February 14 mass shooting, Kasky alongside X González and Jaclyn Corin discussed their advocacy and their national rally called March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2018.

Their planned event which spawned approximately 880 sibling events across the United States had an estimated participation of an estimated 2 million people marching against gun violence.

In Washington D.C. it was estimated the crowd was roughly 800,000, triple the size of the crowd of roughly 250,000 that had gathered for the inaugural of former President Donald Trump the previous January of 2017.

Kasky and his fellow activists pressed hard to keep the issue of gun violence at the forefront of the nation’s dinner table conversation and as a result they made enemies. In the days after the March for Our Lives, CNN reported:

To hear the National Rifle Association tell it, Saturday’s March for Our Lives was orchestrated by billionaires and Hollywood to push an anti-gun agenda. On Facebook Saturday morning, the NRA posted a short membership-drive video along with a brief message.

Stand and Fight for our Kids’ Safety by Joining NRA,” it said. “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

Kasky and his fellow activists with the support of Brandon J. Wolf, a survivor of the horrific Pulse Nightclub massacre, and other gun reform advocates, pushed for state legislation that in March of 2018, barely a month after that horrible day, the Florida Legislature passed.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act raises the minimum age for buying firearms to 21, establishes waiting periods and background checks, provides a program for the arming of some teachers and the hiring of school police, bans bump stocks, and bars potentially violent or mentally unhealthy people arrested under certain laws from possessing guns.

As Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott signed the bill he remarked, “To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you made your voices heard. You didn’t let up and you fought until there was change.”

In the months that followed Parkland, there were significant challenges for Kasky who left the organization he helped found that Fall of 2018. He had a short stint of hosting a podcast but then he mainly focused his political activism efforts through his social media platform of Twitter where he has an active following of nearly 400,000.

He also battled some mental health challenges which he then advocated in a very public discussion on his social media platforms for people to be unafraid to seek help and counsel.

He also did attend the 2019 State of the Union Address of former President Trump, at the invitation of California Democratic U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell, which he posted to his Instagram account. Kasky had publicly castigated Trump for flipping on gun reform and addressing the NRA convention not long after Parkland in May of 2018.

For a student who once described himself as the ‘class clown’ and that ‘theatre kid,’ Kasky has remained politically engaged and focused on his support of progressive liberal politics. He is an activist for gun control and other issues that impact his generation echoing his words to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper not long after the Parkland massacre, “my generation won’t stand for this.”

Photo via Twitter

Kasky sees himself unashamedly in a leftist space and advocates from that position. This past Monday though, the Columbia uni student and activist stepped into a different space as he announced via Twitter and Instagram that he is queer.

He later made fun of his coming out but then went on to lend advice to other young people who may be considering coming out.

Kasky’s joking around led Brandon J. Wolf, now a spokesperson for LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida to snark back on Twitter saying:

For Kasky there was also the poignant note of thanks he expressed to those who had traveled the path prior:

“I extend my infinite gratitude to those of you who have supported and uplifted me, and I am dedicated to sharing the joy and light I find on my journey with everybody who needs it,” he wrote. “To those of you who are also struggling to find an identity that you find authentic, take your time. Look inwards and indulge in your beauty and light. You’ll find so much to love, so much to be proud of.”

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Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”

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Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at time.com/time100.

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Legendary attorney, LGBTQ+ activist, & author Urvashi Vaid has died

“The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and freedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp”

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Lorri L. Jean, Rea Carey, Urvashi Vaid, & Matt Foreman/National LGBTQ Task Force

NEW YORK – A powerful longtime influential attorney and LGBTQ activist whose career spanned from the early days of the AIDS pandemic to the contemporary battles over equality and equity for the LGBTQ+ community died today at her home after a bout with cancer in New York City.

Urvashi Vaid, 63, known for her extensive career as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, anti-war efforts, immigration justice and many other social causes, had served as the Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force from 1989- 1992  and served prior to that as the organization’s Media Director.

“We are devastated at the loss of one of the most influential progressive activists of our time,” said Kierra Johnson, current Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, a warrior and a force to be reckoned with,” continued Johnson, “She was also a beloved colleague, friend, partner and someone we all looked up to – a brilliant, outspoken and deeply committed activist who wanted full justice and equality for all people.”

“Her leadership, vision and writing helped shape not only the Task Force’s values and work but our entire queer movement and the larger progressive movement. We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and model the courage she  demonstrated every day as an activist and a person. She will be deeply I missed. I miss her already.” concluded Johnson.

National LGBTQ Task Force

Vaid ‘s impact on the politics of the the AIDS crisis and the battles over full equality was considerable. During former U.S. President At George H.W. Bush’s 1990 address on AIDS, Vaid, then the Executive Director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made a statement with her sign: “Talk Is Cheap, AIDS Funding is Not”. Her critique made waves, disrupting the press conference, and shedding light on the failures of the Bush administration.

Another former Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, Rea Carey noted in her post on Facebook:

I am deeply sad that Urvashi Vaid has died. My heart is with Kate and all of Urv’s beloveds who have been with her these last years, months and days as she dealt with cancer.My activism has been greatly shaped by the fact that Urv took me seriously as a young leader in our movement. She seemed endlessly excited about the ideas and passion for justice that young activists held. She was one of our movement’s motivators and north stars.

Whenever Urv called, I’d clear my schedule for the next hour (at least!), pull out a pen and pad of paper and prepare to feverishly write down what were likely to be 10-20 rapid fire ideas of things she thought I should be doing, or doing much better… tomorrow!

Urv pushed me to see connections, dig deeper, and I was a better activist and leader for it. Her impact within the National LGBTQ Task Force carried on long after she left its staff. The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and freedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp.

Up until her last months she was creating projects, mentoring others, pushing for liberation, gathering data through the National LGBTQ+ Women’s Community Survey. The only thing I ever saw Urv be more passionate about than her pursuit of freedom and liberation, was her love for Kate, their family, and her energy for her friends.

The best way we can honor Urv is to continue to fight for justice and the full liberation of all people,” Carey said.

Her time at The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in which she held multiple positions for over ten years, notably Media Director, then Executive Director, saw her bring all aspects of queer life and struggle into the public eye. While at the Task Force, she co-founded the annual Creating Change conference, now in its 33rd year. 

I first met Urv in the early 1980’s when we were both young attorneys and lesbian activists in Washington, D.C. As we became friends and, eventually, colleagues, I admired her leadership and all that she accomplished, both within and outside of our movement—for queer people, for women, for people of color and against poverty.  She continued her work to advance equity and justice until the very end.  

I’ll always be grateful to Urv for being one of the people who encouraged me, back in 1992, to accept the job running the Los Angeles LGBT Center.  And when the National LGBTQ Task Force faced severe financial challenges in 2001, she played the key role in recruiting me to step in and help turn things around, lending her support every step of the way.  

Over the years, we spent many an hour laughing and scheming about ways to advance the causes we cared so deeply about.  Urvashi was a visionary.  But she was so much more:  brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, loving, determined and, above all, courageous.  She made life better for all of us.  Our community and our nation owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.  Our hearts go out to Urvashi’s wife, Kate Clinton, and to everyone who loves her.  If there’s a heaven, Urv is already organizing the angels,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

Troy Masters, the founder of Gay City News in New York City, longtime LGBTQ+ advocate and currently the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade noted upon hearing the news; “On a day when millions march to protect our rights and stand up to a right wing SCOTUS, we celebrate the life of one of our greatest social justice LGBTQ and AIDS warriors – keep shining on Urvashi Vaid.”

In 1995, after resigning from her position at the Task Force three years prior, she published her first book, Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation, in which she criticized the idea of “mainstreaming” what was and is, in fact, a civil rights movement. Rather than tolerance, she argued, the objective for the movement should be fundamental, actionable change. It was not an immediately popular notion, as media representation for queer people was just beginning to take shape, though it was, for her, of great moral importance. In 1996 Virtual Equality won the Stonewall Book Award. 

“Urv was a mentor, a friend, and a pain in the ass always telling me how I should do more, better, and more aggressively. I loved her.”

Matt Foreman, executive director National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (2003-2008)

In her position as President of the Vaid Group, Vaid advised, mentored, and supported the LGBTQ+ movement. 

In 2012, Urvashi Vaid launched LPAC, the first lesbian Super PAC, and it has since invested millions of dollars in candidates who are committed to social justice through legislation. 

Prior to that, Vaid held positions on the boards at the Ford Foundation, The Arcus Foundation (where she served as Executive Director from 2005 to 2010), and the Gill Foundation.  

She was a leader in the development of the currently on-going National LGBTQ women’s community survey.

“Urvashi had a vision for what our world and our lives should be – free, proud and full of joy and love. She wasn’t afraid to demand the change that is required and she has inspired generations of rising activists to lead with generosity and integrity. We met 42 years ago on our first day of law school in Boston. She has inspired me every day.”

Richard D. Burns, Interim Executive Director, the Johnson Family Foundation

Urvashi Vaid with her longtime partner Kate Clinton/Facebook

Vaid was the aunt of activist and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon.

She is survived by Alok Vaid-Menon as well as her longtime partner, political humorist Kate Clinton. 

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The Los Angeles Blade applauds Dawn Ennis for her GLAAD media award

Ennis is the LA Blade’s Sports Editor & contributing writer as well as a professor at the University of Hartford where she teaches journalism

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Dawn Ennis/GLAAD

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor, and staff of the Los Angeles Blade congratulates our Sports Editor and contributing writer Dawn Ennis on her being awarded a 33rd Annual 2022 GLAAD Media Award in the category of ‘Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do,” written for Forbes magazine online.

Ennis who works as the Sports Editor for the LA Blade is an award-winning journalist for Forbes.com, The Daily Beast, Out Magazine, Senior Executive, CTVoice Magazine, Xtra Magazine and StarTrek.com.

She is additionally an on-air correspondent for “CTVoice Out Loud” on WTNH-TV and hosts the “RiseUP With Dawn Ennis” talk show. In 2013, she was the first Trans journalist in the U.S. to come out in network TV news while working at ABC News.

Ennis who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, is a parent to three kids and an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford where she teaches journalism, advertising, public relations, podcasting and media literacy for the UH College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Communication.

In addition to Ennis, the Los Angeles Blade congratulates all of the awardees:

AWARD RECIPIENTS

During the New York ceremony, GLAAD announced award recipients for the following categories live onstage:

  • Pose received the award for Outstanding Drama Series [presented by Laverne Cox]
  • “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC) received the award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment [presented by Amber Tamblyn and Nyle DiMarco]
  • Power Rangers received the award for Outstanding Kids & Family Programming [presented by Cynthia Nixon]
  • Sesame Street received the award for Outstanding Children’s Programming [presented by Cynthia Nixon]

Additional award recipients announced in New York City:

Outstanding Broadway Production: (TIE) Company and Thoughts of a Colored Man 

Outstanding Music Artist: Lil Nas X

Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist: Lily Rose, Stronger Than I Am (Big Loud Records/Back Blocks Music/Republic Records)

Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode: “Elliot Page” The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)

Outstanding TV Journalism Segment: “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC)

Outstanding TV Journalism – Long-Form: “Pride of The White House” (MSNBC)

Outstanding Print Article: “Lawmakers Can’t Cite Local Examples of Trans Girls in Sports” by David Crary & Lindsay Whitehurst (The Associated Press)

Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do” by Dawn Ennis (Forbes.com)

Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Transnational” [series] by Eva Reign, Alyza Enriquez, Freddy McConnell, Vivek Kemp, Courtney Brooks, Sarah Burke, Hendrik Hinzel, Alyza Enriquez, Dan Ming, Trey Strange, and Daisy Wardell (VICE News)

Outstanding Blog: Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism Article: (TIE) “Claudia: La Enfermera Trans que Lucha Contra el Covid en Ciudad Juárez” por Louisa Reynolds (Nexos.com) and “Somos Invisibles”: La Discriminación y los Riesgos se Multiplican para los Indígenas LGBTQ+” por Albinson Linares (Telemundo.com) 

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Expulsados México: Cómo la Comunidad Transgénero se Unió para Ayudar a los Migrantes” por Patricia Clarembaux, Anna Clare Spelman, y Celemente Sánchez (Univision Noticias)

A full list of all categories and award recipients from the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York and Los Angeles is below. 

Outstanding New TV Series: Hacks (HBO Max)

Outstanding Comedy Series: Saved by the Bell (Peacock)

Outstanding Drama Series: POSE (FX)

Outstanding Film – Wide Release: Eternals (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

Outstanding Reality Program: (TIE) RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1) and We’re Here (HBO)

Outstanding Documentary: Changing the Game (Hulu)

Outstanding TV Movie: Single All The Way (Netflix)

Outstanding Film – Limited Release: Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series: It’s A Sin (HBO MAX)

Outstanding Children’s Programming: “Family Day” Sesame Street (HBO Max)

Outstanding Kids & Family Programming: Power Rangers: Dino Fury (Nickelodeon/Netflix)

Outstanding Music Artist: Lil Nas X, MONTERO (Columbia Records)

Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist: Lily Rose, Stronger Than I Am (Big Loud Records/Back Blocks Music/Republic Records)

Outstanding Broadway Production: (TIE) COMPANY and Thoughts of a Colored Man

Outstanding Video Game: Life is Strange: True Colors (Deck Nine Games/Square Enix)

Outstanding Comic Book: Crush & Lobo (DC Comics)

Outstanding Original Graphic Novel/Anthology: Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms (Oni Press)

Outstanding Magazine Overall Coverage: The Advocate

Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode: “Elliot Page” The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+)

Outstanding TV Journalism Segment: “HIV/AIDS: 40 Years Later” TODAY (NBC)

Outstanding TV Journalism – Long-Form: “Pride of The White House” (MSNBC)

Outstanding Print Article: “Lawmakers Can’t Cite Local Examples of Trans Girls in Sports” by David Crary & Lindsay Whitehurst (The Associated Press)

Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “‘No Time For Intolerance:’ Dr. Rachel Levine Has A Job To Do” by Dawn Ennis (Forbes.com)

Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Transnational” [series] by Eva Reign, Alyza Enriquez, Freddy McConnell, Vivek Kemp, Courtney Brooks, Sarah Burke, Hendrik Hinzel, Alyza Enriquez, Dan Ming, Trey Strange, and Daisy Wardell (VICE News)

Outstanding Blog: Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Outstanding Spanish-Language Scripted Television Series: Maricón Perdido (HBO Max)

Outstanding Spanish-Language TV Journalism: “Orgullo LGBTQ: 52 Años de Lucha y Evolución” (Telemundo 47)

Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism Article: (TIE) “Claudia: La Enfermera Trans que Lucha Contra el Covid en Ciudad Juárez” por Louisa Reynolds (Nexos.com) and “Somos Invisibles”: La Discriminación y los Riesgos se Multiplican para los Indígenas LGBTQ+” por Albinson Linares (Telemundo.com)
Outstanding Spanish-Language Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Expulsados México: Cómo la Comunidad Transgénero se Unió para Ayudar a los Migrantes” por Patricia Clarembaux, Anna Clare Spelman, y Celemente Sánchez (Univision Noticias)

Special Recognition: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson [filmed reading + performance]

Special Recognition: “Alok Vaid-Menon” 4D with Demi Lovato (Cadence13/OBB Sound/SB Projects)

Special Recognition: CODED: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker (Paramount+)

Special Recognition: Jeopardy! Champion Amy Schneider

Special Recognition: The Laverne Cox Show (Shondaland Audio/iHeartMedia)

Special Recognition: Life Out Loud with LZ Granderson (ABC News)

Special Recognition: Outsports’ Coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

Special Recognition (Spanish-Language): “Celebrando el Mes del Orgullo” (Telemundo)

The 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues. Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally.

“This year’s GLAAD Media Awards come at a time where LGBTQ visibility and storytelling can be the frontline response to a dangerous rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Our nominees and award recipients, including Pose, Sesame Street, Eternals, Hacks, Lil Nas X,We’re Here and so many journalists and news producers showcase the beautiful diversity of LGBTQ people. At a time when we need it most, these stories, these stories rise against hate, enlighten, entertain, and send an undeniable message: we are not going anywhere.”

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