A way for Catholics to support marriage equality

An exerpt of the petition, initiated by The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, an interfaith pro-equality group:

Our experience in welcoming same sex couples into our community life is a reminder that God is a most gracious and wonderful Creator. The witnessing of these marriages is a source of joy and celebration for family and friends. We value the love and commitment that these couples have for each other and their children. While committed same-sex relationships have always existed through time, the civil recognition of these relationships provides both dignity and equality as called for in our nation‘s highest ideals, "the inherent natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage, and therefore we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church. While we respect the authority and integrity of the Church in matters of faith, our prayers and reflection have brought us to a new openness on this issue. We urge the Church to treat with respect in both word and deed same-sex couples who have entered into civil marriages.

The petition is open to any Catholic resident of Massachusetts. Providing information about your specific parish membership is optional, and signing the petition does not affirm that you are actively practicing. If you are a Massachusetts resident who identifies as Catholic and you are a supporter of equal civil marriage rights, please sign the petition and urge others to do the same.

A book I recommend on marriage equality:

Fun with technology

About an hour ago, I was sitting at a computer during a meeting, and an e-mail from the caseworker sitting across from me (with her nifty new PDA) popped up on the screen containing a picture of, um, me sitting at the computer during a meeting:

Drivers wanted: Normal-smelling ones need not apply

Dear Volkswagen of America, Inc.,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for sending me such a lovely gift to commemorate the third anniversary of my purchase of my car. It was so kind of you not only to send me this classy air freshener with a picture of a chandelier on it, but also to enclose a note explaining that crystal is the traditional third-anniversary gift, somehow knowing that without this explanation, I would have spent another three years desperately wondering why you chose to mark this occasion with paper -- the traditional first-anniversary gift -- instead.

Furthermore, I would like to thank you for sending a gift that not only can be enjoyed by my car, but which is currently gracing the entire household -- and possibly neighborhood -- with its presence. My dinner, which did not at any point pass closer than within about three feet of said gift while opening my mail this evening, now permanently tastes like some sort of cleaning product.

Finally, I would like to thank you for removing any doubt in my mind that Volkswagen has in fact stopped being a "cool" corporation of the type to distribute such creative gimmicks as the Fahrvergn├╝gen shirt and has indeed irreconcilably stooped below the level of even the Saturn-owner picnic.

A proud VW owner who will never be able to distinguish tastes again

If they outlaw beverages, only outlaws will have beverages

According to a policy dated Sept. 17, students are "no longer allowed to consume alcohol or any other beverage in any type of container outside of their townhouse or in any public area on campus."


Interviews with Siena students indicated that not everybody was familiar with the policy. A handful of students walking around campus with drinks either hadn't heard of the new rule or said they weren't afraid of it; some said they knew of others forced to dump beverages by authorities, but hadn't lost liquids themselves.

I'm looking for gender-neutral restrooms

I plan to compile a list of places in the greater Boston area that have gender-neutral restrooms. I'd like to include both places that have some gender-specific restrooms and some gender-neutral restrooms (usually family and/or accessible ones) and places that have only gender-neutral restrooms, including places such as small businesses with only one restroom. I'll accept basically any place that isn't a private home -- businesses, offices, medical facilities, restaurants, stores, and so forth.

Please either post here or e-mail me and tell me as much as you can about all the gender-neutral restrooms you can think of. Tell me where it is (give me an address or rough address if you can), where in the building it's located, whether it's multi-stall or single-stall, whether they have gender-specific and gender-neutral, and anything else interesting, like what type of signage is on the restroom. Thanks!

Why common sense is becoming so uncommon

Among the many tireless mice that run on the giant wheel that is my brain, there lives a never-ending quest to discover why the U.S. educational system is so flawed. This afternoon, I've come to a few semi-conclusions while chatting with my brother, who currently teaches at a large state university and who previously taught at a large public high school where a very high number of students attend college shortly afterward.

I've been doing a lot of reading recently on nonverbal learning disorder (NLD). I have a few clients who fit the profile and are pretty impaired by it, and I know people personally who seem to have it to varying extents. In a nutshell, NLD is a neurological profile where an individual has superior verbal skills with nonverbal skills that are substantially limited in comparison. In Rondalyn Varney Whitney's book on NLDshe mentions that the number of people with NLD has grown tremendously in recent years. Whitney speculates that NLD is on the rise because children are not able to run and play unsupervised and instead spend too much time engaged in structured academic-like play and not enough time exploring and interacting.

A number of books I've read mention that NLD is most common in the upper-middle-class and upper-class demographics. Some books, although fewer, mention that the incidence in the United States is much higher than in other countries. I think that Whitney's theory about excessive structure in U.S. children's lives -- particularly affluent children's lives -- is definitely valid. I also think that, on a related note, the practices of the U.S. school system are responsible for the large number of young adults today who, although they may not have full-blown NLD, have very strong academic knowledge and a very noticeable lack of common sense.

There are three factors that are present in the U.S. school system to a much stronger extent than in European school systems and which I think contribute to individuals having NLD or NLD-like traits. (I use European school systems for comparison because this is the only other school system with which I am familiar and because the cultures are otherwise fairly similar in terms of children's daily lives.)

1. The school system in the U.S. is strongly influenced by fundamentalists who have been successful in preventing schools from teaching anything that may entail any sort of teaching of "values." This limits the extent to which class material and discussions can actually relate to modern society and students' lives.

2. The school system in the U.S. has responded to our realization that our graduates' academic skills are inferior by teaching skills earlier instead of more thoroughly or with more preparatory lessons, so that students are faced with lessons for which they are not developmentally ready. Students are forced to write before they have sufficient fine motor skills to do so naturally, and are taught to memorize arithmetic sums before they have the reasoning skills to understand what the operation actually means.

3. The school system in the U.S. is operating in a very litigious society where hands-on learning projects such as carpentry, cooking, or sports are considered to be too much of a liability until the upper grades.

Students also learn that, at least in the younger grades, approaches incorporating multiple intelligences or real-life skills are only used for students who need extra help. By the time students get to high school, this is ingrained, and students believe that the only useful part of school is academic coursework. In a typical high school, the courses that are numbered so as to count for college admissions are the ones that teach solely academic skills. I remember reading a college admissions guide that specifically said any class with "applied" in the title should not be taken and would count against me. Is it any wonder that we have so many college graduates who have passed calculus courses and don't understand how a checkbook works?

This phenomenon is even more notable in the area of courses that teach common sense such as social skills and safety. In a typical high school, any course about relationships or health or social and emotional issues is either a remedial course or is a course that is required for all students but doesn't count for anything, thereby is seen by students as useless and wasteful regardless of the content. My high school offered an English class called "Relationships," which entailed reading of (mostly contemporary) short stories and articles and discussing and writing papers examining the relationships among the characters. What a great opportunity for adolescents, who can always use a place to talk about interpersonal issues and who can really benefit from learning when a relationship is dysfunctional or abusive. This class was considered to be "not college preparatory material." Why not? My undergraduate college offered similar courses in the anthropology, philosophy and literature departments. My graduate university grants degrees in the study of interpersonal relationships. But unless you later pursue studies in these specific areas, a typical high school education will teach you that it is important to learn about courtly love but not to learn how relationships among modern common people work.

My high school also offered criminal justice courses, which were largely discussion-based and taught students about the law and how it affected them. While students could also pursue this interest further at the regional vocational center while still attending high school, the courses taught in my high school were not intended as preparation for any sort of career. These courses did not count for anything other than as an elective toward high school graduation and were also viewed as remedial classes recommended for students having a hard time passing enough classes to graduate. I can't tell you how many college graduates I have discussions with each day who could have really benefited from these classes. I speak with people all the time who think that being arrested makes a person a criminal or that it is illegal to express disagreement with the president. But since learning about the law is remedial, these college-bound folks were so lucky as to have learned instead about people being drowned or stoned or burned for being witches or adulterers. That's much more important than knowing the laws of the society in which we actually live, right?

NLGJA convention session discusses complexities of writing obituaries of closeted individuals

After decades of employing code words such as "lifelong bachelor" or passing off as "pneumonia" as the cause of death for someone with HIV/AIDS, newspapers increasingly insist that their obits include the full truth about their subjects.

NIMH launches campaign to educate about depression in men

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is reaching out to educate the public about depression in men through its Real Men. Real Depression. campaign.

Researchers estimate that more than six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder — about one-third of all adults living with depression in any given year. However, men are less likely than women to recognize, acknowledge, and seek treatment for their depression. In addition, their loved ones and even their physicians may not always detect depressive symptoms in men.

American Psychiatric Association president endorses legalization of same-sex marriage

APA's action to support legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage is based fundamentally on the research evidence. Many studies have now established that marriage is associated with clear benefits, including better mental and physical health. It is a stabilizing force in our society that enables individuals to make public their commitment to each other and receive acceptance and support from others.
Marriage by gay and lesbian partners arouses irrational prejudice and fear, but as psychiatrists, we must take a stand on issues that have a clear impact on the mental health of our patients and of persons in the community at large. As an organization, we seek also to promote human rights and freedom from discrimination. Psychiatry leads the way for the rest of medicine on this important issue.

The River Shannon flows like my true love's hair

I'm currently on location in Iowa (don't ask), so in order to make up for the lack of updating over the past few days, here's a little quiz:

Which of these are actual Irish songs and which ones are titles Molly and I made up the other night while drinking?

  1. Who threw the overalls in Mistress Murphy's Chowder
  2. I'll drink me stout til the River Shannon runs dry
  3. The dear little shamrock
  4. I nearly ran me pushcart over Mrs. O'Halloran yester morn
  5. Where the River Shannon flows
  6. Ay, when I'm sober, I could mistake ye for Kathleen
  7. A little bit of heaven (shure they call it Ireland)
  8. To me whiskey I'll be true until the morning sun rises
  9. Ireland must be a garden (if you are a wild Irish rose)
  10. Why must ev'ryone pick on dear ol' Eire, when me lovely Maggie lives there?
  11. Rory O'More
  12. Hennigan, I'll clip ye with me mug if ye calls me Welsh once more
  13. O Katy O'Neil
  14. O'Flynn has trodden in me shamrock garden
  15. Nellie Kelly, I love you
  16. Would I could return to the dear old sod, alas me wife won't go
  17. The prayties are dug
  18. It's me penny whistle, ere it cost me a quarter
  19. Get up old woman and shake yourself
  20. Hi-dee-hee-dee-too-la-deedle-die-day
  21. Smash the windows
  22. He wore a fine hat like an Englishman so I hit him with me shillaleagh
  23. Behind the bush in the garden
  24. Paddy O'Malley would be a fine lad for our Katy O'Rourke

I'm not offering any prizes or anything, because I'm sure it would be really easy to google the answers, but please post your best guesses as a comment.

If you aren't for semi-colons, you're against them

A poll on a Financial Times interactive article about semicolon usage informs me that, as of about a minute ago, 96% of people who are dorky enough to go read an article about semicolon usage and then cast a vote regarding their opinion of semicolons are, in fact, for the semicolon.

UPDATE: Most of the article is now behind a subscriber-only login. Those of you who weren't dorky enough to immediately run to the semicolon article have lost out. I'd imagine that even you slightly-less-dorky folks would still stop at nothing to get your fill of semicolonage. It's really a great marketing strategy -- putting up a teaser for an article about the noble semicolon and then requiring payment to bask any further in the glory of that-which-requires-no-conjunction.

(Molly, on the other hand, is furiously trying bugmenot logins as we speak.)

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a non-rigid airship...

My brother sent me this photo of an object he saw flying around in Seattle:

A letter to the aspiring DJ next door

Dear aspiring DJ,

I have to tell you, I'm having a hard time believing the repeated assertions that Shaggy, Kanye, and others are, in fact, "in da house." From the couple of passing conversations I've had with you, you seem like a reasonable enough person, and I have faith that if any of these individuals were, in fact, in your residence, you would have at least invited some friends over. Given that in the three hours you have been blasting music into my house, I have not heard a single sound to indicate the presence of anyone other than you and your equipment, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that you are in fact alone in your home DJing to a nonexistent crowd. Now, about that: If it appeared to me that you were playing music at full volume because you were having some sort of gathering, I would just accept that it's Saturday night and be glad that you were having fun. However, given that you are pretty clearly alone, I'm really wondering why it's necessary that you practice your skills at top volume. As previously noted, I'm quite confident that you aren't working with any live artists, so you could just as easily practice spinning with your equipment at a much lower volume. In fact, I might suggest turning the volume down and really listening to yourself. While you have good taste and a good feel for consistency of tempos, you really do need to work on smoother crossfades. That last one sounded really amateur, especially when you followed it with a shout-out of "Hey Boston, how you feeling tonight?" Honestly, I wouldn't expect to have a crowd warranting that particular form of address in your living room any time soon. Though, on second thought, a fair portion of the city of Boston can hear your performance right now, so I suppose it is kind of you to ask us how we're feeling. Since you asked, I'm feeling a little irritated that I'm involuntarily listening to your music inside my house.

Your neighbor

The mortgage company redeems itself...almost

I just realized that AMC's e-mails come from the ameriquest.com domain. I looked all through the corporate info on Ameriquest and AMC's pages, and neither lists any affiliation with the other. However, Ameriquest is the coolest mortgage company ever, because they have a blimp. This still does not quite make up for all the crap they direct to my mailbox, or the incredibly weak form letter. It comes close though.

The mortgage company speaks

Message ID : 116026
Topic : Statement Information
Sub-Topic : Receiving Your Statement

Response : As we previously advised, we are unable to cease sending the billing statements.

What? Not even some canned response assuring me that they have conducted in-depth research confirming that their protocol is in fact the most environmentally sound and cost-efficient method?

In retrospect, the mortgage lender DID act a lot like an android...

My mortgage company, AMC Mortgage Services, has at least agreed to remove me from their "marketing list," which I never subscribed to, after I complained about receiving several offers for mortgage insurance and life insurance each day. However, when I asked that they stop sending me paper bills, as it's wasteful and one more thing I don't want to deal with, they say there is no way to stop paper statements, as "these are automatically generated when you make a payment." While I did immediately put one and one together and come to the conclusion that not making payments is the only way to make the paper bills stop, I instead wrote them this response:

Well, is there any way then that you could credit me a couple bucks each month? Apparently I'm paying for a service that I don't want and which is wasteful. Maybe you could at least make a donation to the Nature Conservancy every month as long as you insist on sending me paper statements that I don't need?

All of my utilities, credit cards, and professional organizations are able to stop paper bills upon request. Some of these companies only have online billing as an option.

You obviously have actual people working at your company. I have a hard time believing that your computers programmed themselves, tell themselves to print statements, retrieve these statements, and take them to a mailbox. I'm guessing you don't automatically generate mortgage statements and mail them to, say, people who don't have mortgages with you. There has to have been some human intervention here, which can also be used to stop sending me these statements.

Even if you insist on printing these statements, one of these real people could at least pull mine so that it is not mailed and I don't have to deal with it. Maybe they could have it sent to a fictitious address. I'd be willing to suggest some possiblities. There have to be several options so I don't have to receive your ridiculousness in my mailbox.

In the meantime, I'm researching other mortgage companies that don't insist on "automatically" sending redundant paperwork.

We'll see what kind of form letter I get back.


3 p.m. -- AMENDMENT DEFEATED! The state Legislature voted down the Travaglini-Lees amendment 157 to 39. Marriage equality forces needed 101 votes to defeat the amendment, giving them a 56-vote margin of victory.

Jodie, who is over there, sends this picture, taken on her phone:

Constitutional Convention

You can't fault her; she's from Iowa. Last night when I mentioned the Constitutional Convention, Molly said, "Didn't that already happen? In 1787?"

It did, but for updates on the one happening today at which the anti-equality amendment will hopefully be shot down, be sure to check Bay Windows throughout the day.

At last update, there were four visible anti-equality ralliers and a few hundred pro-equality ralliers from student groups, the ACLU, MassEquality, and other groups. It's times like this that I really wish I had a more flexible job so I could be over there. For those who are able, head over there to show support today.

There are in fact SOME queers who want special rights...

While I'm trying to fight for marriage equality and do my best to convince the misinformed that this dyke is a hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding, community-oriented person who deserves rights just like them, there are a few queers out there who are really doing the rest of us a disservice by deliberately acting in an obnoxious and entitled fashion and then specifically attributing their behavior to the fact that they're queer.

Now, I definitely understand that, like any group, we have people among us who might not be shining stars. And we should definitely embrace diversity within our community, just as we expect people to embrace our community in the larger community. But in the case of a few folks, I have a request: Can you please either stop being obnoxious or stop being queer?

A couple of examples I've come across lately: First, the polyamorous and BDSM folks who identify as queer, which is fine, but who talk about their sex lives in inappropriate situations and then say they've been discriminated against for identifying as queer. Secondly, the people whose dress and grooming are extreme to the point that they can't get a job or are frequently in trouble with their employer, and who then say they're being discriminated against for being queer.

I've recently spoken with someone who thinks that identifying as polyamorous deserves the same protections as identifying as gay or lesbian and who is outraged that there are allegedly "no rights" for polyamorous folks. In terms of rights be polyamorous, this person has full rights to do so, just as I have full rights to be a lesbian. I don't see a disparity.

However, what this person is talking about is that if I'm able to discuss my partner at work and have her listed in my human resources file as my next-of-kin, then this person should have the same rights in terms of having a sir and a daddy and a slave. (For the sake of privacy, I've combined the relationship constellations of a couple of people I've talked to with similar views.) Another person I've talked to has reported being "discriminated against" for discussing their poly situation at work. Like, during meetings and such. Uh, because you were discussing your sex life at work.

Do they really not get the distinction? I don't discuss at work whether I have sex with my partner. My identity and family life and legal status have something to do with the gender of my partner, but are not based upon our sex life. These people shouldn't be free to refer to someone as "my master" in the workplace any more than any straight or gay or lesbian person should refer to a partner as "the person I have sex with." The fundamentalists already think that all queer people do is have sex and don't realize that we also have families and finances and legal issues that need protecting. They're really going to keep thinking that if people who believe it's appropriate to talk about their sex lives all the time insist on passing that off as "because I'm queer."

One poly person I know is also extremely offended that there is no talk of legal protections, next-of-kin status, or marriage rights for three-way or four-way (or more) relationships. Which, again, it's fine that people want to engage in these relationships, and I would speak out against discrimination toward folks for either being suspected of being poly or arising in situations like healthcare where it is appropriate to disclose one's sex life. But please, while we queers who do not discuss our sex lives in inappropriate situations are fighting for marriage equality, would you people who staunchly believe you have a right to a three-way marriage kindly stop identifying yourself as queer for a bit?

I've also spoken with some people, one in particular who stands out, whose dress and groom is very atypical and who then state that they're being discriminated against because they're queer. Don't get me wrong, I think that people should be able to wear anything they want in the community, and I'm a definite believer in workplaces having gender-neutral dress codes. But the people I'm talking about have described (and one has shown me several pictures of) clothing that is clearly inappropriate for their type of work, and then have tried to claim that they're being discriminated against because they present as queer.

One woman I know identifies as female-oriented and high femme, and wears evening gowns and wigs and corsets and fishnets and super-high heels to work. She works somewhere where jeans are perfectly acceptable and where the dress code is definitely casual. She insists that she can't wear any of the things others there wear, because she would be going against her feminine identity. She has said she couldn't wear a regular skirt and sweater and pearls or something, because that doesn't work with the way she expresses her femininity. She talks about having gotten in trouble at several jobs and about her coworkers feeling uncomfortable around her, yet she won't take any responsibility for her part in this, insisting it's discrimination because she's same-sex oriented and femme identified.

How can this person possibly think she's being discriminated against because of her gender identify and sexual orientation? She's clearly dressing in a way that's inappropriate for where she works and makes coworkers and the public uncomfortable, and she is unwilling to dress in a way that still expresses a femme identity while being appropriate. This is like if I came to work in a football uniform or a tuxedo and then tried to pass it off as being an expression of butch identity. No wonder people think queers want "special rights."

Prove Schwarzenegger's statement that "people don't want gay marriage" wrong

California Gov. Schwarzenegger's office is accepting calls from anywhere regarding their marriage equality bill. It passed both houses of their legislature, but needs the Governor's approval. It's all automated, so you don't have to talk to anyone.

Follow these directions:
1. Call the Governor: 916-445-2841 (This number is listed at www.governor.ca.gov)
2. Push: 2 ("voice your opinion on legislation")
3. Push: 1 ("gender-neutral marriage bill - Senate Bill 849")
4. And push: 1 to support marriage equality

I guess I'd better be careful what I blog

OK, so the Google ads I get on my blog aren't always for the most classy businesses; it seems that my posts related to education or professional training bring up either ads for online diploma mills or for "counseling" services with guaranteed, immediate results. Right. But I guess it could be worse. My Gmail account, which uses the same ad server (except that the money goes to them instead of to me), just gave me an ad for:

Remote Fart Machine Sale - www.prankplace.com - Hilarious RC Fart Machine # 2. Buy 2 and get one free. Save Now.

Apparently Google isn't too selective in the advertisers they accept. And no, I'm not going to specify the topic of the e-mail that brought up that ad. I will say that I can pretty much figure out what word(s) in the message did bring up that ad, though I'll have you know there was no specific discussion of farts, machine-generated or otherwise.

Orange line logic

Announcement on the orange line this morning:


An Open Letter to Officials of the United States Government Regarding What's New in My Reproductive Area, by Emily Weinstein

Dear Officials of the United States Government,

I thought I would just get in touch and let you know what is going on in my reproductive system and general private area lately. You seem really interested, and I wouldn't want to put you to the trouble of subpoenaing my medical records just to find out what's happening in my uterus.
[read more]

This is brilliant. I think we should all write similar letters. The more the better. I'm thinking I'll write Mitt Romney a couple times a day so that he can stay aware of the specific events of my abhorrent lifestyle that weaken the canvas of heterosexual morality and threaten the sensibilities of our Commonwealth's children.

41% of statistics are made up

I just got some pop-up ad that said "People with advanced degrees make 95% more on average." I clicked to find out the source of this information, and I got a bunch more pop-ups, with no readily apparent clue as to where this stuff was coming from. So I gave up.

So now I'm resigned to speculating what exactly is being compared here. Clearly, the mean income of all of the people in the U.S. with advanced degrees is not 95% more (almost twice as much, if they're using the figure correctly) than the mean income of all of the people in the U.S. without advanced degrees. A lot of people in public service and academia with advanced degrees make considerably less than a lot of people in sales or tech or aviation without advanced degrees.

Are they saying that people with advanced degrees in a given field requiring an advanced degree make 95% more than people in that same field without advanced degrees? This scenario could be accurate. My job, mental health, does require an advanced degree to work at the "professional" level, and the people doing so do make (at least) twice as much as the people who do work that doesn't require a degree, such as staffing a hospital unit or residential program. Still, although the assertion would be technically correct, it's still misleading in that a person working in a direct-care role would not receive a pay raise if he or she obtained an advanced degree in clinical mental health. In fact, a lot of places would lay the person off, because their agency has regulations against an employee holding a position for which he or she is grossly overqualified. And we aren't a field where there are just tons of jobs waiting open for the person to take.

Also, what is being considered an advanced degree? I've heard the term used to refer to any certificate or diploma earned beyond high school. I think it most commonly refers to a master's or doctoral degree, but I know this isn't standardized by any means. Would we consider something like nursing where a person does an internship and takes a licensure exam to be an advanced degree, even though it can be done without obtaining any academic degree? I would consider it to be on par with many advanced degrees, in terms of how it's regulated and what the pay scale is like, but a R.N. license itself isn't generally considered to be an advanced degree. Conversely, there are also academic degrees, like an academic doctorate in history, which don't qualify the person to do any sort of specific job and which can be earned just by demonstrating that the person has a certain amount of knowledge. Granted most people who have such a degree probably do have experience in teaching and research, but the degree itself does not mean that the person has any specific skills or experience like a law degree or a nursing license does. Yet these are labeled as "an advanced degree."

I guess the bigger issue is that a college (well, a college of some sort) is advertising education at all. Are there really people who put the time and money and effort into a college education just so they can make more money? Again, if money were the only motivation, it's much easier to go find one of the many jobs that pays well and does not require a degree. And if someone isn't personally motivated to get a degree, what are the odds that they'll be a good student? Who exactly is this place trying to appeal to, anyway?

Looking to donate specific items for the relief effort?

I'm going to continually update this post each time I hear of an experienced trauma/relief group looking for donations of specific items.

Art Supplies

I just read on an expressive therapies mailing list that The North Texas Art Therapy Association is looking for donations of money or art supplies. For people not familiar with art therapy, a very wide range of art supplies are useful, including basically anything that can be used for collage, sculpture, video, puppetry, woodworking, sewing, etc. They will distribute these supplies to art therapists who are working with the large numbers of refugees who have been sent to Texas. Materials and donations may be sent to:

North Texas Art Therapy Association
8340 Meadow Road
Suite 136
Dallas, Texas 75231

Mass. Emergency Management Agency: Unsolicited Help Can Hurt

MEMA stresses that it is important that we do not organize projects to donate unsolicited items. It's great that people want to help, but please, consider whether your project might be motivated by your own desire to get praise and attention for organizing a unique project and targeting a unique population, and if this might be the case, you might want to reconsider.

Many of the projects I've been hearing about are geared toward providing aid for a special population. Just as with any relief effort, the major organizations just aren't able to anticipate and meet the needs particular to people who are GLBT, have disabilities, belong to minority religions, or who have any number of other unique needs. This list of charities includes several experienced relief groups that are geared toward a special population. If you have an idea for helping a particular group that needs specialized services, please contact an experienced charity that targets this group. Please do not send unsolicited donations as some people have been doing. The list also has a lot of valuable information regarding charities that put portions of their donations toward evangelism or other unrelated (and in some cases harmful) projects, charities that only provide aid for people of their faith group, and charities that otherwise raise concerns about their legitimacy.

A lot of people seem motivated to help largely because we're all frustrated by the logistical hurdles and the repeated news that it's hard to get aid to the survivors. Unfortunately, some people are actually making the logistical piece worse by either donating items or services that have not been requested by experienced disaster relief agencies and/or by working with charities that are not experienced in disaster and trauma situations. The Red Cross and FEMA and other disaster relief agencies are actually being burdened and slowed down because they are receiving thousands of shipments of unsolicited donated items and are having to sort through a lot of donations of "care packages" and so forth in order to find the items that are needed immediately and that were actually requested.

The best way to help is to donate money to experienced disaster relief agencies, or if you're able, to volunteer with FEMA to travel to the gulf states or with MEMA to help with the survivors who are arriving in Massachusetts. Money is really much easier to process than donations of goods. A relief agency can quickly purchase quantities of bedding, clothing or food and distribute these to needy individuals, much more quickly than they can sort through donated items and then have to transport bulky items. I'm usually in favor of reducing waste just as much as the next person, but time is really of the essence here. Give your donations of clothing and personal items to a local shelter or other program, and give money to the hurricane relief efforts.

And to my colleagues in the human services, I'm connected with some people in the process of offering professional services to the folks coming up to Massachusetts, also with some individuals who are going to the gulf states with FEMA to do trauma counseling and stabilization, so please contact me if you want to help in this capacity.

Owens Vows To Save Community From Itself, Community Shrugs

photo credit: Marilyn Humphries, Bay Windows

Roy Owens had, well, about as much support as I expected.

A little before 11:00 this morning, I stood at the bus turnaround where Roy Owens' march was set to start. I had two people with me who had come out to support me and three individuals from the media, who also were clearly supportive of our group and our cause, and who inconspicuously added to our group. We were six people in total.

By 11:10, Roy and his group had not started their march. Two police officers were present for the event, sitting in their parked cars wondering why exactly they had been hired. Roy had signs saying things like "UP WITH HOPE, DOWN WITH DOPE" and "HOPE FOR OUR CHILDREN." I had some posterboard and markers in my car, and we thought that although there was not a message being presented that needed protesting, we might make some signs with messages advocating support for all children, or signs that identified particular members of our group as GLBT-identified individuals in support of families and community. The need didn't arise though. By 11:30, Roy's group had amassed four members, and Roy told a Bay Windows reporter/photographer that they might start marching around 12:30 or so. A police officer stated that she was told the march would start at 11:00 and she seemed a little irritated.

I was interviewed by reporters from Bay Windows, Spare Change News, and The Boston People's Voice. I was photographed by Bay Windows. At about 11:45, the two community supporters and I left with one of the reporters and went and got breakfast. One reporter left, and one stayed behind to see if anything did actually take place.

I'd like to thank the two individuals who came and showed support, and the third individual who met up with us shortly afterward, as well as the individuals from the media who showed support and who work in the service of making people aware of events like these taking place in our community. I'd also like to thank everyone who spread the word about the event and the dozens of friends and strangers who spoke to me and said they wished to be present but could not make it. Although our presence didn't end up being necessary, the event was a success.

Roy Owens did not succeed in sending the message that Roxbury (or Boston, or Massachusetts) is a place where messages of homophobia go unopposed. He and his group may well have marched after we left. Groups of four or five people walk around neighborhoods spreading misinformation all the time. A few people may listen. Most don't.

A "community march" with a uncountered message of homophobia did not happen, which means that the morning was a success. Roy Owens likely did have more supporters at the rally at his church this afternoon, but that's fine. It isn't my place to go into someone else's church and tell people what to believe. I would be a hypocrite to not honor his right to have his beliefs while he is inside his own church. The community, however, is as much ours as it is his, and I am glad people came out this morning and expressed that.

Last-minute plea

I just spoke with someone at City Hall, and the church does have an event permit, and they expect 20-30 people. I'm sure we can round up that many GLBT/ally marchers. Please, do everything you can to make it out there tomorrow morning!

Please, show your support on Saturday Sept 3rd at 10:30a.m.

This is just a reposting to force the important info to the top of the blog, since the Bay Windows article is pointing people here. Scroll down for previous entries, including the copy of the flyer.

DATE: September 3rd 2005
TIME: 10:30 a.m.
PLACE: Meet in Franklin Park, at the play structure with the pointed roofs, right off of Seaver Street, between Humboldt Ave and Elm Hill Ave
MBTA: 22 or 29 bus from Jackson Square T, or walk 1 mile from Stoneybrook T
BRING: Pro-equality signs, clothing, etc. -- but keep it peaceful
CONTACT: savethecommunity@gmail.com (organizer of GLBT/ally presence, not of the original event)
MORE INFO: http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

Again, please do anything you can to get out there.

The bottom line is that this is an organizing of people who think that the problems in the community are caused by GLBT folks. If we and our allies come join them, we can show them that we care enough about the community to get up on a Saturday morning and show up. If no one shows up or only a few of us show up, then we will have a group of people who will keep on thinking that GLBT folks are against the community.

Please pass this on to any mailing lists you belong to, particularly those affiliated with GLBT issues, progressive politics, people of color, and people of faith. Please e-mail me at the above address if you can make it.

Bay Windows article

My name is spelled wrong, and I did NOT say "our sick community," but hey, publicity nonetheless.