Rainbows for Raymond: Why, this time, changing your profile picture does something. • floyd’n’stuff

Yesterday, a shining light was snuffed out in our city.  Raymond Taavel, 49, was beaten to death on our oft-maligned but much-loved Gottingen Street.  It’s likely the last thing he ever heard was his assailant calling him a “faggot”.  Hate crime or not – that’s up to the police to decide – it struck our queer community hard.

I didn’t know Raymond.  I met him a handful of times through Halifax Pride and various events we were both a part of.  I wish I could say I had a specific memory; something to hold on to, something to recognize as a personal loss while I mourn.  We’ve all lost something, whether we knew Raymond or not.  Maybe we never had it.  How do we feel safe in our space, on our streets, in our city when all the love spilling out of us puts a target on our backs?

Shortly after news broke of Raymond’s death, a Facebook group popped up called “Rainbow in Your Window for Raymond Taavel”.  The idea was to get people to put up rainbow flags in their homes and businesses in a show of solidarity and remembrance.  Last night at Raymond’s vigil, Gottingen Street was awash in rainbow colours.  I arrived at work this morning to find two rainbow flags up in our windows.  The Facebook group did not instruct people to change their profile pictures to rainbows as well, but many of my friends – straight, gay, and otherwise – made the switch.  I did, too.

In general, Facebook activism is kind of useless.  Sorry, KONY 2012 supporters.  People will click a lot of links, “like” a lot of pages, and post a lot of pictures to “raise awareness”.  Does it do anything?  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  It might make you feel like you’ve contributed, but unless you’re doing something concrete in the real world, in most cases you might as well be sharing funny cat pictures (I can haz funding for cancer research?).

So, why did I change my profile picture?  Why did you?  Does it make a difference this time?  I think it does.  Without a doubt, we need to take real action.  Raymond did – he worked tirelessly his whole life in support of equality.  Homophobia, and all forms of hate, flourish in fear and silence.  We’re afraid of the homophobes.  We’re afraid that they’ll make us lose our jobs, our homes, our lives.  So we stay silent.  We don’t tell our bosses in case we get passed over for the next promotion.  We don’t tell prospective landlords that our roommate is actually our girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse, in case they suddenly find a problem with our rental application.  We don’t hold hands walking down the street because there are still people who are so enraged by the mere reality of our existence that they attack us.  It’s so incredibly fucked up, but we’re scared, so we hide.

The only way we’re going to beat this fear is by shining a light on it.  I’m not advocating unsafe behaviour – if you’re 14 and gay and you know your parents are going to kick you out if you come out, it’s not shameful or wrong or cowardly to stay in the closet until you have a plan, an ally, a safe place to go.  Often, though, people are better than you think.  I live with my partner in an apartment owned by the Orthodox Church.  The location is awesome, the rent is cheap, and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to live there.  Except I probably couldn’t, because I had to tell my prospective landlord – a member of the conservative church – that I’d be living there with my girlfriend.  I made a decision a long time ago, though, to stop hiding.  Too often I found myself carefully choosing my language to hide my identity.  Using gender neutral language.  Changing the subject.  So I told my landlord the truth.  And guess what?  He was completely cool with it.  In fact, he went out of his way to assure me that he had no problem with it and that gay couples were more than welcome in his apartments.  He must have read the embarrassment and fear on my face.  He didn’t say it outright, but what he was implying was this:  “you are safe with me.”

Where are we, the rainbow community, safe in Halifax?  Despite Raymond’s tragic and senseless death, we ARE safe on Gottingen Street.  Maybe not with everyone, but the people who love us and protect us far outnumber those who would try to harm us.  We saw that last night as hundreds of people crowded the street, waving the flag, leaving flowers, and loving each other.  When I came to work this morning, I saw the rainbow flag in the window and felt reassured that I am safe here.  When I logged on to Facebook, I saw rainbow flag after rainbow flag representing my friends, family, coworkers, professional contacts, and acquaintances.

I turn my nose up at armchair activism as much as the next person, but this feels different, somehow.  This doesn’t feel like just another symbolic gesture.  This is a reminder that despite our hurt, our fear, and the hopelessness that we might feel after this horrific event, there are still a lot of people out there who love us and don’t want us to be afraid.  So go ahead and change your Facebook picture in honour of Raymond, non-armchair-activists.  This time, it does something.  It says, “you are safe with me.”

Re-blogged from: floyd’n’stuff.

Check Out My Updated ‘Featured’ Charity

I change the charity featured in my Social Vibe from time to time and now I’m back to an old favorite – the Trevor Project. LGBTQ rights is a subject close to my heart as several important people in my life are gay. Please read the following to learn a little more about the Trevor Project. Then, if you are able, please click on the link to the right and donate to this worthy cause.

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

Mission

The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.

Vision

A future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Organizational Values

Acceptance

Inclusiveness is one of our mantras. We are rooted in the belief that everyone should be treated like a human being regardless of their sexual identity, gender, or race. We as an organization will not turn any one away who asks for help. We will show them compassion. And, in recruiting staff and volunteers we will reflect the diversity of our community.

Commitment

We promise to deliver the best 24 hour 7 day a week telephone counseling for youth in crisis. We promise to create a safe space, through our lifeline and online, for LGBTQ youth. We promise to deliver our message of suicide prevention in schools throughout the country. We promise to hire a highly qualified and professional staff and providing them with incentives. We promise to operate our board, our committees, our lifeline, our offices and our events with the utmost integrity.

Innovation

We have been and will continue to be pioneers in reaching out to youth in crisis; whether it’s in schools, on the lifeline or online. We will be stewards in nonprofit fundraising (events, Circle of Hope, direct mail campaigns). We will be innovative in our recruiting and retention of staff, volunteers, and board members.

History of The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project was founded by writer James Lecesne, director/producer Peggy Rajski and producer Randy Stone, creators of the 1994 Academy Award®-winning short film, Trevor, a comedy/drama about a gay 13-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life.

When Trevor was scheduled to air on HBO® in 1998, the filmmakers realized that some of the program’s young viewers might be facing the same kind of crisis as Trevor, and began to search for an appropriate support line to broadcast during the airing. They discovered that no such lifeline existed, and decided to dedicate themselves to forming what was, in their view, a much-needed resource: an organization to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, and to aid in crisis and suicide prevention among that group. Thus, The Trevor Project was born, and with seed funding provided by The Colin Higgins Foundation, The Trevor Lifeline was established and became the first and only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Today, in addition to operating the crisis and suicide prevention lifeline, The Trevor Project provides online support to young people through the organization’s Web site, as well as lifesaving guidance and vital resources for educators and parents.

Daniel Radcliffe was honored by The Trevor Project with the Trevor Hero Award during “Trevor LIVE”, an annual show benefiting the life-saving work of The Trevor Project. Radcliffe has been involved with The Trevor Project since 2009, appearing in public service announcements and making public statements in support of LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Hero Award recognizes an individual who serves as an inspiration to sexual minority youth and increases visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ community. Also honored at the show were Ernst & Young LLP with the Trevor 2020 Award. The event’s presenting sponsor was ING.

“8” – A new play by Dustin Lance Black

“8,” a new play chronicling the historic trial in the federal legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, written by American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) Founding Board Member and Academy-Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black and directed by Tony Award-winning actor and director Joe Mantello, will have its world premiere on Broadway in an exclusive, one night only fundraiser to benefit… AFER at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Monday, September 19, 2011.

The production is an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case filed by AFER to overturn Prop. 8, which eliminated the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples in California.

Black, who penned the Academy-Award winning feature film Milk, based “8” on the actual words of the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families. High profile and award-winning actors will play the roles of the legal team, plaintiffs and witnesses for both sides of the historic Prop 8 case. Casting for the all-star benefit will be announced soon.

Following the New York debut on September 19, AFER and fellow producer Broadway Impact will license “8” to schools and community organizations nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. AFER and Broadway Impact will help produce these staged readings across the country, so that “8” will live on beyond its September premiere.

The play “8″ debuted on Saturday night in L.A. Not only were George Clooney and Brad Pitt two of the starring actors, but Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Jane Lynch, John C. Reilly, Yeardly Smith, Chris Colfer and Matthew Bomer also starred in the performance.

Official “8” Website

“8” Facebook Page