LGBTQ Prom Set for Baltimore

A prom for high school-aged LGBTQ students and allies in the Baltimore area students and allies has been scheduled for May 15 at Pier 5 Hotel from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Its purpose is to provide a safe and welcoming space for the youth to enjoy their special night.

The event, which is titled, “A Night Under The Stars: LGBTQ Prom 2015,” will be hosted by STAR TRACK Adolescent Health Program at the University of Maryland, SMILE Linkage to Care Program of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Connect to Protect, Adolescent Trials Network Youth Community Advisory Board, and GLSEN Baltimore. Appetizers and entertainment including Baltimore’s DJ Rosie will be provided.

“The LGBTQ Prom is a result of the need for safe spaces for youth in all aspects of their lives,” said Anastasia Pierron, a member of the event’s planning committee. “While organizations throughout Baltimore are working tirelessly to create and maintain safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, prom is not an aspect currently being addressed in the way we as the LGBTQ Prom Planning Committee would like to. Our goal and hope is to put together an event where youth can enjoy a high school rite of passage in a safe, fun manner, all while being able to be true to themselves,” she said.

The GLCCB’s Grand Re-opening

Approximately 100 people attended the official re-opening of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) on April 14 at the organization’s new headquarters at the city-owned Waxter Center. The free event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, food, wine, a DJ, and entertainment provided by drag performer Sabrina Blue. GLCCB leaders discussed new programs as well as the 40th anniversary of Pride.

The GLCCB has been located at this venue since February 2014, but because of limitations placed by the city regarding renovations at the GLCCB’s third floor suite, the Center was unable to host an official grand opening until now.

At the event, Chuck Bowers, Rick Newton-Treadway, Tim Hurley and Carlton Smith were the announced recipients of Leadership Awards by GLCCB executive director Joel Tinsley-Hall. Demetrius Mallisham, representing the mayor’s office, read a proclamation honoring the Center’s re-opening.

Students, Allies Break the Silence in Mount Vernon

Over 35 area high school and college students as well as supporters marched through Mount Vernon on April 17 to end the annual Day of Silence with a loud scream. The event was coordinated by the Baltimore chapter of GLSEN—the Gay, Straight & Straight Education Network.

The Day of Silence is a day in which people of all sexual orientations and gender identities who support LGBT rights take a vow of silence to recognize and protest the silence that LGBT people face each day and to spread awareness for LGBTQ issues especially bullying.

According to Anne Stoner, an ally who represented PFLAG-Westminster/Carroll County at the event, the march began at the Washington Monument and proceeded up Charles Street.

“We paused at intersections to make sure passersby saw our signs. We were greeted by horns, waves, peace signs and the sign language word for love,” Stoner said. “We ended in front of the [Waxter Center where the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) has its headquarters] with those wearing tape on their mouths ripping the tape off and broke our silence with a group scream.”

Prior to the scream, Lili Fox Vélez, the president of the New Wave Singers of Baltimore, sang a chorus of “Everything Possible” by Fred Small, and then the march’s participants screamed to break their silence.
Jabari Lyles, the Co-Chair & Education Manager for GLSEN Baltimore, was pleased with the turnout and diversity for this third GLSEN-led Day of Silence event. “There were all different ages, races, sexual orientations and occupations. There were students, teachers, social workers, parents, friends, health professionals, legal professionals. Teachers and students from Baltimore City College, Reach! Partnership School, Bryn Mawr School, Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, and even Anne Stoner from Carroll County PFLAG came out to show support,” he said.

JHU Students Vote ‘No’ Against Chick-fil-A

By a vote of 18-8, a resolution (http://issuu.com/thecollegefix/docs/a-resolution-regarding-the-sgas-opi) by the Student Government Association (SGA) at Johns Hopkins University requested that administrators reject any current or proposed plans for a Chick-fil-A restaurant on or near the campus.

Stating that allowing a restaurant from the Atlanta-based franchise would be a “microagression” towards the campus community including “visiting prospective and current students, staff, faculty, and other visitors who are members of the LGBTQ community or are allies,” the SGA said that university officials should pick “other non-discriminatory options” and rule out any “current and future Chick-fil-A development plans” if searching for new dining vendors on campus.

There have been no concrete indications that the university was negotiating with Chick-fil-A for a place on the campus, but some students were concerned about construction that is in progress.

At the heart of the vote against Chick-fil-A is the opposition by CEO Dan Cathy towards marriage equality and his funding of organizations dedicated to maintain “traditional marriage.”

Though the company had taken some steps to avoid the controversy, students at Hopkins were taking no chances. “The reason the resolution occurred at this time was essentially student concern,” explains John Hughes, Community Liaison, Diverse Sexuality And Gender Alliance (DSAGA).

Hughes said that he had with other students their concerns.

“When I spoke to the SGA at their meeting, they were largely already in agreement that development of a Chick-Fil-A near campus should be avoided. Their debate was over whether a resolution was necessary,” he said. “Some senators thought the SGA should instead protest in a reactionary manner if the University ever does consider a Chick-Fil-A, but most agreed it was better to make a proactive resolution to communicate the SGA’s objections to the administration now.”

Black Gay Men and Depression to be Discussed at GLCCB

Black gay men face daunting challenges from inside and outside their own communities. Frequently, these men are forced to deal with these issues in silence because in many circumstances, the African-American culture provides pressure on black same gender loving men to stay in the closet thereby denying these men the right to live their lives to the fullest. As a result of these pressures, a number of black gay men become depressed, and they think they’re alone—a state of mind that can have serious consequences.

Depressed Black Gay Men (DBGM), a non-profit organization, is dedicated to raising awareness of depression and in the process, attempting to change and save lives. DBGM (dbgm.org), based in New York City, asserts that a black gay man dealing with depression should know that it is treatable and he need not suffer in silence; he is not alone.

As part of DBGM’s program is the documentary titled, You Are Not Alone. It consists of interviews with black gay men, mental health professionals, and religious leaders (Christian and Islamic). The film explores many of the underlying social factors that contribute to high rates of depression among black gay men.

You Are Not Alone also opens up discussions on the critical issues affecting many black men and black gay men who go through life hiding their depression, which can contribute to unsafe sexual activity because they are unconcerned about the consequences, elevated drug use, and even death by suicide.

This film will be presented at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB), 1000 Cathedral Street, 3rd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21201 on May 16 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event, which is free, is called “Black Gay Men & Depression” and is being co-sponsored by the GLCCB and The Center for Black Equity.

You Are Not Alone was created and produced by Guyanese-born journalist and founder of DBGM Antoine Craigwell, who is expected to appear at the event. The re-enactments were directed by triple NAACP Image Award winner Stanley Bennett Clay. Clay listened to the interviews, wrote a script and directed re-enactments of the stories he heard. He moved the film from being a staid production of “talking heads” into, as he says, “some Hollywood thrown in.”

According to the film’s website, yana-thefilm.com, “While the film maintains the hard hitting edge of a documentary, it gently blurs the line between what is and what could be, moving into the realm of a docudrama, and illuminating through examples, many of the underlying issues black gay men are dealing with, but never talked about. This film breaks a taboo in the black community; it exposes the raw truths behind the silent pain many black gay men experience and live with.”

For Lonnie Walker, 43, the new program coordinator for the GLCCB, this issue is personal as he had been diagnosed with depression.

“I have since seen the film twice before and cried both times, but in the times that I’ve seen it, it wasn’t nearly enough people in the audience who needed to see it,” Walker said. “I could count on one hand how many people were in attendance and at the rate of a lot of destructive behavior that some of us as black gay men practice whether it be [hookup sites and apps]Jack’d, Adam4Adam, Grindr and a host of other things we do to cover up what we really feel.”

Walker adds, “There is always a back story to why we do what we do, and I felt now that I’m in a position I can help some people to start a dialogue about this topic, and in order to let the healing begin, one needs to be transparent.”

This presentation will provide a good opportunity for the GLCCB to raise awareness of mental health issues within the LGBTQ communities. “We’re hoping to highlight how the intersections of race and masculine gender constrain the use of mental health services,” says Chris Adkins, GLCCB Board President.

“We also hope to bring attention to the fact that black men suffer from depression and often forego care for a variety of reasons from affordability of care to a lack of culturally competent care providers. Also, there is a reluctance to engage with white providers who might be uneasy at discussing the implications of racism in daily life and other cultural beliefs that support men being silent in the face of their own suffering,” explains Adkins who has been educated on mental health and public health needs of racial/ethnic minority populations.

Walker also sees this event as a step in the right direction for the GLCCB. “This demonstrates that we are here, we are for the community, and we are determined to give the community more than just a Pride event and a paper,” he points out. “We are here to educate, advocate and protect what we love, and that’s being LGBTQ.”

He admits his “life has been a mask” and cites the late 19th century poem, “We Wear the Mask” by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar as a good explanation. It is about oppressed black Americans forced to hide their pain and frustration behind a façade of happiness and contentment. Walker’s personal situation will be the subject of the panel discussion following the film.

For more information, contact the GLCCB at 410-777-8145 or visit the event’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/449132451919474/.

Gay Life May 2015

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