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Courage and Comfort
February 26, 2009
by John Long

March brings the first day of spring, the hope of warmer weather, and many of the great events in the LGBT community. CampBiz, on page 9, lists many, and so do our online calendar ( and the Lesbian and Gay Community Center’s calendar (

For those who wish to get involved in organizations, now’s the time to step up. The Lesbian and Gay Community Center is holding its 3rd annual meeting showcasing community organizations this month. More than 40 LGBT organizations will share information about what they do and how you can join them. Kansas City’s LGBT community has something for every interest — political, health, athletic, spiritual, social, workplace, family and more.

But attending LGBT events takes a certain amount of courage, and so does joining groups.

Camp writer Bradley Osborn and I attended the EQUAL Empowerment Summit on Feb. 21. It was truly wonderful to see high school and college students coming together for seminars on activism and how to organize Gay/Straight Alliances in their schools. I attended a great presentation on legal strategies, rules and tips presented by Lisa Brunner, a Kansas City attorney and ACLU LGBT Task Force volunteer.

PROMO held its annual Words of Love benefit on Feb. 22. It was a fun evening, yet it was also designed to spread the word about PROMO’s activism for the LGBT community in Missouri every day.

These students and activists are only a couple of examples of local courage, but together all organizations make for a vibrant LGBT community in greater Kansas City.

More examples of courage were as close as the TV set on Oscar night. Anyone watching the Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 22 saw Sean Penn’s win and acceptance speech for his stirring portrayal of slain San Francisco LGBT leader Harvey Milk in the movie Milk. In case you missed it, here’s what Penn had to say:

“I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes, if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

(Of course he also offended some people when he led the speech by thanking “you commie, homo-loving sons of guns.”)

For others watching the Academy Awards, it was the acceptance speech of Dustin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay of Milk, that stirred them: “When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am, and then maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.”

I remember the era of Harvey Milk quite well, because I moved to San Francisco the year after he was murdered and lived in the Bay Area for 11 years. I remember activists from the movie like Cleve Jones and many others who fought for equality in that critical period. Sadly, the nation lost many activists to AIDS during the years that followed Harvey Milk’s and Mayor George Moscone’s murders.

Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, stirred up some emotions when he spoke during Black History month in February about what he saw as a lack of courage.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder declared.

Holder essentially spoke of how race has historically been one issue that makes many uncomfortable and therefore it is not discussed.

Although Holder was speaking of racial discrimination and not sexual orientation discrimination, it’s easy to see how the same discomfort has affected relations between gays and straights, specifically proven through actions such as constitutional amendments banning same-gender marriage or California’s Prop 8. Diane Silver speaks eloquently about this discomfort in her Political I.Q. column, “Overcoming the Ick Factor: We Can’t Beat Prejudice by Ignoring It,” at

Let us know your thoughts and examples of courage. We welcome your letters, comments and opinion pieces. Contact me at if you have ideas you’d like to share.
The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

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