Contemporary Expression

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Voices Are Symphonic
December 13, 2009, 1:34 pm
Filed under: community building, Equality, flip camera, Immigration, social media

When Sam Davidson, co-founder of Cool People Care, asked me if I was willing to present a workshop a the 7th Annual TIRRC Annual Convention I was eager to be helpful.

The coalition is the only statewide entity in Tennessee working to create a voice in the public area that is truly representative of the interests of the “newest Tennesseans.”  They help by creating unifying support to organizations that are services based, the empower the grassroot leaders to effectively advocate for policy changes at the local, state and federal levels.  They guard the freedoms of Tennessee immigrants and refugees by educating individuals about ther rights and organizing communities to address alleged cvil liberties/civil rights abuses.

The workshop:

We Want You! (Online) – How to Recruit and Retain Volunteers and Activists Using Social Media

o In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about the latest trends when it comes to nonprofits using social media, particularly when it comes to using these free tools to find new volunteers and activists. Whether you’re curious about getting your organization on Facebook or ready to maximize Twitter to reach a new generation, you’ll leave this workshop with ideas and a strategy to begin to recruit people for your cause.

There was valuable discussion about how individual activists have a responsibility to organize themselves and have a strategic plan before they take on the responsibility of leading others.  The entire conference was rewarding.  It was like a small UN of cross cultural unity building.  I heard four languages spoken while I was there and there was a Spanish interpretation of my workshop.

The TIRRC Convention was like a symphony of ideas and passion and organization, each instrument building and bring new texture to the progressive goals. It was a pleasure to participate and I hope to continue to be helpful.

Action Plan:

The Dream Act (H.R. 1751) The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was introduced in March of 2009. The bill would provide qualified undocumented immigrant students access to higher education and the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.  Yearly about 65,000 Us-raised students who call the United States their home face barriers to higher education, can not work legally in the U.S. and fear being sent back to a county they no longer call home.  It’s time we gave all our children a chance to succeed by providing a path to legalization for undocumented children who had no choice in coming to this country.

Contact your U.S. Representative Today and ask for them to support H.R. 1751

In Nashville?  TIRRC will be delivering a symbolic holiday tree to Rep. Jim Cooper  to ask again for his support of The Cream Act.  Thursday afternoon December 17, 2009  For more information, please contact (615) 294-2203


Missing Bodies
October 27, 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: artwork, Books, community building, Equality


I’ve just complete a cerebral journey.  I read the Monica Casper and Lisa Jean Moore’s  masterpiece,  Missing Bodies, The Politics of Visibility.

The exploration of  surveillance, manipulations, erasures and recognition of the body in the 21st century is  so  intriguing that it may have changed my perspective permanently.   I am not one to just pick up such an intellectual study.  I know one of the authors.  Monica Casper likes my art work, she used to live here in Nashville and we lost herlast year to a move to Arizona last year.

I walk away from this study thinking about the missing people in my lavender community.  The importance of coming out of the closet is important to my city’s growth and vibrancy. I think about the missing people who work every day without labor representation that are exploited for the bottom line. I think about the missing bodies of tireless non-profit worker and volunteer who without recognition and reward may be jeopardized.

This book may have been about the sociology of the body but it made me rethink about the blind way that I walk through life without really seeing those around me.

Thank you for opening my eyes again Monica. 


Author Monica Casper signs my book on a recent Nashville visit. My painting "Jenny and Shirley" is in the background

Breakfast with Gov. Kunin and lunch with Ms. Steinem
October 21, 2009, 9:25 am
Filed under: branding, candidates, community building, Equality, Living An Artful Life

I attended my first Tennessee Economic Summit for Women conference this year as a volunteer.  There were panels on the economic impact of wage earnings for TN women, communication strategies, healthcare, debt management and others.

Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey,  challenged early on to “Be excited about change. The first woman at anything needs to be sure they are not the last”.  

Gov. Madeline Kunin and Nancy VanReece

Gov. Madeline Kunin and Nancy VanReece

I started the morning with a breakfast chat with  the former Gov. of Vermont, Madeleline Kunin before she gave her opening session speech she selected a random table to sit down at chat with people about what they may what to hear and learn that day.  I was fortunate to be at this table and we were able to talk about  the struggles of non-profit management, the  righteous indignation that comes with still not having equal rights as a gay woman and the joys of living in “the blue heart of a red state”, oh yeah, and being unemployed at 45.  Her encouragement and the way she willingly listened was the lesson I needed most that day and I didn’t even realize it. 

Here are some of my live Tweets from her speech:

  • “learn how to transfer your skills from one thing to another. Have you organized a 5yr old’s birthday party? You can run a political campaign.” 9:27 AM Oct 19th
  • “Lilly Ledbetter is more significant than Joe the Plummer” – Gov. Kunin 9:16 AM Oct 19th
  • Gov. Kunin “there are too few women’s voices in the political discussion. When a woman is talking the climate does change.”9:04 AM Oct 19
Nancy VanReece and Gloria Steinem

Nancy VanReece and Gloria Steinem

Over a very loud service staff at lunch I locked in as much attention as I could give to the keynote speaker, Gloria Steinem. A highschool classmate of mine now runs the Hedgebrook retreat where Ms. Steinem serves on the Advisory Creative Council.  I wanted to make sure I said  hello on her behalf at some pont during the day.  Later, as she was signing books I was able to send those greetings.  When she asked if I too then was from Oklahoma we laughed like it was an unspoken inside joke about how awkward it is to live in places that don’t embrace your full potential.  Something that she undoubtedly has felt as well. 

Here are some of my live Tweets from her speech:

  • “Our job is not to make young women grateful for what has happened before them but to make them recognize change is still necessary.” GS 1:07 PM Oct 19th
  • GS recommends the film “The High Cost of Low Prices” and is discussing WalMart …….1:03 PM Oct 19th
  • “When we democratize our families we are performing an act of revolution. Women are becoming the men they want to marry.” -GS 12:56 PM Oct 19th
  • “The country is escaping it’s own type of family violence & we are in the most danger during that escape. We need the help each other’s awareness.” – GS. 12:52 PM Oct 19th
  • It is time to attribute appropriate value to the work being done in the care-giving sector – GS 10:45 PM Oct 19th
  • Nationally parking lot attendants make more than child care providers..12:41 PM Oct 19th
  • Pink collar ghetto .. Jobs that can’t be outsourced …12:36 PM Oct 19th
  • My table seemed amazed to find out that GS is 75 years old12:35 PM Oct 19th
  • “We need to live the un-lived lives of our mothers.” -GSteinem 12:28 PM Oct 19th

The conference itself was run well but I was disappointed in the lack of diversity in those that were speaking.  Most of the women there were over 50 and had great wisdom and insight and depth of history to share but it wasn’t really called upon.  I saw very little effort to engage Generation X, much less Generation Y, to attend or participate in the conference and I’m not sure that it will succeed in its mission without a real overhaul in the way the event is presented in the 21st century.

A decade
July 6, 2009, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Coming Out, Equality

Total solar eclipse of August 1999

A decade has gone by… a decade and some change since Matthew Shepard, a decade to the day since Barry Winchell. Back in 1999 I had also just come out of the closet to friends and family. I had to change my career and I had to start all over again in so many ways. My partner and I had already been together for over a decade and we wanted to start the second one completely out and open.

For me it was Matthew, I just couldn’t bear the grief isolated. I joined the then active LGCJ (Lesbian and Gay Coalition for Justice) in Nashville to see how I might plug in to my activism. Then, in short order, came Barry. Watching the Nashville leadership find a way to be helpful and effective was part of our growth as a community. I still remember the early meetings and the collaboration with SLDN and the Equality Federation.

Now, as a board member of the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation (the educational c-3 arm of TEP) I am proud to see all the work that has been done to stop hate crimes and to see them punished to the full extent of the law. Join the TEP FaceBook Page

Hate crimes are a vicious assault on the humanity and safety of our community. TEP wants to help victims of hate crimes get the justice and protection they deserve. If you are the victim of a hate crime or if you would like to report a hate crime, please complete the form on this page. Someone from our Hate Crimes Task Force will respond to your report.

  • Save this number to your cell phone to call in to leave a message to report of a hate crime in Tennessee:
  • If you are in any danger, please call 911 first


The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in the US House April 29, 2009 on a 249 to 175 bipartisan vote.

The bill expands federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. It also would eliminate a requirement that the victim was engaged in one of several “federally protected activities” at the time of the crime in order to be protected by these laws. Under current federal hate crime laws, perpetrators can be prosecuted for violence motivated by race, color, religion, and national origin only if the crime involves a federal activity, such as voting or traveling across state lines.President Obama released a statement on the bill prior to yesterday’s vote. He said “I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.”The bill was also reintroduced in the US Senate the same week by a bi-partisan coalition. In the Senate, the bill is known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.* Previous versions of the bill faced various legislative roadblocks under the Bush administration: similar bills did not make it out of committee in several Congresses between 2002, when the legislation was first introduced, and 2007, when the bill finally passed the House, but was never voted on in the Senate. President Bush had indicated that he would veto the bill if it was passed by Congress.

*Sen Alexander was quoted recently that “state laws are sufficient” when asked about his vote.

A decade has gone by.


  • Gay Bias Killings Highest Since 1999
    Incidents Up By 28 Percent
    MARCUS FRANKLIN, Associated Press Writer
    POSTED: 12:17 pm CDT June 16, 2009

    NEW YORK — The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago, according to a national coalition of advocacy groups.
    Last year’s 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999, when it documented the same number of slayings, according to a report released Tuesday by the coalition.
    “What we’re also seeing, more disturbingly, is the increase in the severity of violence,” said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which coordinates coalition.
    Stapel theorized that at least some of last year’s violence was backlash against issues that arose during the during the presidential campaign. She cited debates about same-sex marriage, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as possible flash points. “The more visibility there is the more likely we’re going to see backlash, and that’s exactly what we see here,” Stapel said.
    Overall, the number of victims who reported anti-LGBT violence in 2008 increased by two percent compared to 2007, said the New York-based coalition of programs in 25 states.
    Coalition officials say their figures are more accurate than those from law enforcement agencies. As an example, they say, the FBI doesn’t record bias crimes against transgender people because gender identity isn’t covered by federal hate-crime law.
    Also, victims sometimes are reluctant to report bias incidents to police because they don’t want to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or they fear bias from police, officials said.
    Reports of physical abuse by police increased to 25 incidents last year from 10 in 2007, the report said.
    For the new report, programs in Milwaukee, Minnesota, Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado, Columbus, Ohio, Houston, Pennsylvania, New York City, Kansas City, Missouri, Michigan and San Francisco submitted data.
    Programs in Vermont and the Boston area participated in the 2007 report but not the current one. The program in Rochester, N.Y., participated in 2008 for the first time.
    The largest increase — 64 percent — was in Milwaukee, where the number of reported incidents rose to 18 in 2008 from 11 in 2007, the report said.
    Officials weren’t sure whether reported increases were attributable to more people reporting incidents or an actual rise.
    Meighan Bentz, a victim outreach advocate at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, which includes an anti-violence project, said, “I think it’s a combination.”
    “Certainly there are more people reporting,” Bentz said, adding that the project started in 2005. “As time goes on there are more people aware of our program as a resource.”
    Bentz added, “I do believe there are ongoing issues of violence and its affect upon LGBT individuals. It’s a vulnerable population.”
    Many of 2008’s incidents made headlines.
    In December, a man was beaten to death in New York City while he walked arm in arm with his brother as their attackers yelled anti-gay and anti-Latino epithets. Two men have been charged with murder as a hate crime.
    In February 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence King was shot to death at school in Oxnard, Calif., near Malibu after enduring harassment after he told classmates he was gay; a classmate is charged as an adult in the killing, which prosecutors classified as a hate crime.
    Last June, a surveillance tape was publicized showing Memphis, Tenn., police officers beating Duanna Johnson, a transgender woman, and shouting slurs in a jail booking area; a public outcry erupted.
    In November, Johnson was found fatally shot on a Memphis street


A decade has gone by.

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Stonewall and Pingpong Balls
June 29, 2009, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Equality, LGBT History
Back then, I was busy watching Captain Kangaroo – now what’s distracting me? What would it take to take to the street in both celebration and protest?

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.

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Michael Jackson and Iranian Elections
June 26, 2009, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Equality
your music was art

It’s Time! Equality starts at home
June 24, 2009, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Equality, LGBT History
Okay, so I am a founding member of The Tennessee Equality Project and serve on the TEP Foundation board of directors. Ultimately, however, I’m just a Tennessean, just a Nashvillian who agrees in fairness, equality and quite frankly is getting very restless waiting for local good news.

It’s Time! Equality Starts at Home and you need to participate. It’s about non discrimination, it’s about equalty treatment , its about you, your sister, your brother, your cousin, your friend, your mom and your dad. Take action, do something today.

Support a Metro Nashville non-discrimination ordinance

Contact Nashville Metro Council and urge your representatives to support a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression for Metro government employees. Use this web form to contact the 5 Metro Council Members at Large.

And on the National Level:

Enclusive ENDA Introduced! Ask your US Representative to Become a Co-sponsor!

Use this form to contact your state representative

This week, Representative Barney Frank, joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, introduced an inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)—which would extend the existing federal law prohibiting employment discrimination to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill was introduced by a group of bi-partisan Representatives and it is important that you contact your legislator to become a cosponsor as well. Becoming a cosponsor shows that the Representative will stand firm with our community and helps build momentum for the bill’s passage.

Okay – so a couple of clicks and you can change the world in your neighborhood and help strengthen the momentum nationwide.

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