Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gay Men Entrapped in Public Parks

Well this story speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Norm Kent's World AIDS Day Address 12-1-2010

By Norm Kent, Publisher

South Florida Gay News

The following is the full text of the address SFGN Publisher Norm Kent will delivered this evening to the World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil in Wilton Manors sponsored by Broward House.

We find ourselves tonight, again talking and walking, marching and speaking; lighting candles for those who are no longer with us, memorializing the lives of friends and lovers, children and brothers, mothers and fathers, who left us all too soon.

We come here solemnly to recommit our energy and our spirit, so those who have fallen are never forgotten; to shed a tear, and say a prayer for our departed. But we come with souls forged in iron to fight like hell for the living.

Some of us are old enough to remember when AIDS was called GRID- Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and there was no hope. But some of you are too young to understand there was a day with no protease inhibitors, steroid cocktails, or once a day pills.

Some of you are old enough to remember when a librarian with HIV was fired from his job at a Broward County library, but some of you are too young to know there was a day when the people were afraid to use a public toilet seat for fear of contracting HIV.

Some of us are old enough to remember Pedro Zamora, Ryan White and Freddy Mercury. But for most of us, AIDS is not about celebrities like Magic Johnson who we will never meet. It is about our family members, our friends, and sometimes, ourselves. There is no shame, however, in living with HIV.

Albert Einstein once wrote that the things we do for ourselves die with us; but the things we do for others is immortal and lives forever. There is only shame if in a time of AIDS we do not come to the aid of those living with it. There is only shame if we are in a position to help and do nothing; be in a position to educate and do not teach; be in a position to give and care and fail to care or give.

It falls upon us to those who fight people with AIDS instead of fighting the disease called AIDS. It falls upon us to respond to apathetic congressmen who look the other way as patients fall off ADAP lists. It falls upon us to respond to religious leaders who brand HIV patients as second class citizens. It falls upon us to remind America we must still care, we must still bother, we must still persevere, because our friends are still quietly dying, out of the limelight and far from the spotlight. We cannot let anyone go quietly into the night.

So we still light candles, and we light up the night with the love of those we have lost, saying there will come a day when these candles need to burn no more. Tonight, you can see again you do not stand alone. Tonight, you can be proud, because by your side is a tall and brave spirit who once stood beside you, standing where we now stand. That person, whose memory you this evening cherish, once also said yes to hope, and yes to life.

Tonight, we owe it to them to say a day will come when we gather to celebrate a cure and not commemorate a loss. That is why we stand. That is why gather. That is why we still bother.

If we cannot yet find a cure, we can still cure poor treatments and advance better care. We can find ways to partner with others, to embrace compassion, as so many of you have already.

Many organizations, from food banks to pet partners, have reached out to groups. But there is much we can do individually.

We can be the home health care aides for a patient alone in his home.

We can be the students delivering meals on wheels.

We can be the educators who teach children about HIV.

We can be the readers in hospital rooms for patients who are too ill to see.

We can be the companion who helps with pets.

We can be the parents reuniting with children.

We can be the therapists counseling against fear and the attorneys providing legal aid against discrimination.

We can be the nightclubs and bar owners sponsoring one more party, yes another fund raiser for HIV facilities.

We can be the caller to a talk show who won’t let an announcer disseminate hate, and we can be the doctors working on new protocols.

For all so many of you have done, there is still so much more we can all do. As we give, so do we receive.

The bottom line here is that if 30 years into the epidemic we have patients on waiting lines for treatment that is not justice- that is just us being abused. And we cannot let that stand. If we have to take to the streets to let our voices be heard, then so be it, to the streets we must go.

You do not have to make headlines to make a difference. You just have to make headway. You just have to bother, to care, to gather, and to be a voice for hope instead of an apologist for excuses.

Your presence here tonight is testimony again that we shall be visible, not invisible. We shall prevail, not fail, and we shall one day overcome. It may or may not be within our lifetime, but when you fight an illness you become a champion for life. It does not matter how many miles there are too go. Your cause is just, your goals are righteous, and your heart and soul is in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Midterm Elections Prove Fight for Our Rights is Still Real

by Norm Kent, Publisher

The past elections reveal one glaring reality that should impact all LGBT thought, whether you voted Republican or Democrat. The simple truth emerging from the election is that we are still in a war for our rights, and many people are fighting against us.

It is very significant that one of the most ardent supporters of ending DADT, Patrick Murphy, was defeated. Himself a veteran, he stuck his neck out for human rights but it was chopped off on the electoral block.

Similarly, when three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court voted to ratify the constitutionality of gay marriage, they could not have expected that an organization entitled the National Organization for Marriage would emerge and launch a successful campaign to unseat them from judicial office.

Any chance that ENDA would be passed has end- ed with the Republican takeover of the House. Progressive legislation, especially in Florida, will suffer enormous setbacks with neanderthals populating offices in Congress and state legislatures. We will be tested by those seeking to push progress back. We must forge forward with an iron will. We have come too far to go back into closets for anyone.

Courts and corporations are protecting our rights, and we are standing up for ourselves without anyone’s help. In legislatures, we have passed hate crime laws. In neighborhoods, we have formed civic associations. In schools, we have created task forces against gay bullying. We have elected gay mayors and seen lesbian judges sworn into office. And if a right wing mayor takes a swing at us, we swing back. At SFGN, each week we profile gay businessmen and women; entrepreneurs making a difference.

Our travel issue this week shows how many places we have been and where we can still go. Today you wear your pride rings on your fingers and post your rainbows on your license plates. Today you vacation in Mykonos, and make summer plans with gay travel agents on Fire Island or in urban venues like Toronto.

We were once the love that dared not speak its name. Now in South Florida we are the home of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Our community is an epicenter for international gay tourism and the host of the White Party in two weeks, as well as the Hurricane Softball Tourney run in greater Fort Lauderdale, for hundreds of gay players. We own restaurants and clubs, and we applaud our partnerships and our progress. That can never be taken away from us ever again.

We have won a place at the table by our professionalism and patience, our fortitude and forthrightness. We just have to keep on truckin’. Our day will come. Ask Martin Gill as Equality Florida applauds him in a gala this weekend, his tenacity awarded as he adopts a child our government sought to take away. Ask Nadine Smith, who can tell you how far Equality Florida has come in its decade of growth since finding roots.

Finally, let’s not forget there is still a war against AIDS patients, many of whom are facing escalating cutbacks, creating unconscionable waiting lists for those who need meds.

Let’s not forget the teen suicides which have come to light recently are a reminder to us that bullying in schools is still very real.

Let’s not forget homophobia is still rampant in certain professions and many sports.

Let’s not forget there are many causes still worth fighting for, and that you can never let up, let go, or look away.

Whatever you do, don’t remain neutral. In the middle of the road you will only find yellow lines and dead skunks.

Sometimes life calls upon you to make a difference. Somewhere, find the time and energy to make your community a better place.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Suicides Shock Gay America

by Norm Kent

This is the South Florida Gay We are the real community newspaper in town. Forgive me if I do not run a ‘Best of Florida’ contest seeking out our community’s ‘Hottest Bartender.’ That is not what this newspaper or I am all about. We are about news, content, and reality, painful though it may be.

We report our wins and our wounds. This week those wounds are very large and cut very deep.

Late Friday, we learned that a young gay man, Raymond Chase, took his own life at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, where he was a culinary student.

In an astounding and remarkable month, it was the fifth documented LGBT teenage suicide in America in the last three weeks. The recent pattern has to generate alarm.

As we go to press, on Tuesday, October 5th, news reports from Toronto reveal that the bodies of two young lesbians have just been found in a mutual suicide pact.

Last week, Tyler Clementi’s death made the national news, and how could it not? The young and closeted violinist could not handle the humiliation and jumped off the George Washington Bridge when he discovered classmates had published a secret video on the Internet of a sexual encounter he had with another man.

On September 23rd, 13-year-old Asher Brown, from Houston, Texas, shot himself in the head. His grieving parents said he had been persistently harassed by other students who thought he was gay. Asher Brown’s uncle told a big gathering of mourners and family supporters on Saturday, Oct. 2 that school bullies “ripped him up and tore him down everyday.”

Bright balloons floated in the air as Reverend Truong, his uncle, a minister, eulogized his nephew- “The bullies picked on my nephew because of the way he dressed, how he talked, and the fact he was small. He was a David among Goliaths; but Asher’s heart was so big! His heart made him a giant.”

Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas, of Indiana, hanged himself on September 9th. Classmates said he had been bullied and tormented for years over his sexual orientation. "People would call him 'fag' and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he's different basically," said student Dillen Swango. Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.

Another 13-year-old, Seth Walsh from Minnesota, died in hospital on Wednesday, eight days after attempting to hang himself from a tree. He is said to have endured taunts and abuse for being gay from other students; “chronic, non-stop teasing,” his older brother said.

Close to 600 townspeople crammed into the small church in rural Tehachapi, California, to remember the teen who loved Pokemon, adored French fries above all other food, and had an obsession with disco music.

He was different. He knew he was different," Seth's mother, Judy Walsh said according to "He was a very loving boy, very kind. He had a beautiful smile. He liked fashion, his friends, talking on the phone. He was artistic and very bright."

Events are being planned across the country in the coming weeks to mourn the loss of these young people, and to take action to stop bullying crimes that lead to suicide, and a website . SFGN will support these events in every way we can.

To help stop the cycle that leads young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people to feel they are alone, connect them to The Trevor Project. There is a place that's free of bullying and judgment online, where young LGBTQ people, their friends and allies ages 13-24 can connect safely and be themselves.

More than 13,000 young people already belong to, and more youth join every day. If you or someone you care about shows warning signs for suicide, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Lifeline at: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). The call is free and confidential.

It is unclear whether suicides for young gay men are up, or if there has been better reporting of their deaths. LGBT students are known to be at a higher suicide risk than their heterosexual peers. One thing is clear. The rapper 50 cent is a moron. A public figure subject to criticism, there are few words that can’t be said derisively over his homophobic rant last week on Twitter:

“If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat pu**y just kill your self damn it. The world will be a better place. Lol”

No, the world will be a better place without bigotry, and if these national organizations like the Task Force want to do something more useful with their lives then throw cocktails parties in fancy hotels, let them lead a national drive to drive 50 cent’s albums offer store shelves where gay shoppers congregate, like Target, Borders, or Barnes and Noble. Let 50 cent know he ain’t worth a plumb nickel, and we won’t give a dime to support those who support him.


The deaths have shocked America and lesbian chat show host Ellen DeGeneres implored the country to take action and prevent further deaths.

Speaking on her daytime show yesterday, the presenter said: "Something must be done."

"This needs to be a wake up call to everyone that teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic in this country, and the death rate is climbing."

"We have an obligation to change this."

In response to the suicides, Dan Savage has launched the It Gets Better project, where adult LGBTs create videos reassuring teenagers that however bad things are, they will get better. Savage created a YouTube channel to solicit more encouraging videos and posted the first one: he and his husband, describing their own high school horror stories, explaining how they survived and offering evidence that a healthy, joyful life exists past the teenage years. Since then, Savage has been flooded with videos from around the world, encouraging bullied, gay teenagers to hang in there. Sebastian Fortino has the full story on Page 2.

At SFGN, our staff is encouraged by the response to the It Gets Better Project, and inspired to contribute.

Not everyone has access to a webcam or the desire to post their images online. Like the Watermark in Orlando, we would like to invite SFGN readers to share written accounts that It Gets Better.

Here’s how:

• Write up your story

• Sign it with your name (or initials), plus your age and occupation

• Email it to

Gay life is more open and honest than any other time in our country’s history. But these tragic suicides should remind all of us living in too much comfort that there is another world where people still live with pain. Let us all do what we can when we can to tame the aggressiveness of mankind and restore humanity to our lives.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Judicial Rulings Empower Gay America

by Norm Kent
This is an incredible moment in the history of gay rights for Americans.

The ‘Today’ show has allowed gay couples to enter its annual wedding contest. Okay, okay.

More seriously, a United States federal judge in Massachusetts ruled last Thursday that a law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The decision, outlined in SFGN this week by Lisa Keen on page ____, has incredible implications for gay Americans. Here is an attempt to briefly explain in simple terms what happened in court last week. Call it Law 101, and if you get through it, give yourself 3 academic credits.

First, Massachusetts has allowed same-sex couples to marry since 2004, and more than 15,000 have done so. The judge ruled Massachusetts had a right to do that. He ruled that since there is a part of the U.S. Constitution which declares that rights not explicitly granted to the federal government, or specifically denied to the states, belong to the states, Massachusetts had the power to do what it did; that it was a “right firmly entrenched to the province of the states.”

The judge found that there is nothing in the Constitution about marriage which gives the Congress the right to pre-empt what the states might do. Remember, that is what Congress did when they passed the ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ which limited marriage rights to heterosexual couples only.

Ironically, the Obama administration’s Justice Department, since it represents the federal government, was obligated to defend the law, but it admittedly did so half heartedly, since Obama himself had called for its repeal during his campaign for the presidency. But that was only part one of this complex judicial ruling by US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro, and not necessarily the best thing for gay rights activists.

You see, if the judge ruled only that states have the final decision on gay rights marriages, then what about the 45 states that refuse to allow it? If those decisions are left solely to the states, gays throughout the country are going to have a long wait to gain the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. There was a second part to this Massachusetts case though and it had nothing to do with Matt Lauer or the Today Show.

The other case was brought by a group called the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. They argued that the federal law passed by Congress, separate from any limitation it imposed on the states, denied individual citizens equal protection of the laws, because gay men and lesbians were being treated different than straight married couples.

These litigants noted that straight couples can receive federal tax benefits, social security survivors’ rights, and other financial rewards that LGBT partners can’t receive. This was a denial of fairness to one whole class of citizens, who should all be protected equally, they argued. Judge Tauro agreed, essentially concluding that there is no rational basis for treating same-sex couples differently than heterosexual couples.

Before we all get too excited, remember this was one district court judge at the first step of the judicial process. Above him are numerous appellate courts, and a few constitutional scholars with foreboding warnings. “What an amazing set of opinions,” said Jack M. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School. “No chance they’ll be held up on appeal.” And that’s from a guy who supports same sex marriage. Yet, he has a good point. Over the years, many courts have held that marriage issues are not solely the rights of state government’s but also involve federal issues. So this battle is not over. It’s just beginning.

Separate and apart from all this in Massachusetts, the LGBT community is awaiting a decision from a gay man, Judge Vaugh Walker in San Francisco, on the legality of Proposition 8 in California, which seeks to affirm gay marriage rights. Whatever Judge Walker decides, regardless of how he rules, can also be appealed to higher courts. Of course, it will be, too. As the New York Times said in its editorial last week, and as any of us who have ever served on jury duty know, the “process of justice can take years.”

As gay men and women, we should be encouraged that we are moving in the right direction and empowered that courts are even addressing these issues. When gay Congressional candidates, the Victory Fund, or Lambda Legal come knocking on your door for support, remember those individuals and organizations are pushing the envelope for you today so your rights are protected tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back at the ‘Today Show’ Facebook page, thousands of posters had their say: "The Bible clearly states what marriage is and it also states these kind of acts between men and men and women with women are an abomination. God is not pleased and neither am I. What about my rights!!!"

Ultimately, our struggle also has to be won in the hearts and minds of America as well as in its courtrooms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Midge Costanza's Marvelous Memory

by Norm Kent
Margaret “Midge” Costanza, 77, passed away last week, almost 33 years to the day she forged LGBT history in America. In lieu of a news story we commemorate her life in this editorial.

The White House. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Until Saturday, March 26, 1977, its doors had never been opened to lesbians and gay men and straight allies. But on that historic day, more than a dozen women and men entered the West Wing of the presidential residence to meet with Midge Costanza, the director of President Jimmy Carter’s Office of Public Liaison.

Heads high and carrying briefing papers on topics of concern and interest to lesbians and gay men around the country, National Gay Task Force co-directors Bruce Voeller and Jean O’Leary led a delegation into the Roosevelt Room where a three-hour briefing of presidential staff got under way. Later, one White House staffer noted that the group presented the most thoroughly prepared issue briefings he had ever heard.

A press conference on the White House lawn followed the meeting, at which O’Leary proudly proclaimed, “History was made today!” It surely was, and the victories we celebrate in city commissions and state legislatures today evolve out of historic moments such as days like this particular one- moments we must never forget and always salute.

Members of the delegation briefed their hosts on discriminatory treatment of lesbians and gay men at the Internal Revenue Service, the Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Health Education and Welfare, the Federal Communications Commission, the Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They pointed out that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission took no interest in discrimination and prejudice against our communities. The noble group of courageous activists pushed for support of federal nondiscrimination legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring, education and public accommodations. They included religious and family issues in their presentations and spoke of the pain and suffering of lesbians and gay men at the hands of church leaders and family members.

Following the historic meet­ing, Costanza arranged meetings between Task Force re­presentatives and all of the agencies specifically named by the delegation, except the IRS. But by June 1977, the IRS dropped its requirement that lesbian and gay groups applying for tax-exempt status agree not to assert that homosexuality is as morally upright as heterosexuality and not hold meetings at which homosexuals would gather and possibly violate state sodomy laws. You see, 33 years ago, a gay and lesbian community center could have been civilly outlawed.

The criticism of the Carter White House that followed the LGBT forum was intense. But Ms. Costanza, a petite, energetic woman who once described herself as “a loud-mouthed, pushy little broad,” was outspokenly committed to women’s issues, gay rights and social justice for minority groups. She stood by us and our right to be part of the political process.

The pressing needs of lesbians and gay men began to be responded to by our federal government—for the first time ever. Cancer claimed Costanza last week. Most recently, she had been a professor at San Diego State University, and was working in her last days to develop the Midge Costanza Institute, aimed at inspiring young people to become active in political and social causes.

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey eulogized Costanza last week, noting that “she took a risk in working to ensure our voices were heard at the highest echelons of government. In this regard, she was a pioneer.” She surely was.

Yes, it was a long time ago, but the battle activists engaged decades ago is still being fought by newer task forces and younger LGBT leaders. Our mission as a free community newspaper is to share those lives with you, and we can only do so with your continuing support and sponsorship. Thank you for helping make our first ten issues possible.

The message of ‘Midge’ is that we can never let up, and we can all be pioneers. She was there for us when it counted, when few else were, and now she will be cherished by us forevermore. May we all live our lives to be so remembered.

White House AIDS Office Expands Testing Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is announcing this month that we will be expanding our successful HIV testing initiative by $31.5 million, for another three years. The new total program funding will be approximately $142.5 million over the next three years. This will reach more people with life-saving information on whether or not they are infected with the virus.

Since the testing initiative began in 2007, more than 1.4 million Americans have been tested for HIV through this program and more than 10,000 people with HIV have been newly diagnosed. The vast majority of these people were linked to care.

We know that getting people tested and diagnosed is an important step in reducing new HIV infections. Testing is the first step in linking HIV-infected people to medical care, ongoing support, and prevention efforts to help them establish and maintain safer behaviors. In fact, studies show that once people learn they are infected with HIV, most take steps to protect their partners.

However, far too many people in the U.S. are infected with HIV but unaware of their status. More than 200,000 people—or one out of every five people living with HIV in this country—may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to their partners. Additionally, many people are diagnosed with HIV late in the course of infection, when treatment and prevention efforts cannot be maximized.

The first three years of the initiative primarily focused on increasing testing and knowledge of HIV status among African American men and women. These groups bear an extremely disproportionate impact of HIV. The new three-year effort will reach even more populations at-risk for HIV, including gay and bisexual men of all races, Latinos, and injection drug users. Thirty jurisdictions are eligible to apply for the new funding (an increase from 25 areas in the last cycle of funding), which represent the areas with the most severe HIV epidemics among these populations. The first year of the expanded program will begin in September 2010.

CDC is committed to ensuring that more Americans are tested for HIV, and where necessary, linked to appropriate care. This is critical among those vulnerable populations that need it the most—including those who don’t have regular contact with the health care system. CDC has long been the nation’s leader in supporting testing efforts as a part of HIV prevention.

In 2006, we issued new recommendations to make HIV testing routine for all Americans, regardless of one’s risk for the virus. Our goal is to make HIV testing as routine as a blood pressure check. The testing initiative has helped to make those recommendations a reality in many health care settings, where opportunities to screen patients for HIV are often missed. This program represents just one example of the ways that we can help state and local health care providers make testing routine and to identify more people who are infected but unaware of their status—and ultimately reduce the ongoing and unacceptable toll of HIV on this nation.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS and find out where you can receive a confidential HIV test, visit, call 800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “Know It” (566948).

Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP)

Florida On Bottom of Nation's Equality List

By Cliff Dunn

A new ranking by an LGBT advocacy group rates the Sunshine State Number 47 out of 51 when it comes to equality for its gay citizens.

The privately-funded organization eQualityGiving places Florida near dead last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to promoting LGBT equality.

This number is especially notable since Florida ranks among the top 10 states for donations made to national, state and local LGBT organizations.

“We have the money, but we need a different strategy to change the dynamics,” says Jim Stork of Wilton Manors, who serves on the advisory board of eQualityGiving.

The group, founded in 2005, provides free services and advice to individuals and groups with an aim of achieving legal equality for LGBT Americans.

The organization lists seven Equality Goals: federal hate crimes protection; protection from discrimination in employment, housing, pu­blic accommodation and credit; a repeal to the mi­litary’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) po­licy; marriage equal­ity; re­cognition of gender identity and expression under hate crimes legislation; protecting LGBT youth; and parental rights for same-sex couples.

Only the first of the goals has been realized, with the passage last October of the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Stork says there are some political realities in the Sunshine State that explain this.

“We are a deeply Red state in terms of our legislature,” says Stork, who was Mayor of Wilton Manors from 2002 to 2004.

“The Republican legislature is largely opposed to everything we stand for, which is equality for all Floridians,” Stork observed. “Pretty revolutionary stuff.”

Under the organization’s criteria, a state is awarded one point for each Equality Goal it meets. Half a point is given for the partial achievement of a goal. Since repeal of DADT is a federal goal, the maximum number of points a state can earn is six.

No state has earned a perfect score.

Florida received a score of 1.5 points, placing it near the bottom of the list of rankings; only Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee scored lower.

The Sunshine State ‘earned’ its abysmal ranking based on the following criteria:

There is no statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression.”

There is a statewide law prohibiting gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

Both the Florida Constitution and state laws prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying their partners.

While the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act specifically pro­hi­bits “sexual, religious, or racial harassment,” the law makes no reference to either “sexual orientation” or “gen­der identity or expression.”

Ex-Mayor Stork says that one avenue of redress for these inequalities would be the passage in November of Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution.

“We need to have sensible legislative districts based upon community boundaries,” he said. “A blue-ribbon panel of Independents, Democrats and Republicans. Floridians—gay and straight—deserve that.”

Dick Cheney - Portrait of a Gay Rights Activist

By Cliff Dunn

An investigation into the history of the Pentagon’s anti-LGBT “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy reveals that long before his recent foray into the public debate, former Vice President Dick Cheney was instrumental in crippling the rule which today prevents gay and lesbian personnel from serving openly in their country’s armed forces.

Cheney—who was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on February 22 after suffering a mild heart attack, his fifth—has made no secret that he is the father of a lesbian daughter, Mary, born in 1969.

But it is an almost-forgotten footnote to the DADT debate that while he was Secretary of Defense to President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, Cheney virtually abolished the policy before it even officially existed.

And it appears that time and again, it was his relationship with his gay daughter that marked this departure from his otherwise hard-line conservative stands.

In its September 12, 2000 cover story, Sarah Wildman reports in The Advocate that “by the time [Cheney] was leaving Bush’s cabinet [in 1993], Mary was just coming out of the closet to her family.”

The same article quotes LGBT media expert Bob Witeck referring to Cheney’s relationship with Mary.

“It’s rare for any adult, let alone an openly lesbian daughter, and her father [to be so close],” Witeck said.

How did that closeness manifest itself in terms of public policy decisions on the part of the former White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford?

The late Randy Shilts points out in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military: “Cheney delivered [an] order to the Joint Chiefs of Staff: He did not want the services to pursue massive purges of gay personnel. Word of witch-hunting tactics had reached him… and he would have no such goings-on on his watch at the Defense Department.”

Shilts—who had previously penned the seminal bestseller And the Band Played On—also wrote about Cheney’s personal intervention in 1990 that forced the Department of the Navy to drop demands it had made for “recoupment” of tuition after three gay Midshipmen were expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy.

After resistant Navy officers tried to force another expelled gay Midshipman to repay his tuition, Shilts reports that Cheney exploded: “Goddamn it, I’ve told the military departments not to hit people up for back tuition!”

According to Shilts, Cheney sent an Assistant Defense Secretary “to repeat his orders to both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Naval Personnel that purges and recoupment proceedings cease against gay military personnel.”

Perhaps most revealing was Cheney’s reaction to the outing of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Pete Williams by The Advocate in 1991.

The result was an unheard of acknowledgement by a sitting Defense Secretary that gays were currently serving their country in uniform.

In several interviews, Cheney said that gays had always served, often with honor. He called the argument that gay and lesbian service members were security risks “sort of an old chestnut.” (In response, an amused Congressman Barney Frank told an interviewer that “if Cheney defended the United States the way he defended this policy, we would have been captured by now—by Cuba.”)

Williams not only kept his job, but a senior Pentagon official reported that Cheney had brought the matter to the attention of President George H. W. Bush, who approved keeping Williams on.

Todd Krough, a former Fort Lauderdale resident and Air Force reservist, says that Cheney’s actions as Defense Secretary had far-reaching consequences.

“This is a lot like the ‘butterfly effect,’” said Krough. “As a civilian policymaker standing up to members of the top uniformed brass, Cheney set into motion the mere idea that this is the reality of the situation, whether you like it or not.”

“That was Darth Cheney’s one moment where he actually got to resist the Dark Side of the Force,” Krough laughed, invoking the former V.P.’s nickname when he served in the Bush-43 administration.

Bruce Shevlin, a Vietnam War era veteran, agrees there was probably an element of practicality to Cheney’s position.

“You have to believe his daughter’s sexuality played a part in his own attitudes towards gay and lesbians,” he says.

“And then again,” Shevlin adds, “whenever you have boots on the ground, some of them will be wearing white socks, some of them pink.”

Soldiers Die While Taliban Plays With Boy Sex Slaves

By Cliff Dunn

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan, released earlier this year, details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns—though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually—yet they completely reject the label of “homosexual.”

The research was conducted as part of a longstanding effort to better understand Afghan culture and improve Western interaction with the local people. The report reveals some stunning other information as well.

According to the study, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man—but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”

The report also detailed a ‘traditional’ practice in which older “men of status” keep young boys on hand for sexual relationships. One of the country’s favorite sayings, the report said, is “women are for children, boys are for pleasure.”

The new report authenticates previous stories, dating back to 2002, which appeared in the Times of London. Those features noted that Kandahar, the capital city of the Taliban movement, is also the “homosexual capital of South Asia,” and that a boy-sex trade is rampant.

The Times report concluded that the “preferred pastime for wealthy and powerful Afghani men, including many former Taliban and mujahideen commanders, is the procurement of young boys as sex slaves.” Nothing in the new military study acquired by Fox News suggests anything has changed in the years since.

The boys, called ashna, beloveds, or halekon, young male lovers, have been specifically groomed for sex. Before the brutal and theocratic Taliban swept into power, the streets “were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationships,” recorded the British daily. Few deny that the practice is widespread.

The Koran imposes the death penalty for consensual relations between members of the same sex, even for cross dressing. Not just any death penalty. By tradition, one of three punishments is mandated- either burning at the stake, being pushed over the edge of a cliff, or being crushed by a toppled wall.

Many locals accuse the Taliban of hypocrisy when it comes to keeping young boys for sex slaves.“The Taliban kept it secret,” one local southern Warlord told the Los Angeles Times. “They hid their halekon in their madrasas [religious schools].”

The Los Angeles Times report included an interview with Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, who estimated that around 50% of the former Taliban stronghold’s men have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives. Zafar said the prime age at which boys are believed attractive is between 12 and 16, before their beards grow in.

He told the Los Angeles Times sometimes when the halekon grow up, “older men try to keep them in the family by marrying them to their daughters.” Zafar said he once caught a local religious leader having sex with a younger man on an examining room table in his medical office.

“If this is our mullah, what can you say for the rest?” he asked.

Outside of Kandahar

Even in Northern Afghanistan, homosexual issues have generated controversy. In 2007, Reuters reported that young Afghan boy dancers were being turned into sex slaves by wealthy and powerful patrons, often former warlords, who dress the boys up as girls, shower them with gifts and keep them as “mistresses.”

“The practice, called ‘bacha bazi’—literally ‘boy play’—has a long history in northern Afghanistan,” Reuters reported, “but sometimes it does not stop with just dancing.” Reuters interviewed numerous mujahideen fighters that admitted to the practice. One interviewee stated “The boy’s smell and fragrance kills me. I dress him in women’s clothes and have him sleep beside me. I enjoy him and he is my everything.”

“I was only 14-years old when an Uzbek commander forced me to have sex with him,” a 24-year old named Shir Mohammad told Reuters. “I am used to it. I love to dance and act like a woman and play with my owner.”

On his future plans, the sex-slave told Reuters: “Once I grow up, I will be an owner and I will have my own boys.”

“It is sad to state that this practice that includes making boys dance, sexual abuse and sometimes even selling boys, has been going on for years,” said Gen. Asadollah Amarkhil, who commands security forces in Kunduz province..

“We have taken strict measures to save the lives of the boys and punish the men,” Amarkhil insists. But there is skepticism about the likely results, since many of the owners of the boy-slaves are well-armed and powerful former mujahideen and their commanders.

Those who are found guilty of abuse could receive at least 15 years in prison. That may not be enough of a disincentive to a practice that dates back centuries.

“We know it is immoral and un-Islamic, but how can we quit?” mused a 35-year-old Afghani man to Reuters. “We do not like women, we just want boys.”

The war, meanwhile, goes on. And Americans are dying so Afghan warlords can have their boys to play with.

God Save the Queen

You may know or remember Ray Fetcho as ‘Tiny Tina.’ He is a proud gay 61 year old man who has been a licensed practical nurse for the past forty years; four decades of service to people who are ill.

Unfortunately, in 1976, while hosting a ‘Wet Jockey Shorts Night’ at the Copa, he was busted for promoting a lewd act. Today, that incident has come back to haunt him. The state has told him he can no longer be a nurse because of the conviction.

For the past 15 years, Fetcho has been an acclaimed and honored employee at Victoria Villa, an assisted living facility in Davie, recognized for his “compassionate service to the elderly.”

On March 31, 1976, Fetcho, performing as ‘Tiny Tina’ at the Copa in Dania Beach, was charged and convicted of promoting ‘lewd and lascivious’ behavior by throwing small buckets of water on boys’ briefs while hosting the irreverent ‘Wet Jockey Shorts’ contest.

Last month, that dated conviction from his past became a nightmare. Last week, Ray Fetcho was summarily fired from the job he has loved and cherished. A state licensing agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, doing a routine screening inspection of nursing home employees, told him he would be ineligible to remain on the job at his facility “because of the lewd act conviction” from thirty plus years ago.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, the Copa was the most renowned and preeminent gay bar in South Florida. It was an international destination for tourists and a ‘coming out’ venue for anyone local, gay, and seeking an all night dance club.

30 years ago, John Castelli, and his partner, the late Bill Bastiansen, were the owners of the Copa, which hosted renowned drag queens like Tiny Tina, Nikki Adams, and the late Dana Manchester.

Today, Castelli is a respected broker of Castelli and Associates in Wilton Manors. After being told of Fetcho’s plight Saturday morning, Castelli commented: “Oh my God! What century are we living in? It was such an innocent situation. The boys always wore briefs. No one was exposed. That was during the Anita Bryant era, a lifetime ago.” Castelli even remembered the incident, noting he and his partner had to bond Fetcho out of jail.

Unfortunately, those acts then have impacted Fetcho’s life today. Unless he petitions and receives an exemption for his past misconduct, the Department of Health can stop him from working anywhere in the state as an LPN, a job which has paid him close to $40,000 a year.

Lucie Eichler, his now former employer from the Villa thought the decision was equally incredible, “Fetcho has been a valuable addition to our company. He is so well-liked that he still maintains relationships with the families of residents who have since passed.”

Eichler attests to Fetcho’s, “reliability and strong ethical character,” and says that she is “sorry to see him leave.”

Ann Garfinkel, the daughter of a Victoria Villa resident, was in disbelief when informed of Fetcho’s firing. “His termination is a great loss to the residents of Victoria Villa and the nursing profession in general.” She continues, “I believe the State of Florida is making a big mistake.”

Added Linda Greenfield, “Ray took care of my mother while she was suffering from dementia at the Villa. He is the most caring and considerate nurse you can imagine; he brings patience and love and humor to his work.”

Ironically, Fetcho has a new job waiting for him in a new Coconut Creek assisted living facility. Kelley Madigan, the administrator at Dayscape, a senior activity center told SFGN, “I was Fetcho’s supervisor at the Villas for six years. He is dedicated and pleasant, dependable and compassionate. I am prepared to employ him the moment he clears this hurdle.”

Fetcho has retained long time Fort Lau­derdale constitutional rights attorney, Norm Kent, who is the publisher of SFGN. Stated Kent, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, “I promise you that this injustice will be cured and that Ray Fetcho will get an exemption- and be restored to his tenure as an LPN.” He addresses the issue in today’s SFGN editorial.

Kent has to petition the Department of Health and make a case to its administrators. He explained the legal process that Fetcho must initiate: “Employees seeking an exemption have the burden of setting forth sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including the circumstances surrounding the criminal incident for which an exemption is sought, and the time period that has elapsed since the incident, and the history of the employee since the incident,” Kent said.

For his part, Fetcho is upset and concerned about his future. “I love being a nurse and I love my job and I can’t believe this is coming back to haunt me 30 years later. It was stupid then. It is ridiculous now.”

Added Fetcho, “I should be working up to my retirement in five years, not looking back at something from the past. I never mixed my two careers together. One was show business, one was real. I had the best of both possible worlds but if I have to fight today to help some other nurse tomorrow, they are going to have to fight ‘The Queen’ in her court.”

Catching My Breath

By Joey Amato

Is there such a thing as becoming too gay? Let’s take my life for example. I am a young gay man, work in a gay town, spend much of my disposable income in gay-owned establishments and write about anything and everything gay.

This past weekend, I became concerned that my life is becoming too gay. Thinking I may have been over exaggerating, I addressed my concern with a few friends and surprisingly, they told me my thoughts were justified. My friend Mike told me that he thought it was healthy for me to feel this way and that he would be more concerned if I didn’t. My boyfriend agreed.

I don’t want to make it sound like I am not proud of being gay, but I am worried that I will morph into someone who forgets that there are other cultures outside our own.

Before accepting a position with SFGN, I lived in Delray Beach, a community that doesn’t contain any gay bars or clubs, although I was told one had closed in the past few years. Because of the minute gay population, we’re forced to blend in with the community.

Then I was invited on a life-changing date to Galanga in Wilton Manors.

I had never heard of Wilton Manors. Call me na├»ve, but I also have not travelled to gay tourist locales such as Key West, San Francisco or Fire Island, even though I used to live 30 minutes away on Long Island. When I arrived to this town, I was surprised to see the large number of rainbow flags lining the streets. It was quite astonishing actually. I didn’t know places like this existed.

Over the following months I spent more and more time in the Fort Lauderdale area and began to immerse myself in the gay community. I became involved with the GLCC Pride Center, GLBX and started attending numerous gay events. I strived to be photographed by Hotspots and 411, currently Mark’s List. The days of attending charity galas hosted by Donald Trump and Governor Charlie Crist at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach have faded.

I feel like a part of me died when I was introduced to Wilton Manors. I started neglecting a lot of things I used to love to do in favor of being gay. I started passing up the opportunity to network with professionals in Boca so I can share a drink or two with friends on the Drive. I favor partying at Living Room on Friday evening over a weekend getaway. Two years ago, I would have never even entertained the notion.

Over the past few months, I have met people who have mentioned to me that they refuse to do anything outside of the gay community. Most of these people were older, but does there come a point when we become so secure in our current surroundings that we develop a fear to venture away? That is what scares me and why I wonder if I am becoming too gay.

I don’t like segregation. I like unity. I want to be part of both worlds. How do I find the perfect balance of gay and straight? How do I find a way to combine both worlds and become whole again?