(Crystal A. Proxmire, 10/19/2011)
Judy Lewis of the Jewish Gay Network has a vision of unity in the LGBT community. She and representatives of over 30 organizations hosted a large Coming Out for Equality Event on Oct 11 at Level One Bank in Ferndale.
For nearly two hours members of the community stepped forward and shared what their respective groups were working on to further the cause of acceptance and equality.
“Because we all play in our own little sandboxes and don’t like to share our toys, the bad guys are winning,” Lewis said. The Jewish Gay Network and Michigan Fairness Forum are just two of the many initiatives Lewis is involved in. The mission of the Fairness Forum is to develop, implement and maintain a strategic framework that enables Michigan LGBTQ and Ally organizations and individuals to make optimal use of statewide resources and attain full equality.
Jim Toy spoke about founding the Detroit Gay Liberation Movement 41 years ago, and marveled at the growth of the organizations around him. On behalf of Michigan Fairness Forum, Toy presented the Kathleen Russel Vision Award to Dr. Faye Schuett, saying she is a person with “a goal of challenging others to see issues in the bigger context. Schuett, a faculty director and professor of English at Schoolcraft College, traveled statewide to promote the Michigan LGBTQ Survey, striving tirelessly to determine the needs of the community.
“We formed the group in 2004 and 2005 after Prop 2 passed by popular vote,” Schuett said. “It was such a disappointment to our community that we never waned anything like it to happen again.” Since then four summits have brought over 40 organizations together to talk about the issues affecting them.
Arlene Kish was presented with The Howard Israel Community Award for her work on behalf of many organizations, including Transgender Life Support at Affirmations, PFLAG Downriver, Transgender Michigan, Transgender Detroit, and Michigan Task Force. Kish had her gender affirming surgery on Jan 11, 2010 and is still married. She and her wife now have two grandchildren.
Kish also credited her partner for her role in supporting her. “There are so many stories of people who loose family when they transition, and the heartaches people go through. But mine was not one of them. I have been very loved and supported.”
Curtis Lipscomb of KICK, The Agency for Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Transgender African-Americans, got the James W. Toy Justice Award. As founder and publisher of KICK Magazine, co-chair and member of Creating Change Conference, and member of AIDS Partnership Michigan, Lipscome has been a strong voice for the black gay community, and was said to be “a bottomless cup of compassion”
The awards were a small part of the celebration as people came one-by-one to share who they are and what they do.
Among those who spoke was Nusrat Ventemilia of Equality Michigan, who said that her group works to promote equality by advocating for victims of hate crimes. “Since 2009 we’ve been referring hate crimes to the FBI. Because even though Michigan does not recognize hate crimes, the FBI does.” Equality Michigan also announced that they have endorsed 16 candidates across the state in the 2011 elections.
Ed Burns of the Ferndale Public Library talked about the Library’s inclusive programming, including a regular gay book club and an upcoming visit from Tracy St. James, who will be screening a 2001 documentary “Tracy St. James and the New Femmes” on Wed. Oct. 19 at 7:30 pm.
Jay Kaplan of the ACLU explained the legal services they offer defending those whose civil rights were violated. Glenda Frank of Agape Spirit Life Ministries invited everyone out to their worship services, saying “particularly in the African American LGBT community there are precious few African American congregations that are openly gay affirming. …But being accepted is part of your well-being. We provide a place where same gender loving couples can do so openly.”
Another upcoming even is the LGBT Youth Summit for Gay Straight Alliances in schools. It’s an all-day event on Oct 29 at Groves High School that is hosted by GLSEN SE Michigan to empower youth. Jane Kelly introduced the event and also said GLSEN has been doing anti-bias training for teachers, and that their primary focus has been in Macomb County.
While the groups gave announcements and enjoyed snacks, out front (the)fundamentalist used the Level One parking lot as a stage, attracting Downtown Ferndale passersby to the prideful event with their lively, fun musical performance.
Lewis said to be on the lookout for more events that cross community lines, and more ways for groups to work together. “We really should get together more often,” she said.