May 22 Harvey Milk Day in California

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In 1977, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to win political office in California. Elected, after two earlier failed attempts, to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was assassinated in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by former Board member Dan White.

In 2009, the California legislature passed SB 572. Signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger, the bill designates May 22, Milk’s birthday, as a “day of special significance” for public schools.

“Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored.

“There’s no requirement of any school to do anything. We hope that Harvey Milk Day would provide for an opportunity for teachers to share with their students why the governor has declared May 22 to be a special day…. We believe that with this additional information, LGBT students would have ever more reason to be proud of who they are and that straight students would understand this has been a civil rights battle, and thereby raising their consciousness as well, likely decreasing the amount of violence and bullying that goes on.” – Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)  –  California Teacher’s Association.

Harvey Milk, in a recording made shortly before his assassination, said “I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.

Milk’s legacy reaches down to us today, even here in Tulare County. Last year’s opening of The Source LGBT+ Center, in a region that shines a bright red on the political map, is a sign of Milk’s influence decades after his death. Last Saturday saw the first Pride Prom in Tulare County, welcoming LGBT+ students to a night of dancing, fun, and entertainment. Fifty-five students attended, and expressed their excitement and appreciation for an event that not only allowed them to be themselves, but reminded them that, as Milk said, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

On June 24, Visalia and Tulare County will see another Pride event, when The Source LGBT+ Center holds what promises to be the largest and most exciting one yet. In the tradition of Family Fest and Pride in the Park, Visalia Pride will continue and build on the history of the LGBT+ community. Details can be found at PrideVisalia.org.

Harvey Milk‘s influence can still be felt in Visalia.  PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties, Visalia Pride Lions, The Source LGBT+ Center, LGBT bowling leagues, the Skittles softball team, the Tuesday Evening Dining Group, and others all attest to the progress made in the years since Milk’s death.

The recent flurry of anti-LGBT legislation being introduced in state legislatures across the United States demonstrates that Milk’s struggle is not over.  Changes in the Federal government being brought about by the Trump administration portend more obstacles to overcome. With radical right wing appointments to Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the battle for the civil rights of the LGBT community will continue. The spirit of Harvey Milk will be with all those who stand up and fight for what is right and just.

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. You continue to give them hope.

“Surviving the Silence” Love, Duty, and Hiding in Plain Sight

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Colonel Pat Thompson and her wife Barbara Brass are the subjects of an upcoming documentary “Surviving the Silence” and will be the featured speakers at the May meeting of PFLAG Tulare & Kings Counties. Their relationship began before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and was complicated by Col. Pat’s military duties.

In the summer of 1992, Colonel Pat Thompson was a decorated military nurse, only two years away from retirement.
Then came her toughest assignment: presiding over the dismissal hearing of Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer. 

The hearing was held before DADT came into effect in 1994, when it was military regulation that homosexuality was reason for dismissal from the Armed Forces.

“Pat faced an impossible choice,” said Colonel Cammermeyer. “She could have come out and then there would have been two of us dismissed without recourse, or, she could fulfill her duty in a way that allowed me the best possible defense. By presiding over the board, Pat had a profound impact on my ability to get into Federal Court and make my reinstatement possible. And in doing so, she played an important role in enabling us to move forward to finally get the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Stepping out of the shadows, for the first time on film, Colonel Pat Thompson and Barb Brass share how they survived the silence and lengthy separations.

And,  Colonel Cammermeyer reveals why she considers Pat a hero. – website for “Surviving the Silence” movie.

Pat and Barbara will be the guest speakers, recounting the story of their partnership, marriage, military service, and being the subjects of the upcoming movie.

The May meeting for PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties is Sunday the 21st, 3-5 pm, at Congregation B’nai David, 1039 S. Chinowth, Visalia. Held in the Educational and Cultural Center, refreshments will be served.

PFLAG provides a safe and confidential space place to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, and works to build a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

There is no cost to attend, and membership is optional.

PFLAG Tulare and Kings Counties is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status.

Image: (l-r) Colonel Pat Thompson (retired), Cindy L. Abel – director/producer, Barbara Brass

I am a member of the Board of Directors, PFLAG Tulare and Kings Counties. – Jim Reeves

Trolling the obits in the name of God

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On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, my mother passed away.  In the course of making arrangements, I placed an obituary in the Visalia Times Delta.  One of the benefits of the Internet is having that announcement posted online, available for family and friends to see and leave condolences. It’s become apparent that certain “Christians” also troll those online announcements, for purposes of proselytization. On Monday, May 15, my sister in Kansas received the letter shown above. Here is the text of that letter:

May 11, 2017
To the Family of Wanda Reeves:
I would like to extend my condolences for the death of your loved one. I saw the obituary online in Legacy.com. The death of a loved one can affect us deeply and it may seem that we will never be able to cope. But, did you know that death is not necessarily the end of everything? The Bible compares death to sleep (Psalms 13:3; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:60). When you are fast asleep, you are not aware of the occurrences around you. Likewise, our dead loved ones are not conscious of anything (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6). Yet the Bible teaches that God can awaken the dead as if from sleep and give them life again (Job 14:13-15). For those whom God resurrects, death is not the end of everything. If you would like more information on what hope there is for our dead loved ones, please visit http://www.jw.org and search “What Hope is There for the Dead?” or type this link into your browser: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/good-news-from-god/what-hope-for-the-dead/. I sincerely hope that you have found this letter comforting.
Warmly, Mrs. Na’Ieshah Aaron

To say my family was not pleased to get such a letter is an understatement.

Our beliefs range from my solid atheism, various spiritual-but-not-religious beliefs, to your more mainstream versions of Christianity (at least in our extended family).  I find trolling obituaries and then researching online to find mailing addresses in order to send religious tracts objectionable in the extreme.

With no clue as to what our family’s beliefs might be, this Jehovah’s Witness Church in Birmingham, Alabama, took it upon itself to intrude into our mourning with unsolicited religious dogma. The insensitivity and arrogance of this mindset is appalling. I can only wonder how often this “church” scours the Internet to find people like us to send this come-on for their mythology.

Can they, and others who peddle these myths, think anyone in the United States, or the rest of the developed world for that matter, hasn’t heard about their dogma? Do they really think it’s appropriate to start preaching at people in these situations? Would they appreciate me sending them information on atheism immediately after someone they cared for died? I wonder how I would be received if I knocked on their door early some morning, wanting to talk about how the universe has no need for gods?

I will give them one point, however, for an apparent variation in the Christian mythos. On the page link listed in the letter, talking about the dead, they appear not to believe in hellfire for eternity. That’s, at least, an improvement over most other versions of the Jesus/God myth.  The page also contradicts the commonly held thoughts about the recently departed watching us from heaven, waiting for us to join them. (This is where I expect to get the “they’re not *REAL* Christians” blow-back from other Jesus sects)

Still, I’m not interested in their “church”, or it’s teachings.

Especially not at a time like this.

Nunes votes ‘Yes’ on Trumpcare, bill headed for Senate

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Our Representative in the House, Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) voted in support of Trumpcare. In a district with high numbers of residents who rely on Medicaid, Nunes has voted to pull the rug out from under them. Also to feel the negative effects will be our three primary hospitals in Tulare County, Kaweah Delta Medical Center, Tulare Regional Medical Center, and Sierra View Medical Center. Reports indicate that the lowered Medicaid reimbursements for various procedures to medical facilities (part of the ACA, aka Obamacare)  will not rise, but the number of people being seen under Medicaid coverage will drop as people are thrown off the roles. This will have the effect of cutting hospital income, while increasing the number of uninsured patients these hospitals will have to treat.

President Trump and the GOP, including Nunes, claim their plan will lower insurance premiums, lower co-pays, and cover more people. They have yet to explain how their plan will accomplish that, and, after howling loudly and persistently about a rush to pass the ACA during the Obama administration, have rushed this plan through the House before the Congressional Budget Office could analyze the details and offer it’s projections. (probably because of the really bad press the previous version generated when they waited for the CBO’s analysis. This time it would have most likely been worse.)

They also completely ignored their own Pledge to America, that statesWe will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. No more hiding legislative language from the minority party, opponents, and the public. Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on.”  If Devin Nunes objected to the path this bill took to passage in the House, I’ve missed it in all of the reporting.

This bill is almost certainly DOA in the Senate. They will not be able to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes to pass it, so the only alternative is for the GOP leadership to somehow manipulate or change the rules to achieve a 51 vote passage.

The hypocrisy of the GOP in the passage of this bill is astounding. Everything they complained about in the passage of the ACA was done here, in spades. Everything they have promised, lower premiums, lower co-pays, and more people covered, is false. Promises of coverage for pre-existing conditions will be gone. Higher rates for the elderly. Mandated higher rates (30%) for those who experience a break in their coverage for more than 62 days.  Fewer people covered by Medicaid.

The only thing Nunes and his buddies in the House have accomplished is to scare a lot of people, preen before their base (or at least those that haven’t figured out how hard this is going to hit them just yet), and to throw themselves a party in the Rose Garden.

Of course, if you’re a rich person, you’ll do very well. Huge tax cuts will more than offset any premium hikes you might experience in your health insurance coverage. And of course, if you’re a member of Congress, or on a Senator or Representative’s staff, you’re exempt.

Visalia LGBT+ Center to celebrate 1st anniversary

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On Friday, May 5, 2017, The Source LGBT+ Center will celebrate it’s 1st anniversary serving the residents of Tulare and Kings Counties. In conjunction with the Arts Consortium, The Source will again participate in the F1rst Friday art show in downtown Visalia.

Works by local LGBT+ artists will be on display in the newly expanded and updated community center. These works will continue to be displayed in the Center for those who can’t make the Friday event, and visitors are always welcome.  The Center is open Tuesday through Friday, 3pm to 6pm. Located at 208 W. Main Street, Suite B (downstairs), Visalia.

A lot has happened in the past year, exceeding even the founding Board’s wildest expectations.  The first fundraising drive was so successful, and rapid, that the target amount on the online site had to be raised three times! Just last month, a 24 hour national online fundraising drive raised over $12,000. The Source placed second in it’s category, competing against 94 other organizations across the United States, winning an additional $5,000 prize from the sponsoring group. Local support, by individuals, businesses, governmental agencies, churches, doctors and their medical organizations, and other non-profits has been phenomenal. Support groups use The Source’s facilities for meetings, with several a week being hosted. A scholarship program is awarding funds to deserving students looking to continue their education. This weekend The Source will hold the Bill Frolli Memorial Pride Ride in Visalia. Frolli was a founding Board member, and served as the Center’s first secretary. He passed away recently, and the Pride Ride is now held in his honor. (Information and registration here)

The Source looks forward to it’s second year serving the LGBT+ community, and is continuing it’s outreach and education efforts. The community is invited to the anniversary event, where Board, staff, and volunteers will be available to talk to the public about the Center. Refreshments will be served.

Event: Happy F1rst Birthday

Location: The Source LGBT+ Center, 208 W. Main, Suite B (downstairs in the Montgomery Square)

Time: 5:30 pm till 8:00 pm

Information: https://www.facebook.com/events/149474925586117/

Web page: http://thesourcelgbt.org/

OUTside Pride Event – Kaweah Oaks Preserve and the LGBT community

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Visalia Pride Lions, theSOURCE LGBT+ Center, PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties, and COS Pride will join forces with the Sequoia Riverlands Trust for a Saturday morning of public service. Members of the LGBT+ community are invited (so are you, it’s an inclusive event!) to spend the morning working to improve the Outside Creek portion of the Kaweah Oaks Preserve.

The operation begins Saturday morning, April 29, 2017, at 9am. Gather at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve, on Road 182, just north of Highway 198. There’s going to be a BBQ afterwards, at noon, so please register on the Facebook event page, here.

Bring work gloves, wear long pants and sturdy shoes, layered work clothing, and be ready to get dirty!

Info: sequoiariverlands.org

Scholarship opportunities for LGBT+ youth

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TheSOURCE LGBT+ Center and PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties have scholarships available for students entering accredited colleges, universities, and trade schools.

Eligible students are those who are LGBT+ or allies, have demonstrated support for the LGBT+ community by community service, and meet other criteria. (Check each organization for particulars)

PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties application can be found at their Facebook page, in the ‘files’ section (here). 2 – 3 $500 scholarships are available.  Applications are due by April 30, 2017. High School and Community College counselors have applications available. Email questions to pflagtularekings@gmail.com. Message phone 559-579-1101

TheSOURCE LGBT+ Center has two (2) $250 scholarships available. Applications are due by May 31, 2017. A downloadable PDF of the application form is available here. You can also pick up an application at the center’s office, 208 W. Main St, Suite B (downstairs), Visalia. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 3pm till 6pm.  (The Source is closed until Tuesday April 25 for remodeling work.) Email questions to scholarship@thesourcelgbt.org.  Phone 559-429-4277

PFLAG provides a safe and confidential space place to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, and works to build a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. There is no cost to attend, and membership is optional.

PFLAG Tulare and Kings Counties is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status.

At theSOURCE LGBT+ Center, our MISSION is to provide spaces within our communities for the LGBT+ population to
Learn, Grow, Belong, Transform, Question + Support.

Our VISION is to cultivate new resources through advocacy, partnerships and fundraising to unite and advance the LGBT+ community in Tulare & Kings Counties. 

theSOURCE LGBT+ Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.