Except it wasn't so secret. Along with other Bilerico contributors Bil Browning, Jerame Davis, Adam Bink, Joe Mirabella, and Karen Ocamb; I attended an LGBTQ journalist, editor and blogger summit in San Francisco sponsored by the Haas Jr. Fund, an organization that promotes - among other goals - LGBTQ equality & community health and immigration reform.
Over the course of the day, we were introduced to leaders of social justice organizations and services from across America to discuss the work they're doing and need bloggers' and journalists' assistance in promoting.
Organizations like CAUSA in Oregon, an extremely LGBTQ+ immigration reform coalition in the Northwest. We were joined by Aeryca Steinbaum who described ways that CAUSA forged coalitions between LGBTQ leaders in Oregon and immigration groups in Oregon - a far cry from last year's disastrous encounter at the same conference with leadership from the National Immigration Forum. Go ahead and look at their home page right now - LGBT equality is a main heading. Awesome.
Aeryca shared stories about how LGBTQ-specific programming was blended into all training and programing at all levels in CAUSA, assuring the leadership in this very grassroots organization was highly competent in addressing the unique needs of queer asylum seekers, undocumented LGBTQ youngsters seeking to stay in the only country they know, and same-sex binational couples. CAUSA is doing some tremendous work that all immigration and LGBTQ advocacy groups could learn from.
We also heard from Carl Siciliano, the founder and Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center in New York City, who you may recall received $300,000 from the estate of Bea Arthur after her death in 2009 in order to further their work with homeless LGBTQ youth. Siciliano spoke of the tremendous need for more resources for queer homeless youth and the danger they are facing in the current New York state budget that may completely shut them down. I was shocked to learn there are only about 200 beds for homeless LGBTQ youth in the entire country. The situation faced by homeless LGBTQ youth is absolutely dire. Living on the streets is incredibly dangerous - Ali Forney, the Center's namesake, was murdered a decade ago, a fate shared by a countless number of homeless LGBT youth.
During our lunch time, Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights updated us on the various so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' federal cases, as well as the oft-discussed Perry v Schwarzenegger Prop 8 federal case - including efforts to lift the injunction on Judge Walker's stay on enforcing Proposition 8 in California; this would result in the re-institution of marriage equality in California while the case slowly winds its way up to the Supreme Court. I would love to fill you in on our update, but I'd rather give you more in-depth information on SameSexSunday.
Finally, we heard from Jason Cianciotto, co-author of LGBT Youth in America's Schools, and Caitlin Ryan, the Director of the Family Acceptance Project, who both discussed efforts to improve the treatment of LGBT kids in the two places they spend most of their time - at school and at home. Caitlin brought the room to sobs when she shared with us an extremely moving video called "Always My Son" about the struggles of Ed & Elizabeth Plata, founders of The Place, an organization for parents coming to terms with accepting their LGBTQ child.
After the video finished (but before we were able to wipe our eyes) Caitlin introduced Ed & Elizabeth Plata who had been seated quietly in a back corner of the room. We were all truly moved by their story of accepting their gay son and becoming advocates for LGBTQ youth and their parents. You will be moved to after you see this video. Don't argue, just watch.
Attendees of the summit tweeted about the summit's content throughout the day using the hashtag #Haas11 to quote speakers, react to content and try to include those who wanted to be there but couldn't. I offered to take questions from folks who were not present and got some good questions about LGBTQ seniors, LGBTQ homeless youth and LGBTQ suicide prevention - all of which I asked from the guests there on behalf of my Twitter friends from across America.
What will the outcome be? The new media and journalism leaders of our movement have been caught up on some of the most pressing issues facing our community by those right on the front lines. Last year, when we convened in New York City to discuss immigration reform, LGBTQ bloggers were rarely ever covering LGBTQ immigration issues. Quickly after the summit last year, conversations changed. Conversations began right here on Bilerico.com about the need to create coalitions with the immigration reform community. Those conversations started happening on other blogs as well.
By the summer, many of the major organizations, like the Task Force and NCLR had come out strongly as partners in the Immigration Reform community, and many of the LGBTQ blogs carried the saga of trying to pass the DREAM Act among their posts throughout the summer and fall. Then this winter - despite defeat on the DREAM Act in December - we saw some aggressive action on LGBTQ-specific immigration issues based around the Department of Justice's shift on defending DOMA in federal court by both Immigration Equality (which announced they'd be pursuing a federal challenge of the law in the 1st or 2nd Circuit) and Masliah & Soloway's "Stop The Deportations" DOMA project.
I'm also curious about what you, our audience, thinks we need to say about these issues. Do you have experience working with youth who have been rejected by their families, or same-sex binational couples struggling to keep their families together? Have you ever been a homeless youth? What do bloggers need to know about your experience? How can we make connections for our public?