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Out for Good

The view from under South Hill, as interpreted by Luca

Tagged as “Center for LGBT Education Outreach and Services”

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Posted by Luca Maurer at 8:43AM   |  Add a comment
Julia Child, who is portrayed by Meryl Streep in the current movie "Julie & Julia"

The new academic year is a time of new beginnings, turning over a new leaf, making a fresh start.  There’s been a lot of attention lately to the idea of what can be done in a year. Blogs, books, and movies like:

Quite a wide range of ways to spend and document one year. So much can be accomplished in a year. So here is my challenge to you as the academic year begins: live this year in accordance with what is most important to you. Do you already have that list set in your head? Would it help to take a minute, take a breath, slow down and say “what really is important to me?” As I see it, the answers (yes, there are more than one!) are about intentionality - so that means making sure you ask the questions!

What are the values you hold dear? What is most important to you? By what principles or guidelines do you make important decisions? What are your priorities? Think about it, and then challenge yourself to live by them each day, for the next year. It might sound interesting, or fun, or even dangerous.  

So, if sustainability is important to you, and you see room for improvement – speak up. If you seek ways to find opportunities to do good, and are able to do a small kindness asked of you – do it. If someone makes a racial, or religious, or anti-gay slur – say something.  If creating community is important to you, make eye contact and share a smile with someone you walk past on the quad. If being helpful is important to you - help someone find the building they’re looking for if they look lost. If taking time for yourself to really focus on what you’re learning is important to you - carve out the time for self reflection.

Simply put, make a difference in the world – make your difference to the world. As Maggie Kuhn said, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes”. It can feel exhilarating. It can feel new. It can feel dangerous. 

The Year of Living Dangerously is also a film. It includes a fabulous Oscar-winning performance by Linda Hunt in a unique, gender-bending role. Probably a scary thing, for an actress to take on such a complicated, interesting character, especially in 1983.  Check out the trailer at the end of this post, or borrow it from the college library to see why film critics praised her incredible performance. 

This post is totally not about the film…but it’s a great film. And its title inspired me to write this post. 

Make this your year of living dangerously. Live each day as if those who are most important to you – family, mentor, hero - are watching, or living life right alongside you. Live in accordance with your compass.  Live on the edge. Try it. One day at a time. Each day. They’ll string together.

And soon enough you’ll have 101 or 311 or 406 stories, acts, days, interactions and experiences filled with integrity, truth and the expression of who you are as an intentional and thoughtful person in a world that is too commonly mindless and without a compass. And heck, then you could blog about it!

Posted by Luca Maurer at 4:26PM   |  Add a comment

As of this week, there are more than 154,000 websites with the phrase “That’s so gay.”

“That’s so gay” – an expression of anti-LGBT sentiment that is so pervasive that it’s found its way into some people’s every day speech, onto the playground, into creative public service announcements designed to encourage people to “think before you speak”…and into virtual communities as well.

Shortly after Facebook was new and novel, a student came to my office concerned about a Facebook group she had accidentally discovered. Its title, description, and other features used copious amounts of anti-LGBT slurs. It was a group of her fellow Ithaca College students, and it concerned her. As she explained, though she herself is straight she felt it demeaned others, demeaned our campus, and demeaned society.

Instances of derogatory anti-LGBT language can now also easily be found in blogs, social networking sites, online gaming, networked PC games, and even in reviews for new apps.  Users can, publicly and anonymously, pan an app, put down a site, post an offensive YouTube video, and directly bully or threaten another player using homophobic slurs - in real time.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) just hosted an event focusing on this issue, headed up by Ithaca College alumnus Justin Cole ’04, GLAAD’s Director of Digital & Online Media. He first wrote an opinion piece for a popular gaming website titled The Impact of Homophobia in Virtual Communities, and invited readers to post their questions, comments and reactions, from which to draw for the event.

The event -  Homophobia in Virtual Communities: Highlighting the Problem and Working Towards Sustainable Solutions - featured a specially created video with examples from real, publicly available online content, followed by a panel discussion of gamers, industry professionals, and media experts – folks from Electronic Arts, Microsoft's XBox LIVE program, the founder of, and other leaders in the field. The forum provided opportunities to explore the problem, as well as things companies can do to address or reduce such behavior and to create gay-friendly games, too.

Also noted at the event – a 2006 University of Illinois
survey of gay gamers that found:

  • 52.7 percent said the gaming community is "somewhat hostile" to gay and lesbian gamers; an additional 14 percent said it is "very hostile"
  •  87.7 percent reported hearing the phrase, "That's so gay," used by players
  •  83.4% reported hearing players use the words "gay" or "queer" as derogatory names.

Watch the specially created video shown at the forum.  The complete panel discussion is also available. It includes topics like:

  • being out in the industry
  • how the use of anti-LGBT slurs makes gaming less fun for everyone
  • portrayals of LGBT characters in games and issues of marketing an LGBT character/game
  • whether virtual worlds differ from other communities regarding dealing with homophobia
  • opportunities for engagement around this issue.

One reason people create, contribute and participate in virtual communities - and live, work and play in them - is because it’s fun. Be creative. Be original. Use your vocabulary. Describe what you like or do not like. Say things to psych out live gaming opponents in the spirit of strategy, competition and goodwill. And do it without resorting to name-calling and putdowns as a short hand for things you do not like. 

A reviewer that says an app “is for homos” doesn’t really tell me much – should I download it immediately because it has vital gay secrets I ought to know…or is the anonymous poster being a lackluster, uncreative coward? Hard to know – and there’s a big difference.

Posted by Luca Maurer at 10:40AM   |  Add a comment

Wondering what to do with your lazy, hazy July days? Whether you are working, playing, studying, or some combination of all three, this month is a unique time to take stock, make plans, and perhaps make changes. Here are some suggestions for things to do with your July days:

1. Dream
Summer offers an extended period of time to dream - ideas for the future, ideas for your future, ideas for your student organization, ideas for an innovation or invention, ideas for redecorating your residence hall room or apartment...My current career didn't exist when I was a student - where do you see yourself after graduation? In an established field? In a still emerging field, or perhaps in a career that does not yet exist?  What's important to you in life?  How can you get there?  Dream!

2. Wonder
Take some time to look up at the sky, look up at the moon, look around your surroundings. What came before you? What is yet to come? What things do we take for granted that only a few short decades or years ago were only a dream or idea?  Experience the wonder of everyday things, or of the universe!

3. Explore
Explore places, near or far. Get off the train one stop before or after your usual stop.  Explore the backyard or a park.  Check out what is nearby that you haven't had the time or inclination to try before - go to the symphony, theatre, or zoo in your city or a nearby place.  

4. Read
Items one through 3 above can also be applied to this item! Read for pleasure rather than studying; or read a book you've been meaning to get to for awhile but haven't had the time.  Or, read the book our incoming first year students are reading.  Better yet, read to a child - a younger brother or sister, niece or nephew, cousin - experience and share the joy of reading with a child.

5. Train
Get outside and get active! Run, walk, bike, swim - a whole slate of races, competitions, and benefits are coming up soon:The Cancer Resource Center's 5K run and walk, the Cayuga Lake Triatlon, Hospicare's Women Swimmin', the AIDS Ride for Life, or something taking place where ever you are this summer. Set a goal, increase your fitness, try something new or challenging!

6. Breathe
Yes, simple but effective. Minds and bodies require oxygen. Sometimes stress can cause us to not fully engage in this important (and required!) activity. Better yet, learn and practice breathing techniques to increase relaxation and positive emotions with these audio tracks from the Counseling Center!

7. Let it go
Try letting go of the slights against you from the past day, the past week, the past semester. A remark or action of a professor, another student, a family member or friend - some of the slights we hold onto may have been unintentional or even well-meaning but just a little off - many can hold us back even as the world moves on. Let go of a slight - a very real one, or perhaps one that stung at the time stung but now has passed and is just not useful for you to hang onto anymore. Use that energy for something else this month!

8. Try Something New
A new hobby, a new skill, a new use for your time, a new wellness practice. You know what it is you've been wanting to do - try it out now!

9. Serve
(This blog is called Out for Good, remember?) Help someone else, regularly or just once, volunteer formally or informally, LGBT or non-LGBT. Just do it. Your contribution matters. You matter. Share the gift of your time, your knowledge, your caring. Make a difference in the world!

10. Rest & Recharge
Try out meditation, relaxation, and visualization practices on your own, or with the help of the Counseling Center (see #6). Take time for yourself, spend time with friends, do things that help you feel good. Everyone needs time to relax and rejuvenate - especially student scholars and leaders! Do if for yourself, do it for those around you, do it to get energized for the coming year!

That's it - ten tips. Try one, a few, or all ten. And now are you wondering, what do I do in July? See numbers 1 - 10, above!


Posted by Luca Maurer at 8:59PM   |  Add a comment

Around this time all over the world, LGBT and Allied people celebrate Pride with special festivals, parades, and events. These celebrations happen each year to commemorate something called the Stonewall Rebellion - viewed as a turning point for LGBT equality.

The Stonewall Rebellion was a series of riots - spontaneous, violent conflicts between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied people and police, that took place for several days beginning in June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. This was one of the first times that LGBTA people fought back against overt discrimination and violence in the United States. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Forty years ago, there were no out LGBT elected officials, no laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, no Will and Grace, no L Word, no LOGO Channel, no civil unions, no controversy over gay marriage (because there was no gay marriage), and no campus-based LGBT Centers anywhere in the country. (The first campus-based center came along two years after the events at the Stonewall Inn. A little pop quiz - anyone know at which institution of higher education this first occurred?)

Though there were other major clashes, as well as peaceful demonstrations, that took place in American cities before Stonewall, Stonewall is usually cited as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement.

Celebrate Pride 2009 by learning more about pre-Stonewall events as well as the Stonewall Rebellion. The film “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria” (shown on campus as part of the "Out of the Closet and Onto the Screen" film series) can be previewed here. The film documents events that took place in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in 1966. And for a bit of east coast history, Philadelphia had been observing "Annual Reminder Day" each year for several years before Stonewall. The city of Philadelphia has erected a historic marker commemorating the Annual Reminder Day and its organizers, and has a special section of its tourism website devoted to Philadelphia LGBT history.

To learn more about Stonewall, the program In the Life has created a special podcast episode commemorating the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. Also this year, a plaque listing the names of 40 current day people engaged in the continuing quest for full LGBT equality will be placed at the Stonewall Inn next week.

To find a Pride event closest to where ever you are this summer, consult an online pride calendar. And no matter where you are this month, happy Pride! Have pride in who you are, in our communities, and in all that has been accomplished over the last forty years!

Posted by Luca Maurer at 8:31PM   |  Add a comment

When I was a very small child, one of my favorite songs was Georgy Girl by the Seekers.

It told the tale of Georgy, a woman who projected one image to the world, but who had a very different concealed inner self striving to break free. Whenever it played on the radio, I would sing along at the very top of my (little childhood) lungs.

Much later I realized the tune had a double meaning of sorts. In fact, that ambiguous play on words was later recognized by the creators of the documentary film Georgie Girl, who used the song in the film as well as borrowing its title.   It’s about New Zealander Georgina Beyer, who captured the world’s attention in 1999 by becoming the first transgender person to hold national office. (The film was also featured as part of the LGBT Center’s Out of the Closet and Onto the Screen film series.)

Why all this about an old song and a new-ish documentary film? Because these last few weeks, a new song has come along. A country tune by Phil Vassar currently climbing the charts, and one that is as crystal clear in its subject matter as Georgy Girl was ambiguous. It’s called Bobbi with an I, and it’s unabashedly and without any doubt about a cross dresser. It’s the featured song on Phil Vassar’s website and his myspace page right now, take a listen.

There haven’t been all that many songs about cross-dressing people; in fact I can only think of a handful - and none of the country music variety. Bobbi, according to the song, isn’t “just one of the guys” – he’s a former football star, can bench-press more than 300 pounds, and can be found driving a tow truck by day and wearing a pink party dress on Friday nights. Perhaps the most interesting lyrics of the song describe Bobbi’s friends explaining matter-of-factly “we live and let live, that’s how it is, nobody gives a second thought these days.”

And perhaps even more noteworthy are some of the comments shared by listeners about this new tune, such as:

“Bobby sounds like a great guy. The kind who’s always on your side. The kind who’d never leave his friends behind."

“omg i heard this and was like did i just hear him right???then i listened and liked least he is being real and singing bout real life. I commend him. ...It might not be our thing to live but life happens.”

Life happens indeed. And sometimes music, of all genres and varieties, helps us interpret and make sense of life. What’s important, what’s not, and how to tell the difference.

Phil Vassar performs the song:

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