Monday, October 25, 2010

Make it Better, Marin

Doug Williams attended public school in Marin County. In this video, he talks about how principals, superintendents, teachers, and parents can make school a better place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students.

Thanks to Lacy Atkins for volunteering her time to shoot and edit this video for us; and of course to Doug for speaking!

If you live or work in Marin County, or attend school in Marin, and would like to shoot a "Make it Better, Marin" video contact Paula Pilecki at (415) 472-1945, ext. 209.

Friday, October 22, 2010

President Obama speaks to LGBTQ Youth

The White House has released this message from President Barak Obama to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Spectrum LGBT Center, along with many other organizations around the country, continues to work to make it better for all LGBTQ people right in our own community. Please join us in our work.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Support Group Forming for Marin LGBTQ Youth

Spectrum LGBT Center announces a new support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people ages 14-19. The first meeting will be on Wednesday, November 10th, 5:00 - 6:30 pm at Spectrum's offices in San Rafael.

"This group will provide a safe, supportive environment in which young people can ask questions and be themselves," says Cristin Brew, MFT, Program Director at Spectrum and facilitator of the group.  "Many teens go through a period when they have questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and will be reluctant to speak with a parent, school counselor, or friend.  This group is for them."

Parents, teachers, and school counselors are encouraged to pass the word on about this group to young people they feel would benefit from attending.  Download and print the flyer here.

For more information, call Cristin Brew, MFT at (415) 472-1945, ext. 203.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 20: Spirit Day -- Wear Purple!

On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the LGBT youth who have committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and schools. PURPLE represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality.  Read more here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rabbi Chai Levy of Congregation Kol Shofar speaks in support of gay youth

Rabbi Chai Levy, Congregation Kol Shofar
Sermon on Torah portion of Noah
October 9, 2010

Noach Ish Tzadik Tamim Haya B’dorotav. “Noah was a righteous man in his generation.” (Genesis 6:9) He was relatively righteous compared to the corrupt and violent people who lived in his generation, but he wasn’t considered all that righteous…Why? He was eager to save himself and his family from the coming flood, but he wasn’t concerned with anybody else. He let the rest of the world be destroyed. He stood idly by the blood of his neighbor, as the Torah commands us in Leviticus (19:16) not to do. Noah has been described by our tradition as a “tzadik in peltz,” a righteous man in a fur coat, meaning someone who is only concerned with keeping himself warm, while others are freezing.

We’ve all heard in the last week or two about the terrible tragedies that have taken place among young people across the country - as a result of ridicule, bullying, or despair, in most cases, because the young person was thought to be gay. Tyler Clementi was the freshman at Rutgers University, the shy and talented musician who killed himself by jumping off the GW Bridge after his college roommate invaded his privacy and posted a video of him with another man on the internet. Here in California, Seth Walsh, killed himself after relentless bullying and taunting by his peers. He was 13 years old. 15 year old Billy Lucas in Indiana, and 13 year old Asher Brown in Texas also took their own lives, unable to bear the torment of bullies.

In this parasha of Noach, we consider that being truly righteous is not just taking care of ourselves, but looking out for others, not standing by while others’ blood is shed, while others are suffering, while others are being bullied.

You young people know what goes on at school, how kids are picked on, teased, tormented. Maybe you’ve been bullied yourselves. Or maybe you’ve even been the bully at times. I know I frequently heard kids use homophobic slurs that create an unsafe and isolating environment for people. For us adults, what message are we sending to kids when we allow bullying, homophobic language, when we don’t create safe spaces for kids who are struggling with their sexual identities, or with anything else for that matter? We too are standing idly by.

At the end of the portion, after the flood, after Noah and the animals are saved, and society starts over with a second chance, God says to humanity:

“Whoever sheds the blood of a person, so shall his blood be shed. For in the image of God, did God create the human.” (Gen 9:6) And the Torah commentators understand this prohibition of murder to also include a prohibition to not publicly embarrass a person. As the verse says, each person is created in the image of God, and to cause a person to feel ashamed of who they are diminishes them and diminishes the image of God. It can also lead to bloodshed, as we’ve tragically seen too often recently:

Suicide is among the top three killers of young people, and gay and lesbian kids are four times more likely to commit suicide. Last year, 9 out of 10 gay, lesbian, or transgender middle and high school students reported having experienced verbal and/or physical harassment.

The other thing that happens after the flood is that God creates a covenant with the earth, an agreement never to destroy the earth again. And the sign of the covenant is the rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol of gay pride, originating here in San Francisco in the 1970’s – the rainbow suggests the beauty of the diversity of humanity, that people come in all different colors and stripes, and all are created in God’s image.

And there’s also another interpretation of the rainbow as a symbol, found in Maimonides and other Jewish commentators over the centuries: The rainbow is a bow, like that used to shoot arrows. It’s a weapon, but it’s a sign of peace because it’s pointed away from the earth. It shines its true colors without the threat of violence or bloodshed.

This week, I signed a pledge on behalf of our Kol Shofar community on “Keshet” online, which means “rainbow” in Hebrew and is an organization that affirms a place of dignity and honor in the Jewish community for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It’s a pledge to not stand idly by, and to commit to ending homophobic bullying and harassment and to speak out when we witness anyone being demeaned for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s a pledge to commit ourselves to do whatever we can to ensure that every person is treated with dignity and respect.

I want to say to every young person or adult that bullying, including internet and facebook bullying, spreading rumors, threatening someone physically or emotionally is cruel, it’s wrong, it’s against Judaism, and it’s dangerous, life-threatening even. We grieve for those young people whose lives were cut short because of the pain and isolation that they felt in their schools and communities. Those who bullied them and those who did nothing to ease their pain have to live out their lives knowing the tragedy of the suffering they inflicted or ignored.

And to every young person here who might be the target of bullying, whether it’s homophobic bullying or any other kind of bullying, I want to say: you are created in the image of God. You are sacred exactly as you are. You are worthy of love, you are not alone, you have a wonderful life ahead of you, and your life will get better. If you feel alone, afraid, or hopeless, please talk to an adult you trust, a parent, a teacher, you can talk to me.

May our reading of Noach remind us to be truly righteous by concerning ourselves with those who are suffering, and may God’s rainbow covenant remind us of the beauty of God’s diverse creation, all of whom deserve to live in dignity and peace.

Spectrum welcomes blog posts from religious leaders of all faiths who wish to speak out in support of LGBT young people. Email your post here for consideration.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GroundSpark offers Streaming Videos Free Until December 1

In response to the recent wave of teen suicides connected to anti-gay harassment, GroundSpark is offering four of their best documentary films for free streaming during October and November.

Their hope is that you will watch these films with your family or co-workers and make a plan to take action in your community to ensure that all youth feel safe and supported.

Use these streams as an opportunity to preview the films for your school, library, PTA, congregation, community group, or upcoming conference.

Use these films to start a dialogue with the people you care about about what’s going on in their lives and how you can help.

Let’s Get Real—about middle school name-calling, bullying, and bias

Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up—how teens are confronting our culture’s ideas of “male” and “female”

It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School—shows teachers addressing bias in K-8 classrooms

It’s STILL Elementary—a new call to action

Sign up to stream these films here.

National Coming Out Day Focuses on Youth Suicides (News Story)

Spectrum, officials draw attention to bullying, teens.
from San Rafael Patch
By Nancy Isles Nation
October 11, 2010
The Spectrum LGBT Center held a rally Monday to celebrate National Coming Out Day with a focus on young people and the bullying that has caused teens to commit suicide across the country.
Paula Pilecki, Spectrum executive director, read the names and circumstances of recent suicide victims who killed themselves after bullying.

"Gay kids are not the only ones to take their lives to suicide but they are three times more likely to," Pilecki said. "Gay teens have been struggling for quite a while."

Pilecki said she hopes to reach young people from throughout the county.

"It's time for us to come out of the closet and stand together," Pilecki said at the rally on the steps of San Rafael City Hall.

Mary Jane Burke, superintendent of Marin County schools, said it is time for everyone regardless of sexual orientation to be treated with dignity.

She said young people should be looking at dreams and toward their futures.

Vice Mayor Damon Connolly said he has two daughters at Terra Linda High and he has been talking with them about a recent suicide at their school and Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage in California.

"There's a ray of hope here," Connolly said. We are seeing young people here and their generation gets it."

Connolly referred to two recent suicides at Terra Linda High School and Miller Creek Middle School, saying this is a problem on a larger level.

The Terra Linda incident involved a 15-year-old girl. Monday, the body of a 13-year-old Miller Creek Middle School was found by another child. Neither appeared to be related to sexual orientation but they were both reminders of the vulnerability of teenagers.

"We need to teach the right values and prevent bullying," Connolly said.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spectrum LGBT Center marks National Coming Out Day with Call to Action

Marin County rallies to raise awareness about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide

SAN RAFAEL, CA -- In response to the tragic suicides by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in recent weeks, Spectrum LGBT Center has issued a call to action for Marin County residents: Come out and let our youth know they are not alone.

The rally will take place on Monday, October 11th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM on the steps of San Rafael City Hall, 1400 Fifth Avenue (between C and D Streets). The event will feature musical performances, guest speakers, and a special open mic time for youth.

The Marin rally is among thousands of national actions that will occur on October 11th, known as National Coming Out Day, which began after half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11th, 1987.

Paula Pilecki, Spectrum’s Executive Director, says this year it’s especially important to gather together on Coming Out Day. “LGBT young people need to see that they are not alone, and that there are people who will stand with them, support them, and love them unconditionally,” says Pilecki. “We call on parents, educators, faith communities, and the community at large to speak out openly in support of our young people, and against anti-gay bullying and the violence it ultimately causes.”

According to a study conducted by the California Safe Schools Coalition, harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation is pervasive throughout middle and high schools. These students typically feel less supported than their peers by adults, teachers, and other students, and have fewer resources for coping with problems. As a result, they are more likely to experience poor academic outcomes, substance use, depression and suicide.

It is common for middle and high school students to hear anti-gay slurs between 10 and 20 times a day while they are in school. According to Pilecki, this requires significant attention from teachers and administrators who will proactively enforce zero-tolerance policies toward bullying for any reason.

Anti-gay comments are often dismissed as harmless behavior by school personnel. They fail to realize the profoundly negative effect these comments have on students who may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. And, failure to address aggression toward one segment of the student population creates an unsafe learning environment for all students.”

One of the most effective ways to address this situation is to create learning environments where all young people feel safe and respected. Spectrum has created a training program that assists teachers and administrators to do just that.

“We help teachers figure out how to incorporate age-appropriate conversations about LGBT issues in the classroom, and how to talk with students about the impact of anti-gay remarks and slurs against each other,” says Pilecki.

Spectrum also manages a volunteer speakers bureau that reaches nearly 3,000 students each year. The purpose of these classroom presentations is to give students an opportunity to meet someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, a tactic that has been proven to reduce anti-gay sentiment and reduce negative stereotyping.

“All young people desperately need compassion and understanding from the adults in their lives”, says Pilecki. “We can make it better for them. Let’s not let them down.”

Come out together and make it better for all youth on National Coming Out Day

*Stand against teen suicide
*Support LGBT youth
*Create safer schools and communities for everyone

Organized by Spectrum LGBT Center, with production assistance from Shelley Champine, Local Music Vibe

Monday, October 11th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM
San Rafael City Hall, 1400 Fifth Avenue, San Rafael
Music performances by Shelley Doty, with Green and Root

About Shelley Doty: Labeled "a future legend" by one reviewer and a "guitar goddess" by another, Shelley Doty is considered one the best independent performers in the business. Watching her perform is awe-inspiring due to her masterful guitar licks, soulful voice and charismatic stage presence. As a songwriter, she creates articulate songs for today by sprinkling them with respect for the music of her youth (rock, R&B, jazz, funk). Her brand new CD "Over The Line" is now out and available via CD Baby.

About Green and Root: Their music is an intimate yet spirited mix of folk, pop and rock, with acoustic guitar based songs, dazzling harmonies and award winning songs. Their first music video for their song "Marrying You" is on the front page of and had over 1000 downloads in one week alone. The song is also being used as the theme for a documentary film seen on QTV.

Speakers (partial listing):

Cristin Brew, Spectrum LGBT Center
Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools
Lilia Chavez, Youth Leadership Institute
Damon Connolly, San Rafael City Council
Rev. Carol Hovis, Marin Interfaith Council
Rabbi Chai Levy, Congregation Kol Shofar
Maureen Sedonaen, Youth Leadership Institute
Fresh! White, Whole Life Coach
Cynthia Wuthmann, Parent and Board Member, San Rafael Public Education Foundation

Community Co-Sponsors (partial and growing list):
Community Congregational Church of Tiburon-Belvedere
Community Healing Centers, Counseling and Psychotherapy
Community Institute for Psychotherapy - Lesbians & Allies
Local Music Vibe
Marin Peace and Justice Coalition
Youth Leadership Institute

Friday, October 8, 2010


Come out in Marin on October 11th to make it better for ALL youth

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. Let’s rally together to:

*Support LGBT youth*
*Raise awareness about teen suicide*
*Build communities and schools that are safe for all our youth and families*

Gather with us on the steps of San Rafael City Hall
San Rafael City Hall Plaza – 1400 Fifth Avenue (between C and D Streets)

Music TBA

Confirmed Speakers (partial listing):
Mary Jane Burke, Superintendent, Marin County Office of Education
Damon Connolly, San Rafael City Councilmember
Paula Pilecki, Spectrum LGBT Center
Maureen Sedonaen, Youth Leadership Institute
Community Co-Sponsors: Local Music Vibe

Organized by Spectrum LGBT Center 

Complete this form to have your organization listed as a community co-sponsor.

Friday, October 1, 2010

LGBTQ Seniors the focus of City Visions Radio Show -- 10/4

Spectrum's Executive Director Paula Pilecki, and Spectrum volunteer Thom Anderson, will be among the guests on City Visions Radio, KALW 9.1 on Monday, October 4th, 7-8 PM.

The topic is LGBTQ Seniors, a population more likely than their heterosexual peers to be living in isolation and poverty, and encounter discrimination. What issues do LGBTQ elders and aging baby boomers face? How can the Bay Area community help keep our LGBTQ seniors safe and out of the closet? How and who best to navigate their needs and build cultural competency across organizations?

Other guests include Seth Kilburn, Executive Director of openhouse, and Daniel Redman, Elder Law Attorney at National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Join us to explore these issues and more on City Visions on Monday, October 4th, at 7:00p.m. on 91.7, KALW, San Francisco.  KALW is San Francisco's local public radio station.

Call in with questions or comments during the show at (415) 841-4133 or email anytime.