This Week in LGBT Alaska 2/27/09

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News.


Juneau Pride Chorus concert and dance 2/28, 7:30 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

Men's Movie Night 2/28, 7 p.m. Email SEAGLA for location.

SEAGLA Social Fridays (6-8 p.m.) for GLBT people and our friends over 21 at The Imperial Bar. 


Mardi Gras Party at Jeff's House 2/28, 9 p.m. with DJ White Chocolate. 21 and over.

Mat-Su Valley

Mat-Su LGBT Community Center social group, Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Vagabond Blues in Palmer.


First Sunday of Lent with Rev. Norman Van Manen and MCC Anchorage 3/1, 2 p.m.

Transgendered Alaskans' Social Group (TASG), meets Sundays 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the GLCCA.

LGB and T Resources for Schools and Staff in Alaska

As reported last week, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District passed a motion to include "gender identity" as a protected group in all six non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies at their Feb 17 meeting. 

"Quite a few people testified," writes Tim Stallard. "Those testifying against the change ... mainly expressed concerns about bathroom usage and why we need to define new groups for protection from discrimination." He asks us to email the school board and thank them for their courageous vote. 

Now that the policy is in place, Barbara McCarthy wants to encourage the school board to provide good resources and training for teachers, administrators and staff on gender identity. She asked Bent's readers, "Do you know of a good teacher/administrator in-service training program on gender identity discrimination and harassment in the schools?" Do we have people in Alaska trained to facilitate these programs?

Since then, we've received great program ideas, and offers of help from Alaskans who are trained to lead workshops on LGBT issues in schools or are willing to share their personal experiences with gender identity:
  • Fairbanks school counselors Jeff Walters and Lynn Harrison offered to plan the trainings. Jeff co-sponsors the Gay-Straight Alliance at West Valley High School.
  • The founders of Transgendered Alaskans Social Group (TASG) offered to share their personal stories at the workshops. 
  • Laura in Anchorage found a good Transgender workshop posted online by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
  • Sara Boesser in Juneau sent the link for the revised GLSEN Lunchbox, a training program for ending anti-LGBT bias in schools, created by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
  • Jackie Buckley participated in the GLSEN training several years ago in Anchorage and mentioned that the original program does not include the gender identity materials added to the revised version, but we can update our materials. 
  • Jackie works with Anchorage PFLAG to support parents and the Identity Advocacy Team, which speaks to local schools and organizations. She suggested PFLAG's Safe Schools program as another good resource.
Jeff also attended the GLSEN training and used the materials for teacher inservices. He will pull together ideas from these suggestions, other established programs, and feedback from students to develop an inservice plan. "The students are interested in issues of gender identity," he wrote "and have given us GREAT ideas and input from their perspective for other trainings in the past."

This is what I've learned:
  • We have access to good resources on LGB *and* T issues in schools. 
  • We have teachers and counselors who are trained to lead the programs.
  • We have Alaskans who will share their personal stories of being LGB *and* T with students and staff.
  • We have students, parents and staff who are interested in the issues.
  • And we have a school board in Fairbanks that is willing to protect LGB *and* T students from discrimination and harassment.
It's a good start. So when Anchorage, Juneau and other school districts in Alaska add "gender identity" to their policies, we will know who to contact.

Thanks to everyone who responded. That was - and continues to be - a great team effort.

Greetings from Pastor Norman Van Manen

Reverend Norman Van Manen was installed as Development Pastor of MCC Anchorage on Feb. 15 in the presence of over forty members of the LGBT-inclusive church. Van Manen visited in mid-December as a pastoral candidate and was appointed soon after, due to the positive response by church and community members.

Pastor Van Manen wrote a special greeting for readers of Bent Alaska and Alaska GLBT News:
"I am new to Alaska by only a few days. As I settle in and become acquainted with the GLBTQ community, I am looking forward to meeting you. I have already discovered that Alaska is not an easy place to find comfort in being the person you were born to be. It is my goal that all who worship at MCC Anchorage will find self esteem, love from others, and always feel loved by God. I am looking forward to working with you and listening to your stories." 
Reverend Van Manen brings 41 years of ministry experience to MCC Anchorage and to the community. Van Manen's Pastoral Ponderings for this week are posted on the MCCA site:
"It is a revising and adjusting time for me. I still have to remind myself when I awaken in the morning that I am in Anchorage, Alaska. I was expecting to see water to the south and mountains to the north but instead the Cook Inlet is to the west (water) and the Mountains are to the east. What an awesome sight it was for me to see Mount McKinley from a high place for the first time a few days ago. It is 300 miles from here.

"MCC Anchorage has a great spirit of  embodiment and I am impressed with your warmth and kindness. Our worship is exciting and I am looking forward to the second message in a Sermon Series entitled The Week That Changed The World. This week's message is entitled The Day of Authority.

"This series of messages will take us up to and including Easter Sunday. On Thursday nights, we have a program that is called Step by Step. This is a Bible Study time with much discussion. We are looking at the foundation of our faith at the moment and you are all most welcome to attend. We have soup at 6:30 p.m. and begin Bible Study at 7 p.m. Please bring your Bible and a pen or pencil.

"I am looking forward to meeting with the Board of Directors this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. for our first official meeting. There is much to talk about and much to plan. We have great and exciting days ahead. I have each of you in my prayers."
The MCC Sunday service begins at 2 p.m. Photos of the Consecration and Laying of Hands ceremony at the installation of Rev. Van Manen are posted on the Metropolitan Community Church web site, which was recently up-graded by webmaster Matthew Moak.

MILK at the Oscars

"Milk" won two Oscars on Sunday: Best Actor for Sean Penn, and Best Screenplay for Dustin Lance Black! 

Check out Black's acceptance speech. He thanked the people who made the film, told how Harvey gave him hope as a gay teenager, and passed that hope to gay teens today. He mentioned marriage and equal rights in that context. 

Was that too political, or was it appropriate for a film about a gay rights leader?

Gay Alaskan Seeks Northern Community

Alaskans know about isolation. So do gays. LGBT Alaskans can easily find ourselves in a beautiful but remote place, cut off from the visible queer communities in the Lower 48.

Jerod Opsal is a gay man from Idaho, now living on an island in Southeast Alaska. He is an author, photographer and health care worker who writes The Northern Vox, a blog on liberal politics and human rights.

Last week, Jerod posted "A Gay Community in Alaska?"
After living in Southeast Alaska now for six months, it is time to weigh-in about living gay in Alaska.

I definitely find myself still a little cautious about being "open" about my sexuality. It is interesting as I know everyone that lives on my little rock of 1400 people. They all know that I am Gay. I write a human rights political blog that is very searchable, I am the author of a book on religion and sexuality (coming out in July.) However, the snoozy silence in most of my professional conversations leaves me feeling quite isolated.  

Basically, Alaska is a place that anyone could move to, live out their life, and retire. This picture is actually quite comforting… IF you have a family or are already living with a long time companion. Palin rules Alaska with christian fundamentalist values and has not embraced diversity. The tone [is] grim, needless to say.  

My time here is short. I believe that if there was a measure of a gay community in Alaska, I could live out my life here. However, even Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the Union, has a thriving gay community that reminds you that "there are others."
The post got a few comments from Fairbanks, Anchorage, and two women on Kodiak Island who saw his link on Bent's Facebook page. Jerod is thrilled, but still hopes to meet LGBT people in Southeast Alaska.

Please go say "hello, we're here, we're queer, welcome to Alaska" to Jerod on The Northern Vox

If you are GLBT from any part of Alaska and on Facebook, become a friend of Bent Alaska and post a message or personal link on the wall. Then reply to other messages and follow their links. I've met so many interesting LGBT people and allies from all over the state since creating Bent. The Facebook page is an easy way for you to meet each other, and for all of us to help isolated gay Alaskans feel the comfort of queer 'family' up here on the Last Frontier.

Pride Chorus concert and AWARE dinner

Join the Juneau Pride Chorus for their 2009 concert and dance on the theme of Women's Bodies, Women's Strength, February 28, 7:30 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. 

Songs include Alix Dobkin's "If It Wasn't for the Women," "This One's for the Girls," "Hair," "Respect," Enya's "Ebudae" and "Hattie and Mattie" from Holly Near. Plus, a delightful group of Pride Chorus members' children will be singing "My Body's Nobody's Body But Mine." 

After the singing, there will be dancing to music performed by female musicians. Refreshments will be served during the intermission. Tickets are available from Chorus members or at the door – $15 for adults, $30 for a family, $12 for seniors and students. Everyone is welcome!

Last year's Pride Chorus concert was the 10th anniversary show, on the theme Songs for the Soul. Chorus members Jill, Linda and Paula wrote about the concert.

The Juneau Pride Chorus will also be the opening act at the annual Women of Distinction Dinner sponsored by AWARE of Juneau, on March 7 at Centennial Hall. One of the Women of Distinction this year is Marsha Buck, member of the Pride Chorus, PFLAG Juneau and Alaskans Together for Equality. 

"These women were chosen for their dedication and relentless service to peace, justice and the empowerment of women," reads the Women of Distinction 2009 page. "Each honoree has enriched the lives of women and children and have made a legacy of compassion out of their own lives."

The Pride Chorus songs will be followed by a catered dinner, silent auction and speeches by each of the women about what inspires them. Proceeds benefit AWARE's domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and intervention services.

Congratulations, Marsha!

This Week in LGBT Alaska 2/20/09

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News. 

For full listings, news and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN, the weekly email newsletter.


SEAGLA Social Fridays (6-8 p.m.) for GLBT people and our friends over 21, at The Imperial Bar, downtown. 

Mat-Su Valley

Mat-Su LGBT Community Center social support group meetings to discuss LBGT issues in the Valley. Mondays at 2 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Vagabond Blues in Palmer.


Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin 2/21 & 2/22, 6 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum, with a discussion after the film on Saturday.

Transgendered Alaskans' Social Group (TASG), meets Sundays 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the GLCCA.

"Our Journey Through Faith" with Pastor Van Manen, Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. at MCC Anchorage. There is also a Sunday service at 2 p.m.

Gay AK News & Notes

Dan Savage was great - smart, witty, and totally gay - and the diverse crowd at the sold-out show laughed and learned, and clapped when he said, "gay marriage is coming." How refreshing!

Brother Outsider, the movie about gay black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, is showing this weekend at the Anchorage Museum, sponsored by several local LGBTA groups and the Urban League, an African-American organization. A discussion will follow the film on Saturday night. 

Pastor Van Manen wishes to thank the 40 individuals who attended his installation service last Sunday. He was deeply touched at the level of support and encouragement extended to him. Photos of the Consecration and Laying of Hands ceremony are posted on the new-and-improved MCC Anchorage web site. (Nice work, Matthew.)

Transgendered Alaskans Social Group (TASG) is a new group meeting at the GLCCA, Sundays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The group is open to MTF and FTM, TG/TS, and their partners, spouses and adult children. The intent of the group is to provide support and education through social networking, in a safe and comfortable environment. Their web site has a great name: TransAlaska Pipeline 

VA Mental Health started a Transgender Support group, only for Veterans, on Thursdays at 4 p.m. on the 2nd floor of the VA Clinic on DeBarr Road in Anchorage. Check in at the reception desk.

Have you tied the knot? Identity wants to print your same-sex wedding picture in The NorthView, their quarterly bulletin. Please send pictures and a short commitment announcement to the NorthView editor.

The theme for the 2009 Women's Summit in Juneau on March 18-20 is Health Care Access: Do Women in Alaska Have Choices? A work session with Senator Hollis French on Universal Health Care will include "comprehensive reproductive health care coverage for all women, gay or straight," writes Geran Tarr of the Alliance for Reproductive Justice. "I think this includes the issue of domestic partner benefits too. It will be important for Senator French to hear from the group about the comprehensive needs of all women." What other lesbian health care issues do you think are important?

Withrow Wins RAW Story Contest

The winners of the RAW Short Story Contest 2009 are (... drumroll ... )

1st Place ($500, publication and an invite to read at Celebration) – Frayed Yellow Rope by Wendy Withrow


2nd Place ($300) – She Remembers on a Cold Summer Day by Brianna Dym


3rd Place (tie, $50 each) – Tomorrow by Alix Layton and Gestures by Marilyn Conner


Honorable Mentions
The Crinoline Revolution or Searching for Regina's Vagina by Terrilyn F. Watts
Moving Mountains by S.P. Horton
The Thing That Killed Her by Karis Koett
Pathways of Desire by Jean Anderson
Holding Pattern by EJ Essic
Thunderstorm by Annette Baker


Congratulations to everyone who submitted a story!


Celebration of Change, Radical Arts for Women's annual performing arts event and fundraiser, is June 13, 2009 in the Wilda Marston Theater at Loussac Library in Anchorage. Visit RAW for more information and to get involved.


The Naked Ptarmigan, the queer Alaska journal that published several of last year's contest stories, is now accepting email submissions year-round.

Gender Identity added to Fairbanks School Policies

At tonight's meeting, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District passed a motion to include "gender identity" as a protected group in their non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Fairbanks is the first school district in Alaska to add "gender identity."

"Please let everyone know how much I appreciate their support through both letters and testimony at the board meeting," wrote Barbara McCarthy. 

Tonight we celebrate, but there is more work to be done. Now that the policy is in place, we must encourage the board and school administration to provide training for teachers, administrators and staff.

Do you know of a good teacher/administrator in-service training program on gender identity discrimination and harassment in the schools?

"I plan to speak at the next board meeting during the non-agenda time," Barbara wrote. 'I want to direct the district to great resources."

Any suggestions?

School Board vs. PTA President on Gender Identity

In a first for Alaska, the Fairbanks School District is set to add gender identity to their non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies -- over the objections of the PTA President of the school that asked for advice on the policy.

Four members of the Fairbanks community spoke in favor of adding gender identity to the protected groups, and all four of the school board members present voted for it during last week's meeting. The only opponent came thirty minutes too late to testify.

In an odd twist, that opponent is the West Valley PTA President Viletta Knight. West Valley High School asked the school board to take up the issue because a student there will soon be transitioning.

Madam PTA Pres. is likely to return for the next reading, with more opponents who heard the radio broadcast of the meeting or read about it in the newspaper. The News-Miner carried a front page story, and the heated discussion in the comments continued for six days.

In November, the school board's Policy Review Committee recommended adding gender identity to all six non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. A majority of the board members supported it at the first reading. 

Will they do what is right to protect this student, and make history in Alaska, or will they bow to pressure from the opposition?

The final reading of the policy change is scheduled for Feb. 17, promptly at 7 p.m. If you're in Fairbanks, go to the meeting and tell them why you support adding gender identity to the list of protections. 

If you're in Anchorage, Juneau or elsewhere, email the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District today. Thank them for recognizing the safety of trans and gender non-conforming students, and encourage them to follow through on their good intentions to add gender identity to the district policies.

Do you have personal experience of high school discrimination based on gender identity? Your testimony could make the difference.

An Unlike Ally

William Saltonstall, a former Massachusetts state senator who died last month at the age of 81, was an outspoken ally of LGBT equality, in part because of his daughter and grandson who live in Palmer.

Saltonstall was a staunch Republican who served in the legislature from 1966 to 1978. He became an advocate for LGBT rights in the last decade of his life.

In 2000, he began speaking out against opponents of gay adoption and same-sex marriage. He wrote letters, donated money and lobbied for marriage equality. In 2006, Saltonstall changed his party affiliation to democrat. "I've been active in the gay rights movement, because my daughter is gay - she lives in Alaska - and the party has not been favorable to people like her," he told the Boston Globe.

Abigail, her partner Chris and their three children live in Palmer and own Half Moon Creek art gallery in Anchorage. 

What do you know about LGBT Alaska?

Art, politics, entertainment, sports, religion - share your knowledge of LGBT Alaska on the blog. Interview your friends, review our shows, give good advice or spread outrageous rumors! It's time to expand the blog and bring in more writers who represent different voices within our community. Send your ideas to Bent Alaska and see your byline on line. Thanks!

Freedom to Marry Week

The annual Freedom to Marry Week is February 8-14, 2009. We are asked to tell three people what it's like for us or our loved ones to be LGBT, and what it means to be treated as less than equal for being gay. Why? Because people who know about our lives are more likely to support our civil rights. 

Who will you tell?

Meanwhile, check out this touching Fidelity video with the "Don't Divorce Us" photos. I saw a picture of Alaska in there - is this someone we know?

Pick. Click. Give. for Gay Alaska

Alaskans can go online to apply for the PFD and support our favorite Alaska non-profits with just a click. It's a chance for all of us to come together and give a little extra. 

More than 330 organizations have qualified for the 2009 PFD check-off program, including several LGBT non-profits and our allies: Identity, Four A's, the ACLU of Alaska, and Out North.

To donate all or part of your PFD, apply online then choose the groups you would like to support. The filing period continues through March 31, 2009.

Find more info online at Pick. Click. Give.

Today is Black AIDS Awareness Day

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2009 on aims to get Black Americans educated about the basics of HIV/AIDS, get tested to know their HIV status, get involved in their community around the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and get treated if they are living with HIV/AIDS.

Because "Black Life Is Worth Saving!"

For AIDS testing and information in Alaska, contact Four A's in Anchorage and Juneau, and Interior AIDS Assoc. in Fairbanks. 

This Week in LGBT Alaska 2/6/09

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News. 

For full listings, classifieds and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN, the weekly email newsletter.

Bent Alaska on Facebook
Check out Bent Alaska's Facebook page. Want to be friends? Come post your events and opinions directly on the wall! 


SEAGLA Social Fridays (6-8 p.m.) for GLBT people and our friends over 21, at The Imperial Bar, downtown. 

SEAGLA Night at the Theatre: Shakespeare's R&J, 2/6, 7:30 p.m. by Thunder Mountain Theatre Project, at the The Old Elk's Hall. Tickets at Hearthside Books.


PFLAG Fairbanks meeting to discuss the proposed School Board policy change 2/8, 4 p.m.

Mat-Su Valley

Mat-Su LGBT Community Center social support group meetings to discuss LBGT issues in the valley. Mondays at 2 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Vagabond Blues in Palmer.


Sweet at Out North Theater begins 2/6, 7 p.m. for the Off the Rocks Theater Project.

Equality Works Steering Committee meeting at the GLCCA, 2/7, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Alaska Rainbows monthly dinner 2/7, 5-7 p.m.

LGBT Town Hall to End Discrimination in Anchorage 2/11, 7 p.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Equality Works 

Dan Savage: Savage Love Live! 2/12, 7:30 p.m. at UAA's Wendy Williamson Auditorium. General Public $10, free for students with UAA ID. UAATix.

An Electro Affair with Kilogram and Grym 2/12, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. $5 at the door. Mad Myrna's

Savage Love, Live in Anchorage

If you read Alaska GLBT News, you already know that Dan Savage, an openly-gay author of a popular sex-advice column, is coming to Anchorage on Feb. 12 to present Savage Love Live, a talk followed by audience questions on anything and everything sexual. 

Feb. 12, the day of the Anchorage show, is also national Freedom to Marry Day. Savage and his partner were married in Canada in 2005, and Dan is a strong advocate of LGBT equality.

Today's Anchorage Press, the alternative weekly that carries the Savage Love column, ran an interview with Dan:
"'[H]homophobia, like racism, is a pastime of the ignorant and elderly. And the elderly are leaving us. They want to take a snapshot of this moment in time and lock in these prejudices, and make them hard to undo. But they're losing ground. We're moving the ball down the field and we're winning. It's just… Canada got the French; Australia got the convicts; we got the fuckin' Puritans.'"                     
See Savage Love Live at UAA's Wendy Williamson Auditorium, 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. Students with a UAA ID get in free. General Public tickets are $10 and are available at UAATix.

Knocked Down, Get Up: Inspiration from Creating Change

Tiffany McClain attended the Creating Change conference last week in Denver. In this guest post, she describes the diversity of activists, the inspiring setting, and the lessons she brought home for Alaska's LGBT civil rights movement.

A Broad Definition of What It Means To Be an Activist


Sponsored by the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force, the annual Creating Change conference is 5 days of inspiration, nuts-and-bolts training, and a little entertainment for campaigners, grassroots organizers, service-providers, faith leaders, community center workers, teachers, and artists who are dedicated to advancing the rights and quality of life for LGBT people in our country. 

I attended a workshop with someone who serves LGBT youth with wilderness-based therapy, people who directed the LGBT center at their local universities, a young woman who is training the children of lesbian and gay parents to be advocates for LGBT families, another who honed her organizing skills by moving from state-to-state working on campaigns to fight anti-gay marriage initiatives, and queer youth of color who are fighting gentrification in New York City. During our closing brunch, we were entertained by The Kinsey Sicks, a drag a capella group that blends comedy and political commentary in their performances.


The diversity of individuals at the conference was a reminder that the future of the LGBT movement will be the collective success of people with different skills, talents, and passions. Not just the lobbyists and vote-counters but the teachers, not just the grassroots organizers but the artists, not just the people who see marriage as the ultimate goal of the LGBT movement, but those fighting the displacement of poor and working-class families from their neighborhoods. Creating Change is an opportunity for us to learn with and from each other, and to take these lessons back to our communities and places of work.


Living the Change We're Working For


What was inspiring about attending Creating Change was not only the opportunity to train and brainstorm with other activists, but also the world that the Taskforce created for almost a week: a world where gender neutral bathrooms were located on every public floor of the hotel, where every downtown restaurant and even the Denver airport greeted LGBT people with welcome signs, where queer people of different races, ages, classes, abilities, gender identities and religions found common purpose and were comfortable enough to challenge each others' prejudices. The organizers of Creating Change inspired conference-goers to continue advocating for change in our communities by showing us what change feels like.


"Get Knocked Down 7 Times, Get Up 8"*


If I were to sum up the theme of this year's Creating Change conference in one word, I would say "resilience." There were a lot of activists from California still grappling with what could have gone wrong with the Prop 8 initiative and trying to heal from the weeks of unfair back-biting and blaming that followed the election. But the disappointments of these last few months have not discouraged them from continuing the fight and working on the next strategy to advance the rights of LGBT people in California and across the country. 

I sometimes hear LGBT Alaskans cite past defeats and the power of conservatism as a reason not to push for civil rights in our state. At Creating Change, I was reminded that very few LGBT communities and activists tasted victory before they tasted defeat. (And some defeats can be victories: 52% to 48% in CA is not a landslide. That's a lot of people who believe that gays and lesbians should be able to get legally married!) My point is, if we want to live in a community as welcoming as Denver or Seattle, we have to be willing to build it ourselves—even if it means risking defeat along the way. 

* Quote from Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force

A Gay Community Center in the Mat-Su? You Bet'cha!

"I'm still trying to find new members, so beware!" writes Brianne "Your Highness is optional" on the new Mat-Su LGBT Community Center blog. "If you see a Big Transwoman with a Lasso headed your way, run! and run fast lest you find yourself sipping steamy beverages and talking about the LBGTA community in the Valley."

On Wednesdays at 5 p.m., Her Highness Brianne waits at a table in Palmer's Vagabond Blues with a sign taped to a coffee can. Brianne and Jaime Rodriguez are resurrecting the Mat-Su LGBT Community Center, and the coffee group for socializing, support and discussion is the first activity.

Their vision for the Center goes far beyond coffee. "A functioning Valley Community Center can help create a real community where none exists, and provide a central clearinghouse for information, contacts and services, not to mention a fun and safe place for meetings and activities of all sorts," Jaime wrote in the blog's first post.

Safety is a big issue in the bible belt of Alaska. When journalists searched for LGBT Wasillans to interview during Gov. Sarah Palin's vice presidential run, few were willing to talk on camera or give their real name in print. Jaime and Brianne were the only queer locals named in this HRC video with ally Rev. Bess and a supportive therapist, although an anonymous lesbian spoke with her back to the camera.

About six or seven times a year, word comes from the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Anchorage that people are asking about LGBT groups in the Valley, wanting to get involved or attend events. The Mat-Su population has swelled to 83,000, which means at least several thousand LGBT residents. There seems to be an unusually large transgender population in the Valley, and more bisexuals and closeted people than in urban areas of the same size.

"If we could organize, we could help break the conservative hold on the Valley," said Jaime. "Six thousand queers is a powerful economic and political force, if we can harness it."

The new Center rents office space in The Church of the Covenant in Palmer, where Rev. Howard Bess was pastor until he retired last year. They have a reception area, coffee nook, conference room, bathroom, and library space for the many boxes of books collected when the Center was active.

In 2001, a small group of LGBT men and women in the Valley met in a cafe in Wasilla to organize a community center. They moved to Palmer when Pastor Howard Bess offered the Church Meeting House. A weekly social support group drew about 20 people, and they added a potluck and movie night one Friday a month. 

"By 2002, the LGBT Center had about 60 members on the email list," said Jaime, the only remaining board member. "The support group grew, but was overwhelmed by people who needed a therapy group. A conflict arose between two members and attendance dropped. Only those who needed the group for therapy stayed, plus three or four of us committed to building the Center."

Jaime and Brianne are ready to try again. They have the office, non-profit status, and start-up funds from the Imperial Court. What they need most is new members.

"I am not discouraged," Brianne wrote last week when only two straight allies joined her for coffee. "There are lonely Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Allied people out there who could really use an avenue to meet and enjoy the company of other friendly people." 

"I invite you to participate in something that benefits you directly, your friends and loved ones, your acquaintances, and potentially even the straight segment of the Valley we all live in. Please help us, in whatever way you can: a donation, a chair, couch, bookshelf, your time, your service. What can you spare that will make our world that little bit better?"

Brother Outsider and Black History Month

February is national Black History Month, and the Anchorage Urban League is co-sponsoring a showing and discussion of Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at the Anchorage Museum, along with Identity, the ACLU of Alaska and other sponsors.

Brother Outsider illuminates the life and work of Bayard Rustin, a visionary activist and strategist who has been called "the unknown hero" of the civil rights movement. The architect of the legendary 1963 March on Washington, and organizer of the Selma Bus Boycott, Rustin dared to live as an openly gay man during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. "Brother Outsider" reveals the price that Rustin paid for this openness, chronicling both the triumphs and setbacks of his remarkable 60-year career.

Another local event celebrating the lives of Black people in American is "I Draw the Line ... on Ignorance, Racism, Violence and Hatred," a juried show of teenage artists, on display through March 1 at the Museum. It includes Jacob Hakala's vibrant "Peel," a rainbow-colored banana leaping out of its peel while another fruit hides her eyes.

On the national scene, In The Life's February program explores three aspects of the LGBT African-American community. Segments include New York Gov. David Paterson on the struggle for gay civil rights, community activist Bernie McAlister and his "House of Jourdan," and filmmaker Abigail Child with four young men living On the Downlow.

In The Life is the monthly gay and lesbian news magazine that we hope our public television station KAKM will broadcast again. Clips from the show are posted on In The Life TV.

The National Black Justice Coalition is planning to unveil a big LGBT Black History Month project this week. NBJC is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

How many famous LGBT Black Americans can you name? Check out this list of historical and contemporary LGBT leaders of African Descent.

The winner of more than 20 awards, Brother Outsider is showing at the Anchorage Museum on Saturday, Feb. 21 with a discussion following the movie, and on Sunday, Feb. 22, both showings at 6 p.m. The evenings are sponsored by the ACLU of Alaska, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, the Anchorage Museum, the Anchorage Urban League, Identity, Inc. and the Municipality of Anchorage Diversity Council.

Copyright © 2008 by Bent Alaska.