Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Brian Sims spoke on “Gender, Justice, and LGBT Equality” at Old Dominion University (ODU) on February 16, 2017. Sims is the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania. The event was sponsored by ODU’s Safe Space Committee, Office of Intercultural Relations, and Women’s Center.
Sims was happy to be there and commended ODU for bringing in an LGBT activist to speak. He said that a lot of college administrations are afraid to bring in speakers who talk overtly about equality because of cultural conservatism and fear of losing funding. He says students are usually not surprised about the content of such discourses, but older folks in college administrations often don’t want to confront inequality.
Equality Virginia held its annual “Day of Action” on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 in at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. This is a day when LGBT folks from across Virginia come out to lobby their state legislators in support of LGBT rights. Current issues include: protection from discrimination in employment and housing; updating Virginia’s laws to reflect marriage equality; protecting against discrimination against LGBTQ folks under the guise of “religious freedom”, the Transgender bathroom issue, and hate crimes.
The Hampton Roads National Organization for Women (NOW) first meeting on Monday, February 6, 2017 was met with a full house. The meeting took place at the Lambert’s Point Recreational Center in Norfolk. The gathering quickly outgrew the original meeting room and the group was moved to a larger room. Over one hundred people attended the meeting. These were mostly women, but there were some men showing their support too.
For me this is a no-brainer, but I realize that Pagans come from all political backgrounds and ideologies. Even so, there are a number of issues that Pagans should be concerned about with the current administration in power in Washington. These are core issues related to Pagan belief and ethics.
The Cox High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) in Virginia Beach finally got its assembly this past Monday, January 30, 2017. The original assembly was scheduled for December 4, 2016, but after months of planning the event was abruptly cancelled the day before. The cancellation took place because a Virginia Beach School Board member, Victoria Manning, complained that the event was controversial and exclusionary and that the event shouldn’t take place during instructional time. This complaint came despite the fact that the event was optional for students and was about building an inclusive school experience that welcomes and respects all. Manning said she supported the GSA holding events and meetings after school, but not during school hours.
Hundreds of folks showed up Tuesday, January 31, 2017 for a Solidarity Rally at Old Dominion University to Stand with Immigrants, Muslims, and Refugees. The event was hosted by the ODU Democrats and is a reaction to President Trump’s immigration ban that targets immigrants, refugees, and travelers from Muslim countries. Protesters converged on the steps of the Webb Student Center and then marched across campus, down Hampton Boulevard, and then back to the student center. ODU has a large international student population, as well as international staff and faculty. Those who marched wanted to show their solidarity toward those affected by the ban, and their disdain for Trump and his xenophobic and anti-Muslim views and policies.
Leaders of the Hampton Roads Pagan Men’s group met on Saturday, January 28, 2017, to plan activities for the coming year. While the group is aimed at Pagan men, no respectful seeker will be turned away from events regardless of gender, orientation, path or background. Because everyone has such a busy schedule, the group decided to focus on a handful of “official” events for the year that the group hosts, and about a half dozen or so “unofficial” events that are hosted by someone else that members of the group attend. The theme for this year is “Heroes.”
Hampton Roads Pride sponsored an LGBT Town Hall with local law enforcement at the Chrysler Museum of Art this past Saturday, January 21. According to Michael Berlucchi, President of Hampton Roads Pride, “this event has been a long time coming.” The forum was moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee of WHRO’s “Another View” radio talk show. The panel of speakers consisted of Brandon Colin – an officer in the Norfolk Police Department, Sergeant Michelle Meister - the LGBT Liaison of the Virginia Beach Police Department, Vega Olivia Perry – a Newport News Trans activist, James Parish – Executive Director of Equality Virginia, and Supervisory Special Agent Ted Roese of the FBI.
A total of 673 Sister marches across the country and the world marched in solidarity with the official Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday, January 21, 2017. Three of those marches were held in Hampton Roads with two in Norfolk and a third in Williamsburg. I had the privilege of attending one of the Norfolk marches that began in front of the Chrysler Museum at noon on Saturday. Women and men, white people and people of color, straight folks and LGBTQ folks, young and old, and many other communities and demographics were represented in the crowd. The crowds came just as much to support their various issues and concerns, as they did to protest an incoming president and his administration who by word and deed have shown they oppose these things. The issues brought forward were not just women’s issues, but human issues. Reproductive rights, pay equity, and impending funding cuts to Planned Parenthood were among the concerns of attendees and speakers, but so were the rights of people of color, LGBTQ folks, Muslims, and immigrants. Those attending also supported science, education, freedom of the press, and the Affordable Care Act.
Marscon is a science fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention that takes place every year in January in Williamsburg. The very first Marscon was held in 1990, and the event has continued to thrive and grow since that time. The event has outgrown a number of hotels, and has been held at the Doubletree Williamsburg for the past two years. This year’s convention took place the weekend of January 13-15, 2017. Marscon has gaming, workshops, entertainment, a charity auction, a vendor room, an art room, folks dressed up in costumes, and believe it or not, LGBTQ folks.
I consider myself fairly left of center when it comes to social issues. I believe in LGBTQ rights and sexual freedom. I believe that people of color face systematic oppression and that should be fixed. I believe women deserve equal pay and equal opportunities to men. I don’t believe it’s my choice, the government’s, or anyone else’s whether a woman has an abortion. I also believe that teaching sex education in the schools would prevent not just abortions, but the spread of STD’s. I believe folks’ religious beliefs should be respected regardless of religion (so long as those beliefs aren’t predatory or used to put down or oppress others). I believe marijuana is no more harmful to society than alcohol and should be legalized. I believe that most porn is okay and that sex work and sex workers should be given legitimacy so long as we’re talking consensual adults. I believe in “reasonable” gun control measures. I also believe that the working class should be given a break and that the super-rich should be taxed more. I believe that small local businesses should be held to different standards than large national and international corporations.