Gays can’t be changed,
Bush ignores sex ed report that calls for America to ‘respect the diversity of sexual values’
by Eric Resnick
Rockville, Md.--In the most comprehensive report on sex education issued so far, the U.S. surgeon general told Congress and the Bush administration that sexual orientation is set early in life and cannot be changed.
In a June 28 report titled "The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior," Surgeon General David Satcher examined homosexuality, abortion, sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The report also examines the relationship between sexual health and general health and calls for America to "respect the diversity of sexual values within any community."
"Sexual orientation is usually determined by adolescence, if not earlier, and there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed," said Satcher in the report. "Nonetheless, our culture often stigmatizes homosexual behavior, identity and relationships."
"These anti-homosexual attitudes are associated with psychological distress for homosexual persons and may have a negative impact on mental health, including a greater incidence of depression and suicide, lower self-acceptance and a greater liklihood of hiding sexual orientation," the report continues.
Satcher noted that while the research is much more limited, it appears that transgendered individuals report the same problems.
The Bush administration has made no comment on the report’s content, but parts of it are contrary to positions taken by the president and the social conservatives he is allied with. The White House distanced him from the report and from Satcher.
"The president understands the report was issued by a surgeon general that he did not appoint, a surgeon general who was appointed by the previous administration,'' Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the day after the report came out.
The report is being hailed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, feminists, and progressive health educators, and condemned by social conservatives and religious fundamentalists.
Satcher called anti-gay violence a health problem, and said it is caused by negative attitudes.
"Averaged over two dozen studies, 80 percent of gay men and lesbians had experienced verbal or physical harassment on the basis of their orientation, 45 percent had been threatened with violence, and 17 percent had experienced a physical attack," the report reads.
The surgeon general said abstinence-only sex education has no value for adolescents already sexually active, and there is insufficient evidence to determine if it works among all adolescents.
According to Satcher, programs that emphasize abstinence, but also teach use of condoms and other forms of contraception are the most effective.
"Providing information about contraception does not increase adolescent sexual activity, either by hastening the onset of sexual intercourse, increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse, or increasing the number of sexual partners. In addition, some of these evaluated programs increased condom use or contraceptive use," said Satcher.
The surgeon general concluded that research for the report shows that STD and HIV reduction programs that are presented by peer and health educators in community settings are the most effective. "They have had considerable success in changing community norms about sexual behavior as evidenced by substantial increases in condom use."
The report notes that AIDS has disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, at 47 percent of all infections, and that new infections are substantially higher among black gay and bisexual men than among their white and hispanic counterparts.
The Human Rights Campaign immediately endorsed the report and called on the Bush administration to make Satcher’s guidelines part of the national discussion on public health.
"Two years of scientific research has resulted in a highly scientific report by the nation’s top doctor that will save lives," said HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg.
Satcher was appointed surgeon general by President Clinton in February, 1998, and has been praised since his appointment by LGBT activists. His four-year term ends in February, 2002.
Asked about the report’s political implications, Satcher said he wasn't taking sides.
"We try to make very clear what's needed to improve sexual health and what's supported by the science,'' he told the Associated Press.
On ABC News This Week July 1, during the roundtable portion of the program, conservative columnist George Will observed of the report, "This means we will get a new surgeon general in February."
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland—The Eighth District Court of Appeals on July 3 heard oral arguments in second challenge to Ohio’s importuning law, which makes it a crime to sexually proposition someone of the same sex if that person is likely to be offended by the proposition.
The law, which does not apply to opposite-sex situations, is also being challenged in an Ashtabula County case.
The Cleveland case involves Joseph Maistros, who was accused of aggressively pursuing Nick Frangias in a public restroom at Cleveland State University on November 8, 1999. Maistros was charged the next day with importuning, and a bench trial was held almost a year later, on October 31, 2000.
Maistros was found guilty and sentenced to a $150 fine and 180 days in jail, both of which were suspended. He was also given a year’s probation, during which time he was not allowed to step onto CSU property.
Maistros’ attorney, Kenneth J. Rexford of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, filed an appeal in February 2000, and then-assistant city prosecutor Jay Cole filed a brief for the city on March 31.
The case is similar to that of Eric R. Thompson, an Ashtabula County man whose importuning case is now before the Ohio Supreme Court. That case is being argued by Ashtabula public defender Marie Lane, who has been in contact with Rexford.
Rexford argues that the law violates his client’s constitutional rights to equal protection under the law, not because he is gay, since other courts have ruled that gays do not have a recognized, substantial right to equality with heterosexuals. He is instead arguing that the law is penalizing him for an act that, were he a woman, would have much lighter penalties.
A person making an unwanted sexual solicitation of a member of the opposite sex would be guilty of disorderly conduct; if they persisted, it might be raised to aggravated disorderly conduct. Neither carries the legal ramifications of the importuning law, however.
Disorderly conduct is a fourth-degree misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $100 and no jail time. Importuning is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Further, the importuning law, two of whose sections deal with soliciting minors, classifies it as a sexual offense. This means that someone convicted of importuning is registered as a sex offender, denying them the opportunity to work in certain fields and restricting adoption.
Assistant prosecutor Cole has left his position with the city. Arguing the case for Cleveland in the July 3 three-judge hearing was Christopher Fortunato.
Judge Patricia Ann Blackmon asked Fortunato why Maistros was charged with importuning and not disorderly conduct. Fortunato had no reply, mentioning that he had not prosecuted the original case.
Fortunato argued that the law had a rational basis, that there was a reasonable motivation behind it, ensuring the right of a person to be left alone. This argument seemed to carry little weight with Blackmon and Judge Colleen Conway Cooney. Blackmon noted that it was possible to reach that goal without specifying that the people involved were of the same gender, as is the case in disorderly conduct cases.
Fortunato seemed to further stumble, referring to the law as not discriminating against "homosexuals," although the appeal is grounded in gender discrimination, not anti-gay bias. Blackmon asked him to forego the use of the word homosexual and refer, like the law in question, to "same sex."
"Can’t we correct the right to be left alone with disorderly conduct?" Blackmon asked. "Why is it a first-degree misdemeanor?"
Fortunato replied that the law was "too amorphous" to be used like that, and adding in same-sex importuning would make it even more vague, opening disorderly conduct to constitutional challenges on that basis.
Cooney pointed out that, if Maistros had gone into a woman’s restroom and done what he had been accused of, it would have resulted in a $100 fine, to which Fortunato replied that he could also in that situation be charged with aggravated disorderly conduct, which carries higher penalties. Blackmon, however, seemed dissatisfied with that argument, pointing out that the disorderly conduct charges then wouldn’t be considered sexual offenses, despite the nature of the action.
In his rebuttal, Rexford noted that, when he read the report of the incident to the trial court, replacing references to Frangias as a male with ones referring to him as "Nikki" or "Ms. Frangias," it would have made the importuning charge inapplicable, indicating sexual discrimination in the law.
He also noted that, while disorderly conduct covers actions that could lead to violence as well as violent acts themselves, importuning, while having higher penalties, only covers the provocation of violence.
He also pointed out that the law limits a person’s activities by requiring them to gauge the potential for violence and acting accordingly, putting the burden on the would-be victim of violence and penalizing them for ignoring the possibility of violence.
Rexford also noted in his written brief that previous court cases have noted that the law does not "advance a consistent and well-defined governmental interest in deterring the initiation and development of homosexual relationships" because Ohio has already legalized gay sex. In addition, because it only applies to same-sex solicitation, it does not protect "the public from inflammatory sexual proposals."
These points were brought up in the 1978 case of State v. Faulk, in which the law was held unconstitutional, but upheld because of an unpublished entry in the Ohio Supreme Court’s records. More recent cases, including one now before the state high court have held that its unpublished decisions are not binding as precedent.
The reasoning behind the law is one item Rexford will point to that the city will not.
"They’re not going to touch the legislative history because the committee notes refer to "deviate" conduct and calls it ‘highly repugnant,’" Rexford said. "It’s only ‘highly repugnant’ if you’re a Neanderthal."
He continued, speaking from his office after the oral arguments, "I love the argument that maybe this law was made to protect homosexuals. That was the best spin I’ve heard."
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus—A gay man who pounded on his jail cell door and screamed in vain for help while he was being sexually assaulted has filed a lawsuit against the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department on June 28.
The man was being held for a parole violation last year. He requested special housing outside of the general population, believing that his sexual orientation would make him the target of attacks from fellow inmates, according to the lawsuit which was filed in Common Pleas Court.
He was attacked on June 28, 2000, while in a general population cell.
"The jail has something akin to special accommodations for people who might be subjected to physical problems from other inmates," his attorney, Stephen A. Moyer, told the Columbus Dispatch. "His [sexual orientation] makes him prone to that, and he requested the special housing. We don’t think they adequately provided that."
The $25,000 lawsuit contends that, while being attacked, the man cried out and pounded on the door of his cell, yelling for help which never came.
Afterwards, he was treated in the jail for his injuries and then taken out of the general population. Moyer, however, would not reveal how badly injured the man was or what form the sexual assault took.
Neither county prosecutor Ron O’Brien or chief deputy Steve Martin had seen the suit, which called the department’s actions "extreme and outrageous," and claimed they "exceeded all bounds of decency," intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
Further, the suit contends, even though the man identified his attackers, the department made no attempt to prosecute the men.
"One of his purposes is to try to prevent this from happening to anybody else," Moyer said.
by Bob Roehr
"History happened yesterday. It is the first time that the [United Nations] General Assembly has actually debated gay and lesbian issues. And they will never go back, they are not going to silence us again," said Scott Long with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. He was speaking at a June 26 news conference across the street from U.N. headquarters.
The debate arose in during the U.N. special session on HIV and AIDS, June 25-27, when a block of delegates, chiefly from Muslim nations, tried to ban the gay and lesbian commission from speaking at a conference roundtable discussion. They initially exercised a procedure similar to a fraternity "blackball" to veto the group.
That prompted a vigorous response led by Canada and the Nordic countries and a debate on the floor of the meeting. The Norwegian ambassador called it "a battle for the soul of the United Nations."
The controversy occupied several hours of General Assembly debate and for a time threatened to disrupt the entire conference. It resulted in a highly unusual series of three votes in which the U.N. decided that the gay and lesbian human rights commission would be allowed to participate. The vote was largely along the lines of true democracies favoring inclusion while authoritarian governments opposed it.
"We are appalled that a third of the members of the General Assembly were willing to stop the process to the whole meeting on HIV/AIDS because they didn’t want to hear the words gay and lesbian spoken in their presence," said Long.
"If you look at the statistics of who is affected by HIV, it is a map of inequality and prejudice," he said. "If the U.N. isn’t willing to look at that map realistically, then this process is going to go nowhere."
Karyn Kaplan, the gay and lesbian human rights commission’s HIV program officer, finally read that organization’s statement at a June 26 roundtable, part of the AIDS special session. It called for a "rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS . . . It means that states must name, condemn--and take all measures to eliminate--racism, gender-based discrimination, and homophobia," and other forms of discrimination.
Norwegian delegate Adam Powell called this "a victory for all vulnerable people. If you are not recognized, you do not have any rights, "which in turn will lead to not being included in prevention and treatment plans. He said this debate has "started the process of breaking the silence" over gays and HIV in much of the world.
South African lesbian and HIV activist Phumi Mtetwa said that homophobic statements, whether in her own country or the U.N., need to be challenged immediately. She called the principle of participation of non-governmental organizations such as the gay and lesbian commission in the AIDS special session "the most important achievement" of the meeting.
Mtetwa hoped that the delegates would "move away from the rhetoric" she had heard so far and move on to the practical. "I haven’t heard anything that is going to take us from where we are."
"We are not waiting for this piece of paper to come out," said Kaplan, referring to the final document from the conference. "We are grassroots activists" who will continue their work regardless of the outcome of the conference.
The special session’s draft report contained language that specifically mentioned gays, sex workers, and injections drug users. But even before the session began, delegates from Muslim nations had begun to attack the wording as controversial. They were successful in having reference to those groups stripped from the draft. The final language referred only genericallyto "groups at risk."
Kaplan had mixed feelings about that. "By naming some [groups], you are sure to leaving others out." She didn’t want to put human rights into a box but rather integrate it into the entire U.N. document. On the other hand, "If you can’t even say the name [of a vulnerable group], let alone provide services and support for their needs, then [the document] is not worth the paper it is printed on."
There were rumors that the United States encouraged the Muslim nations in their efforts, though that could not be confirmed. The U.S. did not lead the fight to specifically include groups at risk, though it did vote the "right way" on those issues, said Long. He attributed it to the delayed transition of the Bush administration.
"I think that homophobia has been used as a cover for the deeper fears" of women’s rights and sexuality in general at a series of U.N. conferences, he continued.
"One reason that they lost this time is a coalition of countries from every continent finally said: Enough is enough, we are not going to stand for a steady assault by repressive governments using a false rhetoric of principle to cover up their own political needs," said Long.
He said the most important thing about this process is "a new sense of common purpose" from the organizations that have always led the fight against AIDS, even when local and national governments refused to do so.
by Tom Stuckey
Annapolis—Opponents of a new state law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination say they filed enough signatures on June 30 to block the law until the general election next year.
If the signatures are verified as valid, voters will decide in November 2002 whether a state law that prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race and religion should be expanded to include sexual orientation.
Tres Kerns of Take Back Maryland said June 29 that his organization had about 53,000 signatures in hand and hoped to have about 60,000 by the time all the petitions were delivered to the secretary of state's office the next day, a feat his group failed to achieve.
Opponents had to collect 46,129 signatures of registered voters to put the measure to a vote. But Kerns said because many people who are not registered voters usually sign petitions, his group needs about 55,000 signatures to make sure the drive will succeed.
Gay equal rights activists have said they anticipate that the law will end up on the ballot, but they predict Maryland voters will approve it.
"Either you are for discrimination or you are against discrimination. If you look at all the legitimate polls, the majority of Marylanders believe discrimination is wrong," said Blake Humphreys, executive director of Free State Justice.
If the law is approved, Maryland will become the 12th state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law would guarantee equal rights in employment, housing and places of public accommodation such as restaurants.
Maryland Gov. Parris Glendenning sponsored the bill and carried out an intensive lobbying effort to get it through the General Assembly during the session that ended in April.
When he signed the bill last month, the governor said the law banning discrimination goes to "the very heart of the values that are so important to us: fairness, justice and inclusion."
The only other state gay civil rights law to be put to a vote failed twice. Opponents of a 1997 Maine measure forced a vote on it the next year, which repealed it. Last November, voters rejected a new law intended to replace the 1997 one.
by Eric Resnick
Warren, Ohio—A case that could outlaw sexual orientation job discrimination in Ohio is headed to a state appeals court.
Barry Tenney of Warren, an employee since 1993 at the General Electric Niles Mahoning Glass Facility, says he was subjected to harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the plant.
Tenney, who is openly gay, says he was harassed by co-workers and supervisors, including death threats.
Over many years, Tenney filed grievances, took photos, and made tape recordings of the harassment, which his attorney, Tom Sobecki of Toledo, describes as "extreme."
GE includes sexual orientation in its equal employment opportunity statement, but EEO statements are corporate policy, not law, so supervisors can elect to ignore them.
In Tenney’s case, plant management did not act to enforce the EEO policy, so Tenney filed a lawsuit against GE and five employees in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court last September.
Judge John M. Stuard ruled March 3 that Tenney had no legal grounds to sue GE or the employees because Ohio law "does not protect a person from discrimination based on sexual orientation."
Tenney appealed Stuard’s dismissal June 4. Sobecki says that Stuard considered only the law in his decision, not the quality of Tenney’s evidence.
In the appeal, Sobecki concedes that the Ohio legislature was not concerned with sexual orientation when it passed the state’s employment discrimination laws, and that trial courts have dismissed all previous suits alleging sexual orientation discrimination for that reason.
But Sobecki argues that a 1996 ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court gives Tenney’s case the opportunity to change the way the law is interpreted to include sexual orientation. Sobecki believes that the evidence in Tenney’s case is strong enough to change Ohio law if the high court demands the case to be tried.
In the 1996 Retterer v. Whirlpool case, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a similar Marion County suit in which the appeals court agreed with the trial court that Retterer had no basis to sue Whirlpool, because sexual orientation discrimination was not prohibited by law. But the high court dismissed the Retterer case on a legal technicality without considering the law.
Further, Justices Pfeiffer and Resnick disagreed with the decision, stating that Retterer’s case should have been heard.
In their dissent, Pfeiffer and Resnick cited an earlier ruling of the court recognizing that sexual harassment could occur when the parties are the same sex, even though the legislature was not concerned with the possibility of same-sex harassment when it passed the law.
"This case might have presented the opportunity for us to consider whether discrimination based upon sexual orientation is also actionable under [the Ohio Revised Code]" wrote Pfeiffer and Resnick in 1996.
The justices continued, "The abusive behavior that might give rise to such a cause of action continues to exist even in this supposedly enlightened day, and certainly it is only a matter of time before the question of sexual orientation discrimination (and whether it is merely the opposite side of the same sexual-harassment coin) is properly before this court."
Sobecki believes Tenney’s case, because of the strength of the evidence, is a good opportunity for the high court to decide whether or not the current employment discrimination law can exclude sexual orientation, and intends to take it that far if necessary.
Tenney continues to be employed by GE.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Patti Harris and Rex Wockner.
Sodomy ruling applies to whole state
Minneapolis, Minn.—A district court judge ruled July 2 that a court decision striking down the state’s sodomy law applies to every adult in the state.
Judge Delila F. Pierce’s original May ruling struck down the sodomy law in connection with private, consensual, non-commercial sexual activity. After her decision, however, the state asked her to limit the impact of the ruling to the plaintiffs only.
Pierce was then asked by the plaintiffs to certify her earlier ruling as a class action, clarifying that it legalizes oral and anal sex.
In 1962, when Illinois was the first state to repeal a sodomy law, every state had one. Today, 13 states still have them in effect. Ohio repealed its law in 1974.
Hate crime bill passes state senate
Harrisburg, Pa.—Just after midnight on June 29, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a measure expanding the state’s ethnic intimidation act to include sexual orientation.
The bill, similar versions of which have been struggling for passage for over 11 years, was approved by all 20 Democrats and 12 of 30 Republicans.
The current law upgrades the ranking and potential penalty of crimes committed because of the race, color, religion or national origin of the victim. The bill would add the phrase "actual and perceived" and the categories of ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
The bill must still pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the governor, who had earlier said he would sign a hate crime bill if it came to his desk.
Wotapalava festival canceled
New York City--The organizers of Wotapalava, billed as the first touring gay music festival, announced July 2 that they were canceling this year’s tour, set to begin July 13.
Neil Tennant, creator of the tour and member of the band Pet Shop Boys, canceled it following the withdrawal of Sinead O’Connor, the only female performer originally on the lineup, and difficulties in finding a last-minute replacement for her.
The tour, which was set to hit 18 concert venues across the country, including Blossom Music Center near Akron, had the Pet Shop Boys, Magnetic Fields, Soft Cell and Rufus Wainwright still on the bill, as well as a number of nationally-known DJs slated to appear on a second stage.
"We look forward to coming to America next year," said Tennant.
Tickets purchased for the July 23 stop at Blossom will be refunded at the point of purchase.
Pride march attacked by mob
Belgrade, Yugoslavia—The city’s first gay-pride march was attacked by hundreds of thugs from ultra-nationalist youth organizations, skinhead groups and "soccer clubs" on June 30.
They kicked and beat the marchers and chanted "Death to homosexuals." Dozens of people were injured. None of the injuries were life-threatening, according to early reports.
Police fired pistols into the air to chase the thugs from the city’s main square, Republic Square. At press time, 32 people had been arrested and more arrests were expected.
"We estimated there would not be that many lunatics, but obviously we are still not mature enough to express some, let’s say, queerness, or, as some would say, fulfillment of desires or sexual tendency," Belgrade Police Chief Bosko Buha told reporters from Belgrade’s B-92 radio.
College housing suit can go ahead
Albany, N.Y.—A medical school’s policy of allowing married students--but not gay couples--to share college housing may violate New York City anti-discrimination statutes, the state’s highest court ruled July 2.
The Court of Appeals ruled that a lesbian couple should be allowed to sue Yeshiva University for bias based on sexual orientation. The decision overturned two lower courts, which found that the college’s policy was not discriminatory because it applied to unmarried heterosexual couples as well as gay and lesbian couples. The high court sent the case back to a trial court.
The lesbian students, Sara Levin and Maggie Jones, have graduated from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They are no longer a couple, Levin said in April.
Gay Navajo teen slain
Cortez, Colo.—A gay Navajo teenager’s badly decomposed body was found June 21, and the police have ruled his death a homicide.
Fred Martinez Jr., 16, was known for wearing makeup and carrying a purse around school, but was described by classmates as very popular.
Autopsy reports indicate that Martinez was bludgeoned into unconsciousness and died of exposure. His body was found in a rocky canyon south of Cortez, his hometown in the southwest corner of the state.
Martinez had gone to a carnival at the county fairgrounds on June 16. He was reportedly seen at a party later that night, the last time he was seen alive. His parents said that he often was away from home for days at a time, so they did not report him missing until after the body was discovered. The only identification with the body was a mirror with his name on it.
It is not yet known if Martinez being gay or Native American was a factor in his murder.
Couple found beheaded
Suva, Fiji—A gay man who helped hostages in last year’s failed coup attempt was found murdered with his lover July 1 in what is being referred to as an execution-style killing.
John Scott, director of the Red Cross in this South Pacific island nation, and his partner Gregory Scrivener, from New Zealand, were found murdered in their home. Their heads were almost completely severed from their bodies with a cane knife. The murderer had apparently broken down their front door.
Early speculation was that the deaths were a result of domestic violence, an accusation refuted by Scrivener’s sister, Janice Giles.
According to Giles, both men feared retribution for Scott’s role in ending last year’s coup against Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. They were afraid that not only were allies of insurgent businessman George Speight going to hurt them, but also that the Fijian police, known to be anti-gay in their upper echelons, would fail to protect them.
Police have ruled out domestic violence, pointing to bloody footprints leading out of the bedroom where the bodies were found.
Scott was the first person allowed to see the hostages in the abortive coup, and brought food, water, medicine and messages to them, including Chaudhry.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Patti Harris and Rex Wockner.
by Harriet L. Schwartz
When Margie Adam turns on the radio, she is routinely disappointed.
"This has always been true for me as a lesbian, a feminist, and a progressive. I don't usually hear my life on the radio," Adam said in a recent phone interview. "I am committed to holding a place in the world for music for women who are self-identified, women-identified, and women-loving."
Adam has just released her eighth album. On the surface, Avalon seems less obviously political than one might expect from the songwriter and activist. Rather than writing in-your-face political songs, she has penned songs that she hopes strike a universal chord among listeners, thus responding to her frustration with the mainstream music industry. Adam speaks passionately as she notes that music made by male artists and bands is typically accepted as having universal appeal, while music made by female artists and bands is marginalized. She hopes that a variety of listeners will connect with her songs.
Perhaps Adam's approach is subtle because of the lessons she has learned throughout her life as a musician and an activist. Adam, who worked closely with Holly Near, Cris Williamson, and Meg Christian, is one of the artists credited with pioneering the "women's music" genre on her own Pleiades Records, a label that has lasted more than two decades as the home for all of her recordings.
"Things are more simple for me this decade," she says. "I've turned 50 and I know some things. I feel more a sense of urgency this decade than I did in the last. When we started this movement of women's music, we had no respect for what we didn't know. We believed we could do it, that we could make a space for women in music. It's taken a lot longer than we expected. That sense of urgency that some of us felt, burned some of us out. But today in the fourth decade of this work, it's both coming to terms with how long change takes, and having the energy of knowing we're on the right path."
Adam's sense of urgency seems fueled by both a sense of progress and dissatisfaction. She delights in the fact that many independent female artists are creating music that reflects a "strong lesbian feminist" perspective. Yet she remains troubled that the media still finds it newsworthy that Ani DiFranco successfully runs her own label. As long as DiFranco's independence is news, women have not arrived as equal players in the music business.
Despite her frustration, Adam exudes pure joy when she talks about women who are currently making their marks in popular music.
"I'm proud to see our progress," she says. "We built the first stage that Melissa, the Butchies, Ani DiFranco and others stand on today. Whether they call it 'women's music' doesn't matter to me. To have women-empowered music out there taking the space it does, I'm thrilled."
Along with her commitment to women in music, Adam has had a long and important career as an activist. She served on the board of directors for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco for five years and was a driving force in the formation of the center's Elder Project.
"Part of my work this year is gently nudging the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who have disengaged," she says. "The work still needs to be done. It's harder this decade but it needs to be done. The radical right that has done its organizational work has been successful.
"Music has the capacity to heal or to energize, to direct a community to do something different. In my music and performance, I try to create a sense of community"
Perhaps it was that sense of community that drew Kerry Lobel to Avalon. Lobel, a leading activist served as the executive director of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force from 1996-2000. In her first major endeavor since leaving the Task Force, Lobel served as executive producer for the album.
"We fell into each other's brains," Adam says about her conversations with Lobel. "We began to have conversations about politics and then about politics and culture . . . We wanted to join forces because of the political connection. As executive producer, she created a space, in a business and physical sense, where we could record, free of lots of the complications you usually have to deal with when you are recording."
Adam and Lobel shared a vision that the music would not only inspire people to reconnect with their communities, but that it would also bring attention to organizations vital to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender movements as well as other feminist and progressive organizations. A portion of the money raised by CD sales will go to these groups.
However, as much as Adam and Lobel collaborated on strategy, they also shared a more mystical sense of the power of their endeavor.
Adam concludes, "If we could create an environment in the studio that was women-affirmed and women-loving, it would reflect in the music. The collaboration is that state of mind we call Avalon.
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