Column: Love Us Because We’re Fabulous: 50 Ways to Support LGBT By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday June 21, 2005

Prolific local writer Meredith Maran has added another tome to her long list of writing accomplishments, this time in the form of anthology: 50 Ways To Support Lesbian & Gay Equality (Inner Ocean Publishing, 165 pages, $14.95). Subtitled “The Complete Guide to Supporting Family, Friends-or Yourself,” its short and snappy personal essays are accompanied by tip sheets listing commonsense advice and a myriad of LGBT resources.  

Co-edited by Angela Watrous, 50 Ways To Support Lesbian & Gay Equality showcases fifty authors, including many local residents such as filmmaker Johnny Symons, Colorlines editor Daisy Hernandez , and writer/counselor Renate Stendhal. Also voicing opinions are renowned activists, among them Judy Shepard (mother of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard and Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation), Margaret Cho (comedian), Candace Gingrich (sister of Newt, and Youth Outreach Manager for the Human Rights Campaign), Jerry Greenfield (cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade), Rebecca Walker (author of Black, White and Jewish), Kelli O’Donnell (wife of Rosie, and founder of R Family Vacations) and William F. Schulz (Executive Director of Amnesty International).  

In Montclair last week, I caught several of the authors and Maran in discussion at the intimate and wonderfully energetic independent bookstore, A Great Good Place for Books. Starting with a flamboyant lip sync performance by Diva Dan, the agenda included brief talks by attorney Emily Doskow, who specializes in same-sex couple adoption, Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, and Leland Traiman, founder of Rainbow Flag Health Services, the only gay sperm bank in the world, located right here in Alameda County. Like the anthology, these writer-activists offered a kaleidoscope of information including how to deal with the straight world, and where to get help with LBGT concerns. But what made their talks most relevant were their personal stories, which, as in 50 Ways To Support Lesbian & Gay Equality, puts a human face on the difficult issues faced by the LBGT community. Traiman recounted his husband’s mother’s inability to accept the children they are raising; Diva Dan explained what it’s like to grow up a boy wanting to wear a dress in Tennessee; Maran told of the eight years she and her sons were estranged from her father. These stories and the dozens of others in this collection are poignant, concise and refreshingly unsentimental. 

For example, the “Value Families Like Mine” essay by “queerspawn,” (birth through donor insemination to two proud and open moms), Nathaniel Obler, spokesperson for Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), encourages readers to take a look at this “ever-growing community that is adding a new, younger, and--if I do say so myself--cuter face to the gay community.” 

Thea Hillman discusses intersex issues in an essay entitled “Put the ‘I’ in Pride,” Victoria Neilson—in “Demand Immigration Equality”—explains why immigration laws need to be changed, C. Dixon Osburn sheds light on don’t ask, don’t tell military policies in “Ask, Tell.” “Advocate for Our Elders,” by Scott J. Hamilton, explores the growing senior LBGT population, and “Keep the Faith,” by Reverend Dr. Troy D. Perry, champions spiritual pursuits through the Metropolitan Community Churches.  

I plan to keep 50 Ways to Support Lesbian & Gay Equality within easy reach on my bookshelf. I’ll review some of the films recommended by Diane Anderson-Minshall in Watch Movies about LGBT Life, research classes to take and books to read as suggested by Arlene Stein in “Study Something Queer,” and educate my teenage friends and relatives on the proper use of the word gay as explained by Debra Chasnoff in “Talk to Children about LGBT People: It’s Elementary.” And I’ll heed the sage advice of Diva Dan in “Walk a Mile in My Heels” not to “hate us because we’re beautiful. Love us because we’re fabulous.” 

Meredith Maran and several of the authors from 50 Ways to Support Lesbian & Gay Equality will appear at the San Francisco Main Library July 7. For more information go to www.meredithmaran.com.