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Volume 15/Issue 25

$25,000 Stonewall Awards Surprise
Four Champions Of Gay Rights

Four champions of gay and lesbian rights in America have learned to their total surprise that they are winners of the 1997 Stonewall Awards, consisting of $25,000 in cash to each winner.

The award winners are: Barry Pack, 27, Portland, OR, executive director of Right to Pride, the state's oldest gay rights organization. He is an energetic lobbyist against anti-gay legislation and an innovator in political organizing; Mary Farmer, 48, Washington, DC, director of finance and administration of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who for 20 years owned and operated the bookstore Lammas, which she made into the focal point of the Washington feminist and lesbian community; Sarah Schulman, 39, New York, NY, author who has chronicled gay life in New York and addressed homelessness, the AIDS crisis and other issues, in novels, plays, essays and articles; and, Cornelius Wilson, 40, Detroit, child of the Near East Side and the Brewster Projects of Detroit who escaped poverty by being a teenage model, saw the need for AIDS prevention information in the gay, black community, and founded Men of Color, a support group.

The Anderson Prize Foundation, which gives the Stonewall Awards, announced the 1997 winners. The Foundation said that, including this year's prizes, almost $700,000 has been given out to 28 winners since 1991, when they started. The awards are named in honor of the street confrontation in front of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NY, in 1969, when gays for the first time responded to police repression and the gay rights movement was energized. Paul A. Anderson, a futures trader in Chicago, established and funded the Anderson Prize Foundation to administer the awards. He died of AIDS-related illness in 1992. Allen A. Schuh, a Chicago-based attorney and Anderson's companion for 13 years, is now president of the Foundation.

The awards are made without regard to sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin, age or gender, through a private process in which leaders of the lesbian and gay community are invited to nominate candidates anonymously. The four winners are chosen by a Foundation committee and represent the US Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

FDA Reform:
A Major Victory For People With AIDS

When Congress overwhelm ingly passed legislation to overhaul the Food and Drug Administration's breakthrough drug approval process in November, it was the culmination of a long battle by gay Republican activists to force the federal government out of the way between people with AIDS and life-extending AIDS treatments.

Beginning with legislation first introduced by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA) in 1991 to speed the approval process for life-saving drug therapies, Log Cabin activists have been key players in the FDA reform movement. Since early in the epidemic, pro-treatment activists have complained bitterly about the FDA's erratic, politicized and slow approval process for each breakthrough drug treatment, leading to thousands of needless deaths of people with life-threatening diseases. By forcing a uniform process onto the bureaucracy while ensuring safety and efficacy, as well as ensuring informed consent for patients who choose the treatments, the legislation which passed this year will go a long way in ending "death by red tape" for people with AIDS as new treatments are developed.

"FDA reform will save countless lives in the future," said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "We have a duty to remember all those who didn't survive the long drug approval processes that kept life-saving treatments out of their reach...."

Having Gay Friends Improves Medical Students'
Attitudes on Homosexuality

Knowing someone who is gay or lesbian and having knowledge about homosexuality can improve medical students' attitudes toward gay men and lesbians, reports a study published in the current issue of the Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

"Medical Student Attitudes on Homosexuality and Implications for Health Care" reports the results of a survey of 127 first- and second-year medical students who enrolled in an elective human sexuality course at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Nearly 86 percent (109) of the students said they had a gay or lesbian acquaintance, and 78.9 percent of these students received a "high" ranking on questions testing their knowledge of homosexuality. In contrast, only nine of the 18 students who did not have a gay or lesbian friend scored highly on these questions.

The study evaluated students' attitudes toward gay men and lesbians by asking questions such as whether they would be willing to care for homosexual patients and families; if they thought it was important that physicians understand the special medical and social problems that face gay men and women; and whether they believed homosexuals and heterosexuals deserve the same quality of medical care.

"The students who have gay friends know more about gay issues, and this appears to have a positive effect on their attitudes," said Cynthia G. Olsen, MD, an associate professor at Wright State University, who co-authored the study with Barbara L. Mann, Ph.D. "This study confirms that the more information students have about gay men and lesbians, the more likely they are to have a positive attitude toward homosexuality."

Despite significant gains by lesbians and gays over the past decade, discrimination against gay and lesbian physicians and patients remains widespread. GLMA's 1994 Anti-Gay Discrimination in Medicine: Results of a National Survey of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Patients found that when a patient's sexual orientation is made known, gay and lesbian patients run a serious risk of encountering discrimination by medical professionals. In fact, 52 percent of the physicians surveyed said they observed a colleague provide reduced care or deny care to a patient because of her or his sexual orientation.

To counteract the homophobia that is commonplace in the medical profession, Olsen and Mann recommend that medical schools review their educational curriculum for negative and prejudicial attitudes and false information about homosexuality; require that students take human sexuality courses; support openly gay or lesbian students and teachers; make students aware of professional medical organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, and adopt policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation. "Gay and lesbian patients are entitled to expect the same quality of health care as heterosexual patients," said GLMA board member and JGLMA co-editor Mark Townsend, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans. "Medical schools should see it as their responsibility to ensure that their students graduate with the knowledge they need to care for all of their patients. If they choose to, medical schools can be at the forefront in changing attitudes about homosexuality in the medical profession. The question is whether administrators are willing to accept that challenge."

The Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, launched in March 1997, is the world's first peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered health. Specializing in original clinical research, JGLMA is published quarterly by the San Francisco-based GLMA.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is an organization of nearly 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered physicians, medical students, and their supporters in all 50 states and 12 countries. Founded in 1981, GLMA works to combat homophobia within the medical profession and in society at large and to promote quality health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered patients.

Disney Chief Says Anti-Gay Boycott's A Flop

During a November 23 interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner announced the failure of a boycott attempt by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention because of the company's inclusion and fair treatment of lesbians and gay men. Eisner noted that the boycott attempt "hasn't had a financial effect."

Specifically addressing ABC's Ellen, Eisner called the development of the openly lesbian lead character "very well done," and noted that same-sex kissing on the show did not offend him. "It would be hard to ask ABC, either in their news division or...their entertainment division to cancel or edit something out that was mature."

In the year ending September 30, Disney's revenues have risen by a reported 6% to $22.5 billion, while its operating income has soured 18% to $4.3 billion.

"While GLAAD supports any group's right to call a boycott, the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention clearly have little support from Southern Baptists, much less other Americans," said GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry. "The boycott's a bust because most people simply don't support their 'sky is falling' scare tactics around fair representations of lesbians and gay men." [GLAAD]

Radical Southern Baptists Make Ray Kerrison Dizzy

In his November 25 column, the New York Post's Ray Kerrison perverts a 60 Minutes story on Disney CEO Michael Eisner to peddle his own anti-gay agenda. In "Boycott Begins to Make Dizzy Disney Boss Bend," Kerrison claims Michael Eisner was forced to do the interview because of the pressure exacted by the Southern Baptist Convention's vote to boycott Disney because of what Kerrison calls "trying to normalize a lifestyle that is abnormal, deviant, unhealthy and dangerous." Eisner states that Disney profits have grown 20 percent in the past year, and that "[w]e're not pushing any agenda. We're pushing for tolerance and understanding, expansiveness."

Kerrison uses his column to serve as soapbox to the conservative critics of Disney, from anti-gay film reviewer Michael Medved to The Catholic League (a radical religious organization) to Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. After aping the American Family Association's claim that the 60 Minutes interview was "slanted," and that the interview was an example of "why Americans 'despise and mistrust' the national media," the column closes by stating that the film Priest and ABC's Nothing Sacred were "[a] vile assault on Mother Teresa as she is carried to her resting place."

The prospect of hammering the media, and lesbians and gay men seems to have same-sex partners of Disney employees is about equal treatment, and does nothing to affect people who are not receiving the benefits. Representing diversity is about inclusion, and expanding the definition of "family-oriented" entertainment, not limiting it to the narrow-minded views of a small group of anti-gay zealots. Kerrison's disingenuous attempt to "report" Eisner's supposed "buckling" under the pressure of boycott, is a desperate attempt at damage control for radical religious groups. His desperation reveals how the busted boycott does nothing but prove how utterly marginal they are to the concerns and lives of normal, fair-minded Americans. No amount of creative spin, whether from Kerrison or the AFA, can conceal that fact. [GLAAD]

Washington Post "Gay Chic"
Mired In Misconceptions

A November 22 Washington Post STORY?? entitled "Gay Chic" raises many interesting questions about the "`normalization' of gay and lesbian life in America," but ultimately rests on some major false assumptions.

"Less than a generation ago, when most baby boomers were teens, homosexuals lived furtive and frightened lives as social outcasts and sexual criminals. They were hassled and hauled in by the cops, depicted in the mainstream press as perverts and sickos, purged from the government as security risks and precariously situated in the private economy," writer Richard Harwood says.

[Today] "there are no ripples or gasps when politicians, businessmen, celebrities and athletes come out of the closet. Gay studies is taught in many of our schools, and provides material for welcoming sermons from the pulpit. Gays hold seats in Congress .... The media, once vigilantes in anti-homosexual campaigns, have conspicuously switched sides during the past decade or so. News organizations now root out and expose homophobes, crusade for tolerance and gay-rights laws and recruit gay journalists. The television networks routinely depict gays in a sympathetic light. Demographers have known for years that American homosexuals on the whole are a very affluent slice of the population.... The average income for gay and lesbian households is estimated at more than $55,000 a year, compared with about $40,000 a year for households in the general population."

The story paints a curious and false picture of the political and cultural landscapes faced by lesbian and gay Americans today. Phenomenal progress has been made by gay Americans towards full inclusion in society. But there is a long, hard road ahead, and Harwood dismisses just how far we have to go. No gay or lesbian politician can run a campaign without facing extreme bias from detractors merely on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Only a handful of athletes have come out, fearful of the very real hardships that openly gay athletes can face in a highly conservative arena of public life. Celebrities coming out are still so rare that someone like Ellen DeGeneres announcing they are gay is exceptional enough to warrant the cover of Time. The media, which has made significant progress towards fair, accurate and inclusive treatment of gay people, still routinely misrepresents us as well, most notably seen in the way that the media covered the Andrew Cunanan story, as well as the fact that simple hand-holding among lesbians warrants a "parental advisory warning" from ABC while even sex between heterosexuals does not face nearly the same scrutiny. GLAADAlert every week recounts grossly inaccurate media representations of our lives, families and diversity.

Lastly, Harwood relies on marketing studies bent on proving the profitability of a "gay market" and geared toward documenting wealthy, primarily white, primarily male gay people when determining the "average income for lesbian and gay couples." More fully representative studies of the economic state of lesbians and gay men, such as University of Maryland, College Park, economist Lee Badgett's recent survey indicates that lesbian and bisexual women earn less than straight women and that gay men tend to earn less than heterosexual men. [GLAAD]

Gay-Themed Books Banned

Citing the possibility of reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple as leading to "different sex games and violence and other things we've seen in the past," according to one board member, the Jackson County (West Virginia) School Board has ordered it and 15 other books pulled from school libraries. While the other books, including John Grisham's The Client and Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, are pending a review for sexually explicit language, gay content or violent imagery, Alice Walker's critically acclaimed work The Color Purple was banned without review. The novel deals with issues of race, gender, family and the brutality of domestic violence in a small Southern town. "It is amazing to me that they're pulling top works of Pulitzer Prize winners off the shelves of libraries where students are supposed to learn about literature in the first place," said Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Executive Director Kevin Jennings.

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