Friday, April 30, 2010

On the radio with PROUD FM

The other day I wrote: PS. I'm going to be on the radio tomorrow morning with A Thousand Canada. :) It's kind of like when my roommate Matt booked his first commercial...and then found out it was to be aired in Japan only. Cool, nonetheless!

Well here it is! A quick little tid-bit of info about A Thousand Moms and my involvement.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mr. Empire State!

NYC Pageants in association with the Miss New York Scholarship Organization proudly presents....


The Spoon Theater
38 West 38th Street
New York, NY

General Admission: $18.00
VIP Admission: $30.00
(Includes a VIP Rooftop Cocktail Reception at 7:15 with the Contestants)

Purchase tickets by calling 212-579-0528 or visiting

A percentage of the proceeds from the pageant will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network and to the NYC Contestant Preparation Fund.

Open to all 18+ year-old men in New York State
Download the entry form from the Mr. Empire State web site
$25.00 Entry Fee, Form and Headshot Photo are all due by June 5, 2010.

For more questions or reservations, please contact Executive Director, Rene Bionat at or email me HERE


Miss New York Contestant photos are up!

View them HERE on the Miss New York Website

and PS. I'm going to be on the radio tomorrow morning with A Thousand Canada. :) It's kind of like when my roommate Matt booked his first commercial...and then found out it was to be aired in Japan only. Cool, nonetheless!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

14,000 women competed.

By my extreme involvement in my platform, most of you who read this blog realize that a "platform" is the community service organization or social movement or issue that each contestant promotes during her year as a local or state titleholder. I have some numbers to share with you.

1 Miss America
53 State Titleholders (50 states, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia)
1,200 Local Titleholders across the United States
14,000 Women competed in Miss America Local Competitions last year alone

So 14,000 contestants = 14,000 platforms! and 14,000 community activists.

New York has 20 local titleholder holders and many of them are busy promoting their work in their communities through active blogs. Check out some of my daily reads:
Keelie Sheridan, Miss Greater NYC
- Latest Post: We'll Bring the Art to You
Cassie Franklin, Miss Liberty
- Latest Post: Post Spring Meeting Plans
Inga Schlingmann, MIss Jubilee
- Latest Post: Smile for Life
Katie Martin, Miss Greater Rochester
- Latest Post: Vote for Rochester Red Cross

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ugly Modern Family of Betty's GLEE.

what? anyway...We often talk about the media and celebrity portrayal in the sense of role models, for women especially, but also for what's hot, what's elite and what's normal. There have been a few things on television lately that I want to share in case you have missed them. TV has a way of confronting "issues" and social norms kind of subconsciously.

The Emmy award-winning hit Ugly Betty had an incredible episode leading up to the season finale. Background: I have been watching from Season 1 on NetFlix with my roommate and we are not yet caught up. However, I was so excited to hear about this episode that I sacrificed the spoiling effect and watched it anyway! Throughout Ugly Betty, the Editor’s assistant Mark has had a developing story about how he has dealt with his sexual orientation, coming out and how it has affected his life. He has also been a mentor to Betty’s nephew. We’ve followed Justin’s evolution as a teenager, being bullied, made fun of, finding his niche in fashion, and on the second to last episode of Ugly Betty, Justin came out of the closet. I sobbed through the majority of this episode: true story. PFLAG was even mentioned in the episode!

The LA Times wrote a great article HERE on the episode.

"Ugly Betty has definitely helped me cope with issues I would have never been able to cope with if I wasn't a part of a show that has such unique characters," Mark Indelicato (Justin) said. "I think we all feel like Betty at some point in our lives. We feel ugly or like a misfit, and that's why people can relate to Justin -- because he's like that too. They can see that he does feel different and he gets made fun of for the clothes he wears. To see him finally accept and be happy with who he is and who he has become is a great message for any teen to learn from a character, and that's just something that is crazy and great for me."

Watch the Full Episode of Ugly Betty HERE.

And how about GLEE? It's been a phenomenon beyond even what its creators and cast imagined. Kurt, the effeminate, well-dressed tenor, came out to his car-fixin’, grease-wipin’ father on an episode early in the season. Yet another tearjerker! These plot lines have brought a wonderful sense of normalcy to gay teens.

Read the television reviews HERE or watch the segment HERE.

And although I haven’t watched it, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews: Modern Family.

Today's Modern Family comes in all shapes and sizes. Just ask these three families. Jay recently married Gloria. Now Jay is trying hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter Colombian wife, along with her passionate pre-teen son, Manny. Claire is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except that he thinks he's "down" with their three kids, much to all their embarrassment. And, Mitchell and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just made a major life change by adopting a Vietnamese baby named Lily.

Miss New York Workshop

I had orientation workshop for Miss New York this weekend--ah butterflies!! We turned in paperwork, performed our talents, learned a bit of our opening number with choreographer Kent Parham, and even did a swimsuit preview. It was so great to meet all of the contestants since there were a few I hadn't met yet, but also to spend a bit more time with the girls I knew.

Elisabeth Baldanza, Miss New York 2007, was one of our talent critics and I was really looking forward to what she had to say as she is a talented dancer herself and has experienced the blend of lyrical dance with pageantry-it can be a tricky one. She had great talent advice but her real impact was later in the day. She shared a bit about her year as Miss New York, the challenges she faced with expectation vs reality and giving vs receiving. She used an incredible analogy that I'd like to share (hopefully without butchering)

The Sea of Galilee breeds life. It is beautiful, sustaining, providing, and allows life to flourish. Out of the Sea of Galilee flows the Jordan River, which then flows into the Dead Sea. No life can live or sustain itself in or around the Dead Sea. With a single river connecting the two, how can the seas be so different? One has the Jordan flowing OUT of it, and one has the Jordan River flowing INTO it. When you concentrate on energy, compassion, and goodwill flowing OUT of yourself towards others, you will be alive. If you only sit and wait for those things and opportunities to flow into you, you will be dead. Another note: the Dead Sea is beautiful to look at. Whoop-di-do. Who cares anymore? Beauty doesn't sustain life.

Thank you, Elisabeth, for sharing that story.

Last stop: contestant numbers! I am really happy with my placement: #15 of 20 contestants. And then we were off--a delusional drive home with the NYC Pageant crew and Miss Brooklyn Mallory Hagan, her director Amaris and Teen Joelle.

Thanks to Rene for a great weekend full of presents, encouragement, lame jokes and thoughtful direction. Casey for driving! Cassie and Keelie for a great trip together and fantastic photo ops. Paul, Kenny, Linda, Faith and Kent for an impeccably organized day. Alyse and Elisabeth for sharing you advice and experiences. And congrats to our new and excited executive director, Mr. Kenny Mack! It's going to be a great year!

Broadway Impact


Another introduction! Jenny Kanelos, one of the co-founders of Broadway Impact, and I were able to sit down last week to talk. Broadway Impact is a grassroots organization with a focus on Marriage Equality. I have attended events supported by and produced by them before, but I look forward to working even more directly with them in the future. I learned more about the founding process, the mission and the work of Broadway Impact and we brainstormed to overlap my talents, abilities and gifts to produce something together. This organization defines "grassroots" in that it is run right out of Jenny and Roy's apartment with Gavin Creel of "HAIR" and has a simple niche focus to use the Broadway community to influence change in New York for Marriage Equality. These three had a passion and an opinion and decided to do something about it. Their organization has grown immensely, sometimes almost too fast to control, with incredible reactions and support from the entire Broadway community.

We are a community of actors, directors, stage managers, fans, producers — pretty much anyone who has ever seen, been in or worked on a Broadway show — united by the simple belief that anyone who wants to should be able to get married.

I'm really excited to see where this partnership can go! Visit their website for photos, videos, blogs, an opportunity to contact your senator, and more!

Gavin Creel accepting an Award at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards - New York

Banners of Hope

7:30 am: Wake up and work/email/get ready/pack lunch/make breakfast
9:00 am: Off to Apple for a full day of work til 6:30
6:30 pm: Head down to Banners of Hope
9:30 pm: To the gym for a workout
11:00pm: Home and edit a photoshoot
1:00 am: Sleep because tomorrow = do it all again.

That's what my schedule is like balancing Apple, my own business, working out, being an active titleholder!

So Tuesday's event was Banners of Hope with A Thousand Moms. I was able to learn more about what A Thousand Moms does and was educated about the foster care system in NY and the correlation between foster care and LGBT kids. (More explanation on A Thousand Mom's at my blog post below.) In conjunction with Lawyers for Children, Banners of Hope is a project in which they engage gay youth in foster/adoptive care to create banners and personalize them with messages of hope for the PRIDE parades in NY. I was only able to catch the tail end of the meeting, but I was very thankful to with founder Fred Elia and his partner Dave Balog over tea and discuss the immediate need for attention and expansion of A Thousand Moms and foster care in NY in general. Don't forget to vote for the Pepsi Challenge and help A Thousand Moms get the funding they need to improve this system and therefore children's lives.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Off to Albany...

Getting ready to do a little dress shopping and then head up to Albany for Miss New York Orientation/Workshop! On the schedule: Turn in paperwork and headshots, draw contestant number, swimsuit preview and talent critique.

Excited to meet the few contestants I haven't yet, and to see everyone again! Plus, definitely jazzed for the roadtrip with Cassie, Keelie and Rene!

Here is the final headshot - ehh set up and edited by me, but credit truly goes to my roommie Matt for making me smile and pressing the button :)

No Reason a Lesbian Shouldn't Wear the Crown

Miss America Caressa Cameron: No Reason a Lesbian Shouldn't Wear the Crown

It took Caressa Cameron four tries to become Miss Virginia, but once she nailed the state title last year, it's easy to see how she went on to capture the glittery Miss America crown in Las Vegas on Jan. 30.

This was one poised, smart, candid and effervescent young woman who sat down to lunch in Washington Monday with a bunch of strangers, including several reporters and TV producers. Sure, she'd been in D.C. before, to sing the National Anthem at the Washington Nationals' season opener, where she shook hands with President Obama, and to serve as grand marshal of the Cherry Blossom Parade earlier this month.

But Monday's lunch was meant to showcase her in a far more intimate setting -- Cafe Milano's private dining room in Georgetown, and to once again remind those new to the world of Miss America and all its state and local pageants that it is not, not, not a beauty contest, because it provides $50 million a year in scholarships for women.

During the meet and greet, where surprisingly no handler hovered about monitoring her every word, Cameron, 22, answered all my questions except one: How much money she thinks she'll earn at paid appearances all over the world during her reign. "I'm not allowed to discuss it," she confided. But it is a sizable chunk of change, especially since the crown comes with an automatic $50,000 scholarship.

Cameron didn't blink, however, when I asked if she thought some day there might be a lesbian Miss America, given that so many other barriers have fallen since the first pageant was held in 1921 as an unapologetic beauty contest to lure tourists to Atlantic City in September.

Call it her reign of candor.

"I don't think someone's ethnicity, someone's religious background, even their sexual orientation has anything to do with their ability to do the job, so I would say yes. It has no bearing on whether they can go to a children's hospital and visit kids."

Cameron was also confident that the judges -- who this year included conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh -- would be willing to make such an equal-opportunity choice. "A lot of time we don't give people enough credit for being open-minded. If you are a judge doing your job, you will choose someone regardless of her political views or sexual orientation. You would hope people's prejudice would not play a role in picking someone for a job as wonderful as Miss America."

No surprise, then, that her platform issue during her Virginia pageant years -- which began at age 14 in the Junior Miss Fredericksburg contest and will continue as Miss A -- remains HIV/AIDS education and prevention for students in middle and high school. Having lost an uncle to AIDS when she was just 8, Cameron wanted a teenager's bully pulpit from which to reach kids who might not listen to adults.

No surprise either that during a public interview before her state victory last June, she declared that the separation of church and state trumped her personal religious belief that marriage should be between a man and woman. "But I don't believe we should legislate against gay marriage. One doesn't de-solidify the other."

That is what a modern Miss America, and a would-be TV anchor, sounds like.

I got my first glimpse into the parallel universe of pageantry back in 1986, when Miss A was still based on the Jersey shore (it moved to Vegas in 2006). It was from the contestants that I first heard of a profession known as "personal trainer," learned that the "girls" routinely used Preparation H hemorrhoid cream to deflate puffy eye bags, slathered Vaseline on their teeth for a shinier smile and kept their swimsuits from riding up by spraying their butts with the same stuff football players used to keep a grip on the pigskin. One contestant who failed to place in the top 10 that year revealed she'd blithely enthused to judges that "'the women of America are going to take the country by storm. There are 49 women running for office and by the year 2000 half of the people in medical, law and other professional schools will be women.' I don't think that went over to big," she said. I kept a close eye on the 1993 winner, Leanza Cornett, who broke new ground as an advocate for children with AIDS; she also broke the physical stereotype by being a petite brunette, not a statuesque blond.

Cameron, too, is a tiny and dark-haired, just 5-foot-4 and maybe a size 0. But she was also the only one at lunch who ordered two entrees, one of them a bowl of pasta. Although her family is still in Virginia, her only visit home since winning 10 weeks ago was at Easter, and she won't have another day off until Thanksgiving. She jokes that her base is "two suitcases and a carry-on bag."

Occasionally, however, her boyfriend, who coaches football and basketball at their old high school, and who gave her the dazzling crown pendant she wears -- it's made of crystals, not diamonds, she says -- will meet her for dinner if she is appearing locally.


Interestingly enough, if you google this article, you'll also find another one. Similar, but ha, look how the title changed from one news source to another:
Miss America Caressa Cameron: A Lesbian Will Wear Crown One Day

Monday, April 19, 2010


Well, I'm still working on it, but...... We have a new website!!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Tax Day :) errrr :(

I think we can all agree that tax day isn't the most fun holiday that pops up in our Google calendars. (I didn't have to pay this year, thank goodness....guess I spent too much on business investments to really have a legit profit.) ANYWHO. Taxes aren't fun, they're kind of confusing sometimes, and it doesn't get any easier when you're gay. Hey, sometimes you can get quite a bonus and take each of your returns and head somewhere warm, but it doesn't happen that easily every time. For example, I present THIS article (sent by Kaitlin Davis - my friends send me cool stuff! Thanks!) Once again, I'll pull some highlights out of this brilliantly written piece, and you can read the rest HERE.

My Big Fat Gay Tax Return(s)

My tax law professor told me not to, but I do the family taxes. In theory, it shouldn't be too bad: one job, two kids, a dwindling stock portfolio. Nothing some decent tax software and a bottle of wine can't handle. It's nothing more than record keeping and data entry, no offense to the CPAs out there. Except for one thing: I'm a woman, married (in some states) to another woman and no one, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), knows what that means.

...Last year I was a Stay at Home Mom. This is one scenario where that whole "gay couples pay more in taxes" thing really stings. See, my wife files as single, Head of Household, and claims me as one of her "dependents." And I do depend on her, for so many things, like love and support and making inappropriate jokes in front of my parents. I depend on her the way, say, a spouse would. But in the eyes of the federal government, I'm not a spouse. And that changes everything.

So a stay at home mom who doesn't bring in a paycheck, offsets the loss of the credit simply by existing as a spouse, raising the cutoff amount. I can't do that, because as far as the government is concerned, I'm an unemployed single person, who, on paper, appears to do nothing more than loaf around and mooch off the single, mother of twins with whom I live. And my wife, who supports a family of four, doesn't get the child tax credit because she's "single" and makes more than $60,000. If we could file as married, we would get the full credit and mama'd get a new pair of Louboutins.

For now, how about a tiny change on the tax form — just get rid of married and put in jointly. Then two people who are financially dependent on each other — who comingle funds and live together — can get all the same breaks as those married folk do. Got it IRS?

By Maia Spotts

Yet one more reason...marriage equality. It has nothing to do with religion, it's a financial issue in this case. How many "relationships" are there out there in which a woman has married a man for his money, or vice versa, without love or children as a part of the equation? So here you have two committed people raising two boys on a single-income household...time to get some bucks from the gov.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Thousand Moms

Keelie sent me a link to an organization she thought I may want to look into. Wow, am I glad I did. I have been in contact with the founder, Fred Elia and his partner David and they have shared unbelievable stories with me that show the dire need for attention on this issue. So many times, we hear gay rights and immediately think marriage; there is sooo much more.

Too often, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBT/Q) youth in foster/adoptive care experience rejection, from their families, from their peers, from society. The results are among the highest rates of social problems, most alarmingly, teen suicide. A Thousand Moms, a non-profit organization, works to build community support so that these youth may live in stable homes and live healthy, productive lives.

In Central New York, there was a five year-old boy who lost his birth parents. At age 10, he was adopted with his sister who was three years older. Overall, he had a great relationship with his adoptive family. Approaching 16, he was going through puberty and questioning his sexuality. This boy is gay and his parents and sister do not accept him. He ran away - was placed in a psychiatric unit - was placed in diagnostic therapy to "get over being gay." That, of course, did not work. The family said they were willing to allow him to come home if he never discussed being gay in their home and if they controlled all aspects of his life, so he would not engage in gay acts. Deservingly so, this child wanted to be readopted by a family who loved and accepted him just as he his. You can read the entire case letter HERE.

I challenge you not to gasp...Children have been UNADOPTED because they have come out to their foster parents. Think about that one for a second. When you adopt someone at age two, you don't know what their sexual orientation is! 30% of LGBT kids are "dumped" into foster care because they are not wanted. 1 in 4 foster children are dealing with issues of sexual orientation. These kids have the highest rate of substance abuse and attempted suicide.

We need your help. A Thousand Moms is up for a $50,000 grant which would allow them to take incredible strides in the improvement of the foster care system in NY as well as educate and train so many more foster parents, case workers, social workers, guidance counselors and teachers and therefore directly effect the kids in NY. Please vote for A Thousand Moms in the Pepsi Challenge by clicking HERE. Vote now. And once a day through the end of April.

A Thousand Moms |
Pepsi Challenge |

I'll be working with them at the NYC LGBT Center for Banners of Hope next week and filming a PSA. Check back for updates next week!

Ashley Becker = aaaaamazing.

Please allow me to introduce this increibly talented and giving woman. Ashley is a graduate of Point Park University in Pittsburg, PA with a BFA in Dance Performance. She is a dancer, teacher and choreographer here in NYC. Ashley was also the choreographer and a featured performer at Light for Haiti.

Ashley and I met through the twisted connection of many different friends from college, Point Park and Ball State, and have connected in NY for a great new friendship! So why write a blog about some chick named Ashley? Well. We just spent many sweaty hours together at David Barton Gym in the studio as she choreographed my new dance for Miss New York!!! I. Am. So. Excited. Our styles seamlessly fit together perfectly and ideas overlapped perfectly to create a beautiful and meaningful dance. We'll save the song to be revealed a bit later :) Ashley was an incredible teacher, working so well with my strengths and making me contemporary and relateable to a dance and non-dance audience as is the case with many pageants.

If you ever need a choreographer, dancer, teacher or judge, look no further. I've got your girl and I'm happy to share!! Just contact me!

Maybe we'll put up a video clip.....stay tuned :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Light for Haiti - again.

I just received a fantastic email! This is the follow up from the fundraiser I helped produce, "Light for Haiti" about a month ago.

"The GHESKIO Clinic established a school recently for the children in its refugee camp, which opened last week. Attached is a photo from the first day of classes that I thought you might enjoy.

Many thanks again, and all the best,

yay! It's so great to hear and see that your work and donations truly did go to create something that will change people's lives.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Miss New York Class of 2010

Miss New York Class of 2010 is complete!! Congrats to ALL of the titleholders and also to every single girl who competed this year!

Albany- Katie Birchenough
Brooklyn- Mallory Hagan
Empire Rose- Courtney Sheridan
Finger Lakes- Amy Valenti
Fulton County- Heather Shaffer
Genesee Valley - Chelsea Prophet
Greater Gotham- Amanda Mason
Greater NYC- Keelie Sheridan
Greater Rochester - Katie Martin
Jubliee- Inga Schlingmann
Liberty- Cassie Franklin
Manhattan- Jackie Holmes
Metropolitan- Hannah Wright
Mohawk Valley- Kieren Sheridan
Richmond County - Kim Cantoni
Southeast NY- Clarie Buffie
Southern NY- Faren Collins
Staten Island- Jennifer Scacco
Thousands Islands- Kristina Ferris

Myth of the 'gay lifestyle' justifies bias

My friend Jen sent me this article from and it is just fantastic and needs to be read by many. I have pulled out some of my favorite points - Read the full story HERE

(CNN) -- On most mornings, my better half wakes up around 5:30, throws on some sweats and heads to the gym before work.
About a half hour later, I wake up my 13-year-old son, go downstairs to the kitchen to make his breakfast and pack his lunch. Once he's out the door, I brew some coffee and get to work. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the "gay lifestyle" -- run for your heterosexual lives.

I don't worship Barbra Streisand, I don't watch any TV show with the word "Housewives" in its title and I love fishing, beer and Madonna. But more important, I'm just a father trying to keep my son away from drugs, get him into college and have a little money left over for retirement. I'm no sociologist but I'm pretty sure those concerns are not exclusive to gay people.

"What" we are -- be it gay, straight, black, white -- is simply window dressing. "Who" we are is where the substance is, where the person is, where our humanity is.

In other words, we're just as diverse, intolerant, upstanding and tragic as our straight counterparts and unless there is an annual meeting I don't know about, the only item on the much talked-about gay agenda is an abbreviated passage from the Declaration of Independence -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

It's sad. We're such a great nation, still full of great hope and promise and yet we keep being tripped up by ignorance, which leads to fear and then eventually hate. Being gay isn't a choice, but being a bigot certainly is.

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN

The Personal Platform

This is why the Miss America Organization has a focus on personal platforms:

Today in my management class a student was giving a presentation on Sears and included in her presentation was that Sears was deemed one of the best places to work for LGBT Equality. My professor has never heard of LGBT neither had anyone else in my class of 20 except for me and another student, who happened to be gay. I never realized how prevalent your platform is until today. For 18, 20 somethings in a liberal college in Staten Island not to know what LGBT Equality is, is well, damn right scary. You have a big purpose."

The personal platform is about finding a need and providing a solution. It's about pushing the envelope to conquer something 'an ordinary person' may not be able to. Use the job and the voice of the platform of the Miss America Organization to engage people in thought and dialogue that results in education, awareness and compassion.

"You are so inspiring, Claire. Seriously. You make me want to get out there and work. Thank you for giving me a dose of encouragement to make a difference!"

The personal platform is both an opportunity and a challenge to affect change in the world around you, whether that means in your school, your community, your state, your nation or internationally. "Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

"Claire, just face it, you are someone that cares and it shows to each and everyone of us! Your Mom's reference is your badge of honor in my eyes! In reference to my mom saying 'You're the Go-To Gal for Everything Gay' "

The personal platform is about caring. It's about bringing awareness to humanity. For me, it's about spreading a message about love, respect, dignity and equality.

The personal platform is why I am in the Miss America Organization.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cyndi Lauper does it again.

Cyndi Lauper is helping establish Manhattan's first permanent housing for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in Harlem. The True Colors Residence, set to open in Winter 2011, will provide young people between 18 and 24 with a place to live while helping them get back on their feet.

The West End Intergenerational Residence, backed by Cyndi Lauper, has officially broken ground on the True Colors Residence, the first permanent housing for LGBT homeless or evicted youth and runaways. An appalling number of youth are kicked out of their homes for revealing their sexual orientation. 40% of New York City's homeless youth are LGBT. When the numbers state there are 20,000 homeless youth in NYC, that equals up to 8,000 homeless LGBT kids. This new housing complex with have 30 studio apartments, a rec room and library to provide a safe haven for youth who need it most. I hope to become more involved in the foundation, so stay tuned.

P.S. Great opportunity for a "Stay Close" plug...Cyndi Lauper has been a huge supporter or PFLAG NYC and was one of our original celebrities in the first "Stay Close" campaign featuring straight celebrities and their LGBT family members, sending an important message to familes to stay close throughout and beyond the coming out process, because relationships are too precious to lose.

Remember your prom?

Remember your freshman year in high school when you saw the juniors and seniors (and even those suuuper popular sophomores) getting so excited for prom? Good or bad, remember your prom? Who did you go with? Did you feel welcome? Did you dance and sing and let loose with your friends? Was it FUN? Maybe you didn't have a significant other, but did you get dolled up for a girls night out with your closet girlfriends? There are many questions here that Constance McMillen will never be able to answer. And for what she can answer, they won't be happy memories.

Many of you know who Constance is: the girl in Mississippi who wanted to bring her girlfriend to prom and was rejected. The school administrators decided to cancel the prom before letting 2 lesbians attend together. Not only did Constance have to deal with the disappointment of not going to prom, she had the entire school hating and blaming her for the cancellation of their prom, and no one, not even teachers, stood up for her. I can't even type this without disgust.

Constance has become a well-known name in many households, she has appear on talk shows like Ellen, on which Ellen offered to throw her a prom. She politely declined. It's not about going to a prom, it's about going to MY prom. [Instead, Ellen gave her a $30,000 college scholarship from] With the help of ACLU in the federal courts, Constance's lawsuit was filed and came to a resolution that the school administrators would reschedule the prom. Constance was invited. But not to the real one. While the entire school received invitations to party the night away at their high school prom, Constance and 6 other students received invitations to an alternate "fake" prom provided just for the misfits. ADULTS actually took the time and effort to send 7 students to a different location as to still not allow them to go to the real prom.

You may expect immature high schoolers to stoop to the levels of ridicule, torturous games and insensitivity, but the parents? The administration? This is truly something beyond my comprehension because I have faith that people are inherently good.

Some parents and teachers cited that having two lesbians a prom would be an educational distraction to the other students, preventing them from further learning. Prom isn't a night of education, it's a right of passage and a night of fun that ALL should be able to experience. Major kudos to Constance for the maturity and dignity with which she has dealt with a personal issue, magnified in the public media. She is someone from whom these parents could certainly take a lesson.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

One year later...

In my Miss Jubilee blog, I wrote many entries about the Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC, but for new readers, HERE it is. And HERE on PFLAG NYC's website.

The facts are that up to 10% of people are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). There are 1,000,000 (one million.) kids in NYC public schools. This means that in our public schools, there are up to 100,000 kids who are in a range from unknowing to struggling to confidently displaying their sexual orientation, and it's not the orientation this world deems "normal." So 100,000 kids. That is why we, PFLAG NYC, are in schools.

Over a year ago, I spoke to a few classrooms at Bronx Community High School. I heard derogatory slang, disrespectful language, and I heard, "Whatever, I'm straight, I don't need to listen to this sh*t." And I responded, "Guess what? I'm straight too. And I have something for you to hear." To those whose attention we kept, I think we (2 mothers and myself) made an impact, and I was especially grateful to the young man who came up to me afterwards and thanked me for coming and sharing my story. He also apologized for his peers.

But then...a few weeks ago during New York's Respect for All Week, I returned to Bronx Community High School and had a completely different experience. This time around, I was in a classroom of all girls who were completely open to talking about LGBT issues and were so respectful and interested in our dialogue. Tyla shared her story about being a lesbian and how her family and friends have reacted, and every girl in that classroom respected Tyla and her girlfriend. THIS is the environment we are trying to achieve: one of respect, equality and dignity for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and especially the stereotypes or stigma surround any of these labels. It was incredible to be able to THANK these girls for their inclusive opinions and actions, even though accepting each other was just a natural expectation of themselves. Perhaps it was just a different group, but I accredit this school and its counselors, principal and teachers for the progress that I witnessed, as well as the students. Change comes from the inside - out and the bottom - up. And it's happening.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

And it begins... | Miss Southeast New York!!

Wow! What a weekend! Miss New York is going to be an incredible competition to watch and the class of 2010 local titleholders will be an exciting group to follow.

I gave up my title of Miss Jubilee 2 weeks ago and it was right back to it in preparation/organization for "pageant-palooza" as Keelie has appropriately named the weekend of March 26-27 during which 30+ girls competed for 6 local titles in Miss New York Class of 2010. As prepared and excited as I was, I was NERVOUS and feel very fortunate to have secured one of those spots.

Congratulations to the first round of titleholders:
Miss Greater Gotham Amanda Mason
Miss Metropolitan Hannah Wright
Miss Manhattan Jackie Holmes

You are all incredibly talented women and I look forward to this summer together. (It’s funny how intertwined the performance world is...Hannah is all the way from Utah, yet attends Juilliard and knows my friend Brett! That's one of the really fun things I have found about pageants though is the connections you find with all of the new people who you're constantly meeting.)

So yes, I competed in that one...and I did my best! The competition was solid and deserving girls will represent that local organization. My on-stage question was "Is winning the most important part of competing in a pageant?" I said no. “When I look back at the past three years of competing in pageants I see incredible growth. The preparation, especially for the interview process, challenges you to know what you believe and why you believe it. The sparkly headpiece is a great bonus though. :)” And even after "losing" I still do feel this way.

On to round two though, I knew I had to bring it!! This was my only and last chance to go to Miss New York. So I took a break, refreshed the makeup and hairspray, and it was go time. My crazy friends and fans were just as loud and I was more energized with a lot on the line. Swimsuit > talent > evening gown > on-stage question > final look...two hours later I looked at Cassie and Keelie just hoping that awards would be good news for all of us.

And they were. :) View the crowning moments HERE! [This may not work, just forewarning...]
Miss Congeniality Lynn Tryon (I almost wrote "duh." on my vote
1st RU Stacey Minchin
Miss Southeast New York Claire Buffie !!!
Miss Liberty Cassie Franklin
Miss Greater NYC Keelie Sheridan

!!!! I still can't believe it. !!! Congrats to all who competed in pageant-palooza (that even continued Sunday with Miss Brooklyn, Mallory Hagan)

Thank you to my mom JoJo for coming, altering, feeding, packing, errand running and loving. And my family who couldn't be there but encouraged me so much.

Thank you to the 26 people including the Miss Jubilee board members who came to watch round one and for all who stayed and continued to cheer (loudly), and also thanks to the many people sending text messages, Facebook posts, voicemails, emails, vibes, thoughts and prayers!!! I really do feel them all and they remind me of how fortunate I am to have your support system.

Thank you to the Miss New York Board, specifically Paul Brown, Kenny Mack and Linda Carbo, for executing a wonderful, fast and well-organized day! And to Ricardo, Rene and Leah for your dedication as well.

Meeting Monday to get things kicked off for this new adventure!