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Southern California High Schooler Honored By GLSEN, Steps Up As LGBT Leader: VIDEO


Laila Al-Shamma, a 17-year-old student from Encinitas, California, has been honored with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's 2013 Student Advocate of the Year award, and her story is a rather inspiring one. Al-Shamma came out to her family at the age of 13 but feared the ridicule that awaited should friends, peers, and teachers find out. However, she still got involved with La Costa Canyon High School's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) as a straight ally, serving in leadership positions before finally feeling moved to come out in her junior year after another GSA member committed suicide. Al-Shamma reportedly whipped her school's GSA into shape, offering support and services since her freshman year. Now, others are recognizing just how vital her voice has been throughout her high school community.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

“Laila is an inspiring example of how students can positively change their school community for generations to come,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director. “She has a promising future ahead and I am confident her leadership will continue to inspire those around her.”


“Growing up, Laila was always taking charge of situations and making things happen,” Maria Al-Shamma said. “She likes to solve problems.”

Under the teen’s guidance, the chapter began posting fliers, holding weekly meetings, working closely with school staff and holding positive campus outreach events. Club membership grew from 5 active members to 30.

Chapter adviser Carissa Mattison said before Al-Shamma came along, the group was a safe hangout for teens but not an active voice for change. Al-Shamma’s leadership skills, maturity and approachable personality made all the difference in how the group was perceived by staff and students.

Al-Shamma eventually came out in a column for the school's newspaper.

It was a bold step for Al-Shamma, an active and popular student on campus. The soon-to-graduate senior is the drum major for the school marching band, a trombonist in the pep and jazz bands and a member of the school academic team.

“I thought it was time to show everyone that it’s OK to be gay and that being gay doesn’t mean you have issues,” she said. “I am gay and I take AP classes and I have a lot of friends. I’m just like anyone else.”

Al-Shamma said she braced for a backlash after the article was published, but instead received “zero negative feedback.” In fact, last month her fellow students voted her homecoming queen.

Congratulations to Laila, and an even bigger extension of praise for the positive communities she, and students like her, are building in schools around the country! 

Watch Al-Shamma's speech at the GLSEN awards gala, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Southern California High Schooler Honored By GLSEN, Steps Up As LGBT Leader: VIDEO" »

Woman Responds To Anti-Gay Neighbors With Gayest Holiday Lights Ever

Pride House

Dr. Mary Pham, an Irvine, California woman, received backlash from her neighbors for flying a rainbow flag on her house in support of the LGBT community. One told her, "Not in Irvine, Mary,” while others took to calling it her "fag flag" in letters to the Home Owners Association. Pham decided to counter the hate she was receiving in the most fabulous Christmas light display possible, as seen above.

Merry Christmas to all!

Gay and Lesbian Choruses From Around The World Wish You A Happy Holiday: VIDEO

Hallelujah chorus

Big or small, costumed or dressed in their nicest tuxes, gay and lesbian choruses from around the globe are here to wish you the happiest of holidays! The Advocate has collected some of the best (and most fun) performances from LGBT choruses ranging from Sydney to D.C., Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, and everywhere in between. Enjoy one video below, and check out the others over at The Advocate!

Catch the "Hallelujah Chorus" AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay and Lesbian Choruses From Around The World Wish You A Happy Holiday: VIDEO" »

Gay Rights March and Rally Banned in Belarus; Activists Say They'll Proceed Anyway


Activists say they'll proceed anyway after officials in Minsk, Belarus banned two upcoming gay rights events, Radio Free Europe reports:

Authorities blamed their decision not to allow a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) march planned for December 11 and a gay-rights rally planned for December 12 on "technical" and timing problems.

The GayBelarus national youth civic association condemned the ban, saying that the unwillingness by authorities to discuss different formats and times for the events "constitutes deliberate contempt of civil and political rights and freedoms."

Belarus activists held their first LGBT rally ever back in 2011 but at the time were ordered by authorities not to display the rainbow flag. They got around that order by using the rainbow in other elements of their signage (above).

In 2010, riot police put a violent end to an LGBT rights rally.

Organizers: City Trying to Kill Gay Pride in Madrid


Organizers of Madrid's Gay Pride festivalsay the city is trying to financially "strangle" the event by imposing excessive fines that will shut it down if they continue, the Guardian reports:

"You can't levy such barbaric fines on an event that's so important to the city," said Boti Rodrigo, president of the Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales. "These fines put the survival of Madrid Pride in serious jeopardy."

This is the fourth successive year the festival has been fined for noise violations. Past fines ranged from €35,000-€50,000, against which organisers successfully appealed and had reduced or waived. The courts have so far reduced one of the fines to €600, but have yet to rule on the other two. This year's edition of Madrid Pride, held in July, earned 15 fines totalling €159,809. Organisers have appealed against the fines, but said it could take more than a year before they find out if their appeal is successful.

"We've never seen city hall so short-sighted, with such little political will towards us," said Rodrigo. The celebration of gay pride, started in 1979, attracts an estimated 1.5 million people each year and offers the city a chance to "show that Madrid is an open, multicultural and tolerant city".

The root of the problem appears to be in Madrid's mayor Ana Botella:

"She's putting up permanent barriers to our success," said Rodrigo. "What's clear is that the ideology of a person, when that person is the mayor of Madrid, shouldn't interfere at all in her political responsibilities."

In 2011, when Botella was Madrid's councillor for the environment, she introduced stringent noise limits in residential areas. The restrictions forced Madrid Pride to resort to silent concerts, where participants danced to music streaming through their headphones.

Hundreds March in New Delhi Demanding End to Anti-gay Discrimination: VIDEO

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 1.39.28 PM

Earlier today, hundreds of gay rights advocates and allies paraded through the streets of New Delhi to demand full equality under the law and to push for an end to anti-gay stigmatization in India. Mail & Guardian reports:

The demonstrators urged an end to all forms of discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders in India, four years after a colonial-era law that criminalised gay sex was overturned.

One group of activists carried a 15-metre rainbow-coloured banner, while others waved placards demanding the freedom to lead dignified lives.

The march ended with a public meeting at Jantar Mantar, the main area for protests in New Delhi. Many gay rights group members and their families danced and sang as drummers and musicians performed. Others distributed rainbow-coloured flags and badges to members of the public who gathered to watch and listen to the speeches.

Check out footage of the march, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hundreds March in New Delhi Demanding End to Anti-gay Discrimination: VIDEO" »


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