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Maryland Teen Makes History as Openly Gay Eagle Scout


Pascal Tessier was blown away last night when he became one of, if not the first openly gay youths to receive his Eagle Scout ranking. The resolution allowing gay scouts, which passed last May, went into effect on January 1st, and many people believe that Tessier, a member of Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, MD, is the first to achieve the prestigious ranking while being completely open about his sexuality.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy task, requiring twenty-one merit badges, a community service project, and a meeting with a board of review, and Tessier's road was even more difficult to traverse. The teenager spoke, and was open about being gay, to media last year while participating in a demonstration prior to the Boy Scouts of America's vote regarding gay members. The outcome was positive, but Tessier easily could have jeopardized his standing with the Scouts, who still will not allow openly gay adults to participate.

The Washington Post reports:

“It’s just really amazing, and it honestly hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Tessier, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. “We didn’t know if it was going to happen at all.”

Both Zach Wahls, outspoken executive director of Scouts for Equality, and Eric Andresen, father of Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle Scout rank due to his sexual orientation just last year, commented on Tessier's achievement.

“I don’t know of any other Scouts out there who have said, ‘I am gay and I defy BSA to kick me out’ — and Pascal has done that,” said Eric Andresen...

“The fact that Pascal is now able to get his award is directly because of what Ryan unfortunately went though,” Andresen said...

“We certainly think this is a day to celebrate,” Wahls said. “As we see more Pascal Tessiers coming up though the program, getting their Eagle Scouts, other scouting parents and other scouting leaders who might be a little more conservative will see there is nothing to be afraid of, that Pascal is a phenomenal young man and people like him make scouting better.”

Tessier and his mother, Tracie Felker, were overjoyed at the news, but hesitant about the limitations still placed on gay scouts. And for good reason: Tessier's older brother, Lucien, is also an openly gay scout.

Even as he celebrated Monday night, Tessier was well aware of how the partial policy change could affect him. He will turn 18 in August.

“It’s kind of a backhanded acceptance: We accept you for now,” he said. “It says to you you’re a monster of some sort.”


Felker said the problem with the Boy Scout’s new policy is that it suggests something changes in her children once they hit 18.

“What no one really wants to talk about is the suggestion that gay adults are child abusers, and that is infuriating,” she said.

“It’s impossible to believe that the creme de la creme of the Scouts, just because they turn 18, are no longer suitable to participate in the programs,” Felker said.

For now, though, Tessier sets an amazing example of what openness and honesty can achieve. A formal ceremony will be held for him and other Eagle Scout honorees in June. Congratulations, Pascal! 

Study: Gay and Bisexual Teen Boys Use Steroids at a Rate 6 Times Higher Than Straight Peers

A new study reveals that gay and bisexual teens are using steroids at a rate six times higher than their straight peers, the AP reports:

SteroidselfieReasons for the differences are unclear. The study authors said it’s possible gay and bi boys feel more pressure to achieve a bulked-up “ideal” male physique, or that they think muscle-building steroids will help them fend off bullies.

Overall, 21 percent of gay or bisexual boys said they had ever used steroids, versus 4 percent of straight boys. The difference was similar among those who reported moderate use — taking steroid pills or injections up to 40 times: 8 percent of gay or bi teens reported that amount, versus less than 2 percent of straight boys. The heaviest use — 40 or more times — was reported by 4 percent of gays or bi boys, compared with less than 1 percent of straight teens.

The study was released in the journal Pediatrics and is culled from government surveys between 2005 and 2007 involving 17, 250 teen boys with an average age of 16, 635 of whom were gay or bi. Although the data was collected six years ago, experts believe the results remain consistent in today's youth:

Dr. Rob Garofalo, adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said the differences aren’t surprising, since it is known that gay youth often have “body image issues.” But he said, “It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates.”

Bill Seeking Ban On Gay Conversion Therapy Fails In Virginia House Committee

After a series of testimonies from both its proponents and detractors, a bill seeking to ban gay conversion therapy failed in the Virginia House's Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee. The bill was sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (right), a democrat from Arlington County, and the subcommittee gave no reason for their opposition to it. 

PatrickhopeThe Virginian-Pilot reports:

Gail Dickert, a 35-year-old Alexandria woman, said she was subjected to conversion therapy by people from the various churches her family attended growing up.

As young as age 5, those parishioners told her she was “confused and lost” because she had a crush on a female classmate. They said she would be bullied for “not being right with God” and that she couldn’t pursue her desired career in the church if she didn’t change.

And they convinced her her attraction to women was brought about by repressed memories of sexual abuse, which she falsely accused her father of, she said. It took her more than 20 years to recover from the emotional scars the therapy inflicted, scars no child should have to bear, Dickert said.

Christopher Doyle also took the stand, claiming that after years of hardship and therapy surrounding his sexual orientation, he has been happily married to a woman for seven years and now works as a counselor "to assist other people who struggle with homosexuality."

Hope believes that his bill would have fallen in line with both the American Psychiatric and Medical Association's condemnation of conversion therapy. It would have mirrored bills that passed in California and New Jersey, prohibiting licensed medical professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors. The bill would not have applied to clergy. 

“I think that people in Virginia still believe that homosexuality is some sort of mental disorder,” Hope said after the vote. “But I think hearts and minds are changing every day. ... And we’ll come back every year until this becomes law.”

'Say Something' Cover Benefits LGBT Homeless Youth: VIDEO


The band Fancy Reagan and singer Kelly King have collaborated on a cover of A Great Big World's hit single "Say Something" and are donating all the proceeds to NYC's largest LGBTQ youth homeless shelter The Ali Forney Center.

Check out the excellent cover and video, AFTER THE JUMP...

And buy it here on iTunes.


Continue reading "'Say Something' Cover Benefits LGBT Homeless Youth: VIDEO" »

Film Festival Favorite 'Shabbat Dinner,' a Charming Short Film About Coming Out: VIDEO


"Shabbat Dinner," a short film that has played over 50 film festivals but was previously unavailable online, has now hit the web. It is a wonderful film and well worth the watch!

Check out this fascinating family dinner, AFTER THE JUMP...

The film, directed by Michael Morgenstern, centers on two families coming together for the Jewish tradition of Shabbat dinner and the discoveries made by two teenage boys meeting for the first time. With natural performances from the two younger actors and a true-to-life feel, the film is full of tension and warring family values that may remind you of some of your own (awkward) experiences. 

Head over to the film's website to learn more about the director, the shoot, and the festivals where it played.


Continue reading "Film Festival Favorite 'Shabbat Dinner,' a Charming Short Film About Coming Out: VIDEO" »

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" »


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