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Pride House Introduces Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative For Olympic Athletes In Sochi

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The IOC's recent announcement that it plans to crack down on all forms of pro-LGBT protest and activism has obviously sparked strong reactions from members of the international LGBT community. Some athletes still plan on making statements, regardless of the consequences. Pride House, an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups, has a new solution to offer, one that encourages participation from LGBT athletes as well as their straight allies. It's also relatively simple, and requires no special equipment, wardrobe, or paraphernalia. 

The group is proposing the "Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative, which encourages all Olympic participants: athletes, coaches, spectators, staff, media, regardless of their orientation or background, to hold hands with as many members of the same sex as possible as often as possible. That's it.

Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator, talked about the genesis of the idea with Pink News:

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign. Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia." 

Holding-hands-One such Russian sportsperson was Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, who was among those responsible for coming up with the concept:

"The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable."

Les Johnson of the Federation of Gay Games also weighed in:

"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators. But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."

Johnson raises a very interesting point. Since the initiative encourages participation from all those in attendance at the games, not just LGBT people, the gesture could theoretically pass by Russian authorities as purely innocuous. Nevertheless, Pride House still encourages those participating in the Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative to do so in a public place where there are plenty of spectators (and potentially press). 

For those still wishing to make  statement with actual concrete materials such as posters, shirts, pins, and so on, Pride House has also announced that it will be making those materials available starting in October on its official website


Bisexual Teen Fights for Gay-Straight Alliance in Florida as Homophobic Parent Compares it to a Gang: VIDEO

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14-year-old Bayli Silberstein is leading the charge to get a Gay-Straight Alliance in place at Carver middle School which she attends because she says anti-gay bullying is out of hand. The Lake County School Board had a meeting on Monday afternoon, the Orlando Sentinel reports:

More than 100 parents, students, residents and a few pastors showed up at a Lake County School Board meeting Monday afternoon, many wearing red shirts to show support for a proposed Gay-Straight Alliance club at Carver Middle School in Leesburg...

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting Bayli, saying that under the federal Equal Access Act schools can not discriminate among clubs based on what they think students should or should not discuss. If a school allows any student group that's not directly related to school curriculum to meet, then it cannot deny other student groups the same access.

Others spoke out against the alliance, saying the real issue is bullying. Students, they said, would not find the support they need in a gay-straight group.

"It's like gangs," said Lori Pitner, a Tavares resident who spoke in opposition. "More kids in gangs end up killed than are not in gangs. I don't see this as any different."

Watch the Orlando Sentinel's interview with Silberstein, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Beautiful 'Everyone is Different' Dutch PSA Highlights Challenges, Promotes Acceptance of LGBT Youth: VIDEO

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A beautiful PSA for a Dutch LGBT youth support group highlights the challenges faced by LGBT youth, telling the stories of several kids as they struggle to find acceptance among their peers while facing the individual realizations that they are, and can be different.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Ontario, Canada Passes Anti-Bullying Bill Mandating 'Gay-Straight Alliances' Be Allowed in All Schools, Including Catholic Ones

Ontario's legislature has passed a landmark anti-bullying bill opposed by Catholics and conservatives by a vote of 65-36, the CBC reports:

McguintyOntario's anti-bullying bill, also known as Bill 13 or the Accepting Schools Act, passed through the legislature just before noon today by a margin of 65-36. Only the Progressive Conservatives voted against the legislation.

Catholic educators and church leaders oppose the bill because it requires schools to allow students to call anti-homophobia clubs gay-straight alliances if they wish.

[Ontario Premier]McGuinty (pictured) said the issue of protecting kids from bullying transcends all faiths and partisan politics. He added Catholics would understand the true significance of the bill is to build a stronger, more cohesive society.


Ontario Poised to Pass Bill Mandating 'Gay-Straight Alliances' be Allowed in All Schools, Including Catholic Ones

An amendment to an anti-bullying bill under consideration in Ontario, Canada would require all schools, including Catholic ones, to accept the name "gay-straight alliance" for anti-homophobia clubs, the Toronto Star reports:

BrotenThe change of heart on the minority Liberal government’s Accepting Schools Act — which had allowed school principals a veto on names for any student club — was announced Friday afternoon by Education Minister Laurel Broten (pictured).

“We believe it’s up to the students,” she told reporters, saying it’s “important for students to have the freedom.”

The move, which has the support of the NDP, comes as an amendment to the government’s anti-bullying bill — which Broten hopes to pass before the legislature rises for its summer break June 7.

Conservatives and right-wing religious groups argue that the new rule would give LGBT students "special status" and The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association urged the school system to call clubs aimed at stopping bullying "Respecting Differences" clubs, in an advisory paper that did not mention the word gay once, the Star adds.

But proponents argue that allowing a principal, for example, to refuse to allow an anti-homophobia club to be called a “gay-straight alliance” is in itself a form of oppression that is inappropriate under the spirit of the bill. Broten has said gay students have been more prone to bullying, which is why they get specific mention in the bill.

“If we can’t name it, we can’t address it and we must address it,” she said.

The amendment was applauded by a group called the Ontario Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition as a step forward for human rights in the province.

More at CBC...

NOTE: Apologies, the earlier post suggested that the law would apply to all of Canada.


Notre Dame Students Demand Adoption of Gay-Straight Alliance, LGBT Non-Discrimination Policy: VIDEO

4to5

Students at the University of Notre Dame, calling themeselves the 4 to 5 Movement, are demanding that the school recognize a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus and adopt an LGBT non-discrimination policy in a new video, called "It Needs to Get Better".

The Observer reports:

"[The video is] addressing the University at large, telling them what the current campus atmosphere is, what the current campus policy is, and how that policy needs to change in particular ways in order for certain groups to actually feel like they're a part of Notre Dame," [Senior Jackie Emmanuel, co-president of the Progressive Student Alliance] said.

The video advocates for a gay-straight alliance on campus and an amendment to the non-discrimination clause to protect LGBTQ students and faculty, Emmanuel said.

Student Senate recently passed resolutions in favor of both additions, and Emmanuel said she hopes the video will alert the administration of student support for these measures.

"We're hoping that [the video] will support Student Senate's resolutions … and then hopefully it will inspire the rest of campus to follow suit," she said.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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