Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27

President Obama Appoints Gay Man
As White House Social Secretary

Note: Since I wrote this post yesterday, an embarrassing faux pas by the Wall Street Journal stared back at me over the breakfast table. Along with the story about Jeremy Bernard's appointment as White House Social Secretary (shown on left in this photo), the newspaper had mistakenly posted a photo of his former partner Gifford instead (right in the photo at left). 

The White House announced that it has appointed an openly gay male to fill the position of Social Secretary and Special Assistant to President Obama. 49-year-old Jeremy Bernard (at left in photo) will be the first openly gay person to hold the position. Currently serving as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Bernard previously worked as White House Liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities. In his new capacity as White House Social Secretary he will report to both the first lady and the president.

The office of social secretary is responsible for a variety of events at the White House, everything from state dinners, political gatherings, themed concerts as well as receptions and luncheons. The position requires a sense of production values and diplomatic skills in dealing with competing agendas inside and outside the White House.

Said President Obama, “Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways. We look forward to Jeremy continuing to showcase America’s arts and culture to our nation and the world through the many events at the White House.”

In a press release Bernard said, “I am deeply humbled to join the White House staff as Social Secretary and support President Obama and the First Lady in this role. I have long admired the arts and education programs that have become hallmarks of the Obama White House, and I am eager to continue these efforts in the years ahead.”

As a California Finance Consultant for the Obama for American campaign, Bernard raised millions. Appointed by President Clinton, Bernard also served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2009.

With former partner Rufus Gifford (at right in photo), Bernard founded a political consulting firm, and their first client was Senator Barack Obama. Gifford, poised to become finance director of Obama's reelection campaign, got custody of their beagle, Lucas, when the couple recently split. They remain close friends and supporters of each others causes and careers.

President Obama has recently stepped up to the plate regarding gay issues. He recorded a video message for the “It Gets Better” project, a response to last fall's spate of gay teen suicides. Two months ago President Obama signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This week the Administration announced it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that bans recognition of same-sex marriage. The White House employs a large number of openly gay staffers, so many that a special White House video was created for the “It Gets Better” project, in which staffers spoke about their experiences as gay and lesbian youth.

Friday, February 25, 2011

February 25

Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, is currently active on 20 college campuses across the United States with more than 1,200 members. The core purpose of Delta Lambda Phi is to provide meaningful friendships and social interactions in an atmosphere of social, service, and recreational activities.

Delta Lambda Phi was founded through a trust established by three donors to create a social fraternity that would not discriminate based on sexual orientation. The original donors regretted that such a fraternity did not exist during their own college years. In 1987, the Delta Lambda Phi National Social Fraternity was inaugurated, and 24 men were initiated into the fraternity's Alpha Chapter in Washington, DC.

Since then, Delta Lambda Phi has become one of the country's fastest growing fraternities. The fraternity's motto is "Lambda men are making their presence known". Delta Lambda Phi's symbol is the centaur (mythical half-man, half-horse), modeled after Chiron, representing honor, moderation and tempered masculinity. The fraternity’s colors are green and gold (see photo), and their toast song is “There Once Was a Mighty Lambda Man.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23

Corey Johnson
Out High School Jock & Gay Activist

In the spring of 2000 the New York Times and Sports Illustrated profiled a gay athlete, a seventeen-year-old high school football player from Massachusetts named Corey Johnson. The story told how, with the help of his supportive school and parents, co-captain Johnson had come out to his teammates during his senior season in 1999. What was amazing about this instance is what happened after he came out: nothing. His classmates and fellow athletes reacted with rare tolerance and respect for Corey’s difference. He waited a year to discuss his story with the media, because he was afraid the attention would detract from the task at hand: winning games.

Granted, it helped that Johnson was hardly the stereotypical gay teenager. None of his teammates suspected he was gay, so they were surprised at his announcement. Besides football, he had played sports all his life – baseball, basketball, wrestling and lacrosse. It also helped that his teachers, coaches and parents were uniformly supportive. When he came out to his father, he told Corey, “I'm glad you finally made the decision to tell us, and I hope you'll feel a lot better now.”

Johnson told his best friend Sean, who said, “I thought I knew everything about you. And I'm sorry you couldn't tell me this part you've been hiding.” Sean, who broke down in tears, remained his best friend. The few negative reactions came from parents of his fellow athletes, some of whom suggested that the team re-vote for captain. The coach and his teammates would have none of it. His team, the Chieftans, went 25-8 during Johnson's three seasons as middle linebacker.

Johnson has helped other young gay men who love sports feel that there is a place for them on their school teams, and helped straight athletes learn that having a gay teammate is not wrong or bad or weird. It just happens. Corey accomplished plenty on the football field and a whole lot more off it.

Corey spoke at the Millennium March in Washington, DC (late April 2000), and now lives and works in New York City. He is highly involved in gay activism, and for years has reported for, a gay issues-related web site.