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Are You Family?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon 
 

We received an email this week from an OTGH subscriber that I'd like to share...

I continue to enjoy your blogs and wanted to be certain that you did not miss this item.  In today's Miami Herald, there is a sickening story of how Janice Langbehn was denied rights.....to say nothing of Human Decency, by a group of left-over Anita Bryant ... Florida Conservatives!  Having appreciated your sharing of personal experiences for some months now, I would love to hear your thoughts/reaction to this ... The unfortunate reality is that we must all remain aware of and continue efforts to thwart this type of activity.  As an aging gay male with decades of Health Care Professional experience, I am all too aware of what we face in this arena.  Please let me know if as a group, there is something/more we could do to improve this situation.  Thanks,  Bruce

I hadn't seen the article, but Janice Langbehn's story is very familiar to me. So much so that it immediately took me back to the day I flew into the emergency room to get someone to bring a wheelchair for my partner. The words, "She can't breathe!" are like magic in busy medical facilities --- they move you to the head of the line.

Once she was inside, they told me I had to move my car.  Since I still thought we might be going home one day, I didn't argue.  I found a nearby parking lot and then hurried back as fast as I could.  It's funny how your mind works.  As I think back, I find myself wondering what someone who isn't gay thinks in a situation like that.  Probably the same terrified thoughts I had but I bet they don't have that little section of the brain that's always on duty preparing for a likely battle ahead.  I expected that I was going to find that they had moved her somewhere and they were going to ask, "Are you family?" 

It wasn't my day to slay that particular dragon, but that's exactly what happened to Janice Langbehn. Her partner of 17 years, Lisa Marie Pond, suffered a cerebral aneurysm as their cruise ship was about to depart from Miami. Lisa was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center where the staff refused to allow Janice or their three children to see her.

The hospital social worker said, "You are in an anti-gay city and state," as he locked the door to the unit where Janice's partner lay dying.  It was not until the very end, after Lisa was pronounced brain-dead, that they were allowed access to her room.

Unimaginable, huh? To know that someone you love is hurt, scared, possibly dying and you are deliberately kept from being with them. Actually, it's probably very imaginable for most of us.  One of our greatest fears.  It was certainly present in my thoughts as I made that long walk back into the hospital. But we were more fortunate than Janice and Lisa. We were in that hospital for weeks and even though I had to repeat it about a hundred times, "Yes, I'm family, I'm her partner," my status was never questioned.  We were treated with more compassion than anything else but I've always known how easily it could have been different.  And I know that gays and lesbians are faced with this kind of cruel discrimination every day.

At the end of his email, Bruce asked the most important question of all --- what can we do? How can we prevent this from ever happening to one of us again?

Janice Langbehn and her attorneys have filed a lawsuit against Jackson Memorial, claiming emotional distress and negligence.  Even if the hospital doesn't lose, the negative press may encourage a revisiting of their policies.  But I'm sure the hospital we were in here in Texas, not the most liberal of states, has the same rules.  The difference was the people charged with enforcing the policy.

And that's the key.  Yes, we need to change the laws but more importantly we need to take our case to the people. We've become so visible in recent years that we forget that they don't really know who we are and the challenges we face.  I am constantly amazed at the things people say to me --- close friends or family, people you would expect to know better.  But the simple truth is that they really don't know.

There's a new movement underway called, "Tell 3 - Coming Out Isn't Enough."  Supported by organizations like the Task Force, Join the Impact and PFLAG, the idea is to "pledge to tell 3 people what it's like for you or your loved ones to be LGBT.  Because we used to think coming out would win us our rights.  Now we know it takes more than that..."

The Tell 3 website has all sorts of material and suggestions on who to talk to and how to go about it.  This is something we can all do and it will have far-reaching effects.  I know, it's always felt so risky. But part of this is our own fault. We've allowed straight America to dictate how we act when we're around them. Even when we are technically "out" we treat our partners like friends and allow the conversation to be about what goes on in everyone else's lives.

The price we pay for our silence is a general lack of awareness and understanding about the everyday, constant struggle it is to be gay. That what they take for granted --- like the right to care for those they love --- is something that can be denied us at any moment. I believe that most people are compassionate and have good hearts but that they simply don't think. It's time they did. 

The potential rewards of the Tell 3 campaign far outweigh the risk.  And the alternative, the status quo, is unacceptable. Just ask Janice Langbehn. 

You know, it's difficult to describe how the worst experience of your life can also be one of the greatest. There are no words for what it's like to lose someone the way I lost my partner --- emergency by-pass surgery leading to a massive stroke and ending with abiding by her wishes and allowing her to die.  But it was such a privilege, such a profound honor to take that last journey with her.  I am so thankful that I was there.

It is unconscionable that anyone be denied that right and it's time we stopped allowing it to happen --- to anyone.

 

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Thanks, Bruce. Thanks for asking how we can work together to make things better for all of us. We would love to hear from anyone with a suggestion or thoughts on this. Or maybe someone has a story they would like to share. Just contact us at admin@onthegayhorizon.com .  

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Time to Get Moving!

Fit in a Year - Week 7

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

So it's nearly six weeks since we began this series.  And the first thing you did --- you DID do it, didn't you? --- was to assess your cardio fitness by stair-climbing.  Since then, have you added any movement to your life?

If you have, it's time to reassess your cardio fitness by doing the same thing.  Get out your first set of numbers and compare.  Has anything changed?   Tell us about it!

If you have not changed your level of movement, today's the day.  And here's something to aim for in order to chart your course:  the 2009 AIDS Walk NY on May 17 in Manhattan.

Karen and I walked it last year to honor her late partner's work with AIDS patients and to make OTGH real. 

We'll be walking it again this year.  It's a 10K.  That's 6.2 miles.  Sound like a lot?  Karen thought so.  But she did it.  And this year, she'll do it again, but differently.  She's going to start preparing for it today. 

Safely walking 6 miles requires several things to come together.  You must have proper walking form.  Check out
chiwalking.com for injury-free, biomechanically correct form. 

You must also have a very useful diet.  Keep reading here for more tips.  You must build up your glycogen conversion system so that it works efficiently.  It takes a while to walk 6.2 miles.  And in the crowd we'll have, it will take longer.

So anyone care to join Karen and I this year? 

You'll need to start walking if you haven't already done so.  And I want you to walk with a level pelvis.  That means your waistband is level.  Pull your pelvis up in front, or up in back, until it's level.  And hold it there. 

How much should you walk?  As far as you can or for as much time as you have.  The goal will be to get a number to use for the week.  Whatever you do today, you will do every other day for a week. 

The following week, you will increase your time or distance by 10%. 

Sound easy?  Good.  Get going.  But first register for AIDS WALK NY at: 
T eam On the Gay Horizon

And then grab a friend and get going.
 

 

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