Things That Matter

#LoveWins for Harriet & Alley

Harriet and Alley planned their wedding date two weeks ago not knowing June 26th would become a historic day for the United States. They woke up on their wedding day to text messages breaking the news that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states must recognize and license same-sex marriages. Here’s their journey to the aisle …

Meet Harriet and Alley.

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Courtesy of Alley and Harriet

Harriet Phillips-Woods (left), 24, and Alley Brito (right), 21 met online over four years ago.

They’ve been in a long-distance relationship for four years.

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Courtesy of Alley and Harriet

And we don’t mean an-hour-away type of long distance. Harriet lived in London while Alley, a Cuban-American, was in L.A. Harriet says the most difficult part of their relationship was the huge time gap and of course, the normal ‘missing you’ cheesy stuff.

“The biggest struggle was timeframe being that the U.K. is eight hours ahead of the West Coast. It would be like 4 a.m. in the U.K. and Alley would be getting home from work. The time zones were really baffling and just the normal, cheesy missing each other and missing events – those were difficult, like birthdays and Christmas,” said Harriet.

READ: How Gay Marriage Broke the Internet

They did a lot of traveling between both countries.

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Courtesy of Alley and Harriet

To be closer to Harriet, Alley studied abroad in the U.K. for six months. Then Harriet moved to the U.S. on a Visa.

“We visited back and fourth for a really long time, probably for about two and a half years. Alley came to the U.K. to stay for like six months and then it’s been back and fourth ever since then. I moved to the states last year,” said Harriet.

Finally, they decided to take the plunge.

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Courtesy of Alley and Harriet

They decided to head down the aisle in mid-June this year.

“We’d been together for four years and we’d been thinking about it for a year – and [because] of logistics too, since I’m from the U.K. and Alley’s here [in the U.S.]. It just made sense to make it official so no one could deport me [laughs],” said Harriet.

Harriet has been in the U.S. just over a year on an F-1 student visa. Now that she is done with school and married a U.S. citizen, she’s begun processing her paperwork to become a U.S. resident.

Then they received MAJOR news the morning of their big day.

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Courtesy of Alley and Harriet

After weeks of planning, they woke up to the news that their wedding day, Friday, June 26th had turned out to be…let’s just call it a “national holiday”… now that the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide.

“It was literally one of the first things I saw. One of my buddies text me saying, ‘OMG you’re getting married AND the Supreme Court filed same sex marriage everywhere [in the U.S.]… I woke Alley up and was like ‘Ah, it’s a big day! They passed it everywhere, what a coincidence! What a good day. It makes me very happy that our day means something else as well,” said Harriet.

“Harriet woke me up this morning and was like, ‘OMG, the news broke that the Supreme Court passed the bill that same-sex marriage is legal across all states.’ It was really exciting and nice to know that because I’ve heard a lot of stories from other people that have had to leave their home state to get married. It’s a feeling of joy that other people are allowed to get married in their home state and be free to do that without any hassle,” said Alley.

Basically, they’re going down in history.

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Credit: mitú

To add to their good news, they were the first same-sex couple their commissioner at the Beverly Hills courthouse married today. He was VERY excited.

“The commissioner was very nice. He kept saying that he was hoping he would get one same-sex couple today – and we were the first of the day! I was joking with Harriet saying that they were going to put us in textbooks” said Alley.

How are the newlyweds celebrating?

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Credit: mitú

“My family booked us a night in a hotel with dinner and a ‘surprise,’ so we don’t know too much about it. But first, brunch and strong margaritas!” said Harriet.

Do you know any great love stories like this one? mitú wants to know.  Leave a comment below.

Hallmark Pulled Four Ads That They ‘Deemed Controversial’ After ‘One Million Moms’ Had A Fit Over A Lesbian Kiss

Entertainment

Hallmark Pulled Four Ads That They ‘Deemed Controversial’ After ‘One Million Moms’ Had A Fit Over A Lesbian Kiss

Zola / Youtube

Although the Hallmark Channel is technically an apolitical brand, it has a reputation for representing “traditional” (read: stereotypical, nuclear, cookie-cutter) family values. For this reason, it’s become wildly popular over the years with politically conservative viewers in suburban and rural parts of the US and Canada—in fact, most Hallmark movies are actually filmed in Canada and feature Canadian talent.  So, it may not come as a surprise that the network pulled four ads that they had “deemed controversial” from circulation last week. What was so controversial, you may ask?

The commercials were for Zola, a wedding planning site that helps couples organize their big day. Originally, Hallmark was set to run six Zola ads, all of which featured different couples celebrating their wedding day. The primary focus of the ads landed on one lesbian couple, while a few heterosexual pairs occupied the periphery. In some of the ads, the couples share a meaningful kiss . . . you know, like they would at an actual wedding.

But One Million Moms, a branch of the conservative American Family Association, started a petition that urged Hallmark to “please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples.” And they did.

The mission of the American Family Association is to “fight against indecency,” and according to their website, nearly 25,000 people had signed their petition within just a few days of its publication.

When Zola was notified that four of their six ads would be pulled, an ad buyer representing the company asked for an explanation.

“We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” a Hallmark account representative responded. He added, “The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories.”

But Zola had previously advertised on Hallmark without any problems, and Mike Chi, the chief marketing officer of Zola, didn’t buy this explanation. He expressed frustration with the network, asserting that Zola would cancel its partnership with Hallmark.

“The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing,” he said. “Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed. All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”

The internet was also not pleased with Hallmark’s behavior. On Sunday, the hashtags #boycotthallmark and #BoycottHallmarkChannel were trending on Twitter, with more than 8,000 adamant tweets from LGBT families and allies—many of whom also identified as Hallmark viewers.

But after facing days of backlash for their decision not to air Zola’s ads, Hallmark has apologized—and the responses to their apology are also pretty polarized.

In an early statement, Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, said that “the debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of [the] network, which is to provide entertainment value.” However, Mike Perry, the president and chief executive of Hallmark Cards, offered a more direct and compassionate follow-up.

“Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives,” he said. “Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”

Hallmark even insisted that it would work with GLAAD, a national LGBTQ media advocacy organization, “to better represent the LGBTQ community across [their] portfolio of brands.”

But as the controversy initially unfolded, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis issued a statement that read, “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to remove LGBTQ families in such a blatant way is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are ‘open’ to LGBTQ holiday movies.” In spite of this assessment, Hallmark has reiterated its focus on learning how to better advocate for diversity in collaboration with GLAAD.

Hallmark also claimed that it plans on contacting Zola to “re-establish [their] partnership and reinstate the commercials.”

But before that happens, Chi said that he first needs to “understand concrete actions they are going to take.” A Zola representative confirmed that Hallmark has reached out to Zola to begin a conversation.

While many folks are praising Hallmark’s apology and attempts to mend the situation, Monica Cole, the director of One Million Moms, critiqued the network’s change of heart. “One Million Moms is extremely disappointed that the Hallmark Channel caved under pressure,” she said in a statement Monday. “This is an enormous mistake that will cause a majority of its viewership to turn the channel.”

Well, Monica, if progress means losing a few viewers, those viewers should probably get ready to just turn their TVs off.

Ahead of Her Time: The Incredible Life of Sylvia Rivera

Things That Matter

Ahead of Her Time: The Incredible Life of Sylvia Rivera

You may not remember her name or face, but you will remember her extraordinary story and the legacy she has left behind for marginalized members of the gay community. Orphaned at three and homeless by ten, Sylvia Rivera likely never anticipated that she would one day become an icon for the LGBTQ community. No, at the age of ten Sylvia was simply trying to survive on the tough and unrelenting streets of New York in the 1960s. This is the story of a life rooted in activism–whether she knew it all along or not–the story of one woman simply trying to live her life authentically. This is the incredible life story of LGBTQ icon Sylvia Rivera.

The Early Years

@onearchives/Instagram

Born Ray Rivera Mendosa in the Bronx, New York, on July 2nd, 1951, Sylvia was abandoned by her father at birth; her mother committed suicide when Sylvia was three. This left her grandmother to raise her, despite abuela’s disapproval of her darker skin tone and feminine behavior. 

Going Against the Grain

@kim.terrell/Instagram

Sylvia was forced into the margins of society because of her refusal to conform to gender norms. At the time, the term “transgender” wasn’t commonly known–people choosing to shun conventional gender norms were simply referred to as drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals, or simply “queers.” Still, Sylvia refused to hide and openly wore makeup in the 4th grade, leaving her to be bullied both in school and at home. At the age of ten, Sylvia had had enough and chose to run away from home.

Life on the Streets

@queeringpodcast/Instagram

She made her home on 42nd street, taking on the role of a sex work in order to survive and getting taken in by a family of trans women who taught her how to get by. Life was difficult–to say the least–for a queer gender-nonconforming person of color, especially one still a child. Her time on 42nd street would later influence her activism for the marginalized members of the gay community.

Meeting Marsha

@docmiggz/Instagram

Then one day something happened that would change Sylvia’s life forever. She was simply trying to drum up some business when she spotted Marsha P. Johnson–a gorgeous older Black trans woman who took Sylvia out for dinner, showed her how to apply her makeup and gave her tips for getting by on the streets. The two quickly became friends and remained so for the rest of their lives.

Riot in the Streets

@alturiorg/Instagram

On June 28th, 1969, violent confrontations broke out between police and gay rights activists outside of the Stonewall Inn–a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The police had been in the process of raiding when patrons started to fight back, giving rise to an international gay rights movement.

The Beginning of What’s to Come

@endemolshinepride/Instagram

Where does Sylvia fit into the Stonewall Riots? It is rumored that she threw the first brick. Just seventeen years old at the time, Sylvia was with Marsha when the riots started and is credited with one of the most famous quotes from the event: “I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution!” 

What Happens Next

@belencorrea_arg/Instagram

After Stonewall, Sylvia became part of the emerging gay rights movement–albeit at a time when transgender people were not particularly welcomed. Her role in gay history eventually resulted in her being one of the first people to highlight that the movement itself needed to be more inclusive. 

To Boldly Go

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Despite the adversity Sylvia would repeatedly face, she continued to get involved however she could, using her outsider status to help make a change. She was bold and brave, willing to go to great lengths to ensure her message was received–including being willing to get arrested even though she was a transgender woman of color and would face unimaginable difficulties in prison.

A Daring Escapade

@theoreticalgirls/Instagram

At one point when New York City Council was debating a gay rights bill, Sylvia tried to climb into a window (in a dress and heels) to have her say. She was subsequently arrested yet still earned the title of “the Rosa Parks of the Modern Transgender Movement” for all of her efforts.

Activism and Adversity

@thetribetheatreco/Instagram

Sylvia was also an early member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), however, these groups were largely made up of gay white males who, seeking wider acceptance, started to distance themselves from important transgender issues Sylvia wanted to address.

Being “Other”

@eiric_yoga/Instagram

Sylvia began to feel shunned in the gay liberation circles. Her multiple marginalized identities created a sense of Otherness that made the community see her as dangerous.

The Sit-In that Started it All

@audrelordeproject/Instagram

In 1970 the GAA was using Weinstein Hall at NYU to host “Dance-a-Fair” fundraisers for services in the gay community. There was much controversy from the NYU administration which eventually led to a sit-in for five days and ended with New York City’s Tactical Police Squad ordering the occupiers out. Sylvia refused and had to be carried out by police.

A STAR is Born

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As a result Sylvia, with the help of Marsha P. Johnson, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and opened a shelter for homeless transgender youth.

A Spark of Hope

@violenttherapy/Instagram

Shortly after forming STAR, Sylvia heard of an uprising being led by the Young Lords–a revolutionary Puerto Rican group–against police brutality. Sylvia, along with other members of STAR, marched alongside the Young Lords in Spanish Harlem. Sylvia was happily surprised by the respect they were shown by the Young Lords and was quick to join them in solidarity, starting a Gay and Lesbian Caucus that worked within the group.

More Challenges

@alrodchenko/Instagram

STAR House, unfortunately, received no help from the gay community, forcing Sylvia to work the streets in order to keep the youth under her wing off of them. Despite her best efforts to provide a home for marginalized transgender youth, Sylvia was evicted from the derelict building that was STAR House.

One Last Hurrah

@m.poultryface/Instagram

Once more Sylvia found herself fighting against gay activists in order to be heard. She forced her audience to listen as she described the abuse her people endured whilst simultaneously chastising the activists for their abandonment. Sadly, this would be the last of her involvement for decades as she slipped away into a quiet life in Tarrytown.

Well-Deserved Recognition

@luanarainbow/Instagram

In 1984, despite past feelings of antipathy from the GAA and the GLF, Sylvia was “rediscovered” and awarded a place of honor in the New York City gay pride march to acknowledge the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. She reported feeling like she’d been taken off the shelf and dusted, but nevertheless, she was seen by those she’d spent her life fighting for.

The End of an Era

@theebillyporter/Instagram

In 1992, Marsha P. Johnson passed away, causing Sylvia’s life to go off the rails. Once again without a roof over her head, Sylvia lived near Greenwich Village on an abandoned pier. Eventually, she quit drinking and rejoined the movement, even trying to restart STAR in 2001. Unfortunately, though, Sylvia died of liver cancer a year later at the age of 50, continuing to advocate even from her deathbed.

Her Legacy Lives On

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Sylvia died much in the way that she lived–fighting for what she believed in. Her memory lives on through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project that “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.”

A Life to Remember

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Long before Harvey Milk and Caitlyn Jenner made headlines for LGBTQ rights movements and transgender activism, there was Sylvia Rivera, occupying a unique place in LGBTQ history and working tirelessly for justice and civil rights. Her courage will never be forgotten.

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