Glennda Testone, Executive Director
One of the things I love about the Center is our commitment to support and develop leadership. We foster leadership through our Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program, through organizations that are created at the Center and through our devoted staff who give their heart and soul to help people in our community acquire communication, decision-making and organization skills of an effective leader.
This past weekend, I was at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference. It included a reception for one of the Center’s own leaders who is a Fellow in The Pipeline Project which recruits, supports and advances groups to create more people of color leadership in our LGBT movement. Pipeline’s results can be seen in the success of Andrés Hoyos who is one of their first cohort of fellows and is the Associate Director of our Center CARE Wellness program.
While at the reception, I could not help but be reminded of the myriad of subtle ways we can all be leaders in our own community and ways we can support diverse leadership in our most cherished institutions. I know from personal experience that when people meet me, they’re often surprised that I’m younger and that I’m a woman. And we all have some pre-conceived notions of leaders, but the truth is that leaders are not always defined by age, gender or race; leaders come in all shapes and sizes and there’s a leader in all of us. Look at our Young Leaders Council, for example; it is a diverse community of young New York-based leaders committed to the Center and its work. I, for one, am grateful that we have such a diversity of voices in our world, our movement and at the Center. Please check us out, if you have not done so lately. I bet you can find many ways to connect–and to lead.
At the Center, we hear many stories. Some depict challenges, injustice and discrimination and others are uplifting and inspiring. Since 1993, the Center’s heard stories from members of our community about how our military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) policy resulted in 13,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people discharged from the military. This policy required LGBT military service members to keep their orientation secret in order to continue serving in the military.
The time to repeal DADT is now! As military officials begin sharing their stories and the press reports the antiquated policy’s impact, it is time for us to be heard. The Associated Press reported that, Adm. Mike Mullen, “The military’s top uniformed officer [...] made an impassioned plea for allowing gays to serve openly in uniform, telling a Senate panel it was a matter of integrity and that it is wrong to force people to ”lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
We are inspired by NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s project, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Stories and her call for hearings to repeal #DADT in the senate. She started her new website because she “thought that the more stories we could bring to bear into the public discourse, [the more] it will move this debate forward to a place where we will earn the 60 votes we need to repeal it.”
We encourage you to get involved by visiting the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Stories Project, sharing your story and signing their petition.
For more information about other campaigns to overturn DADT, please visit Human Rights Campaign.
Update – February 12, 2010
Please read my interview with The Women’s Media Center Just Not Married: Fighting for Equality on Valentine’s Day.