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[07 Oct 2003|05:21pm]

I got this off of tolerance.org

OCTOBER MOURNING: Remembering Matthew

By Brian Willoughby | Senior Writer/Editor, Tolerance.org

Oct. 7, 2003 -- On a cold morning in October, down a road I'd never traveled, I held an unexpected vigil for someone I never knew.

One year ago this month, I drove cross-country for the first time in my life. Five days on the road, just me and two kenneled cats in the back of the station wagon.

Leaving behind 18 years of West Coast daily newspaper journalism, I drove away from Washington state, leaping into a new career with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.

I thought of it as the American dream, the ability to reroot, reinvent one's life.

Excited about the drive, I knew I'd have moments of awe as I crossed the Continental Divide, the Great Plains, the mighty Mississippi.

But I didn't expect this.

The Road to Laramie
I arrived in Laramie at dusk, snow blowing sideways across I-80. I'd dropped out of Rock Springs, passed the Continental Divide sign, watched the sun set in my rear-view mirror as the cats began to yowl from the back, signaling hunger.

The landscape was lonelier than I'd imagined. Rocky ground, roots fighting for purchase.

I pulled off the Interstate and chose the first motel, an Econo Lodge.

"No pets," the desk clerk said.

I explained that it was too cold to leave the cats in the car overnight, then held out a $20 bill as a bribe.

"Take the room at the end of the building," he said, handing me the key. "Leave before it gets light. Don't let anyone see them."

I did as I was told.

The snow stopped falling overnight. I gassed up and took Highway 287 south to Fort Collins, a less-traveled road that would cut about 40 miles off the driving distance.

I was alone on the road. Fewer than six cars passed me, heading north, as I moved south. Dawn broke, a golden light bathing the snowy hills. The cloud cover arched overhead like a temple. It would have been beautiful, had I not been crying.

When I plotted the trip on paper and knew I'd likely be overnight in Laramie, I thought of Matthew Shepard. Because I always think of Matthew Shepard when I think of Laramie. It's Oklahoma City. It's Skokie. It's Selma and Birmingham. Hate becomes a map, and some landmarks stand out longer, stronger than others.

But I wasn't thinking of Matthew Shepard the night before, with my outlaw cats in the Econo Lodge. Hadn't given him a second thought.

It was the fence posts. They haunted me the next morning, moving by the car in metronome precision, carefully spaced, the edge of life for livestock, the end of life for Matthew.

It was not Snowy Mountain View Road, the road on which Matthew was found; I've never been on that road. But it was the same landscape, the same barren beauty, the same kind of fenceline where he had been tied and beaten. He would die in a hospital five days later, never regaining consciousness.

So I watched the posts that morning, one after another, marking the distance I traveled, stretching into miles yet to come.

Bonnie Raitt was on the tape deck, singing about an angel from Montgomery. A good friend had made the tape, to help pass the hours on the trip. There were two versions of "Angel," a studio version and a live version. The live version was rawer, with ragged edges, and I kept hitting rewind, playing it over and over, singing along on a long stretch of road.

Just give me one thing one thing I can hold on to
To believe in this livin' is just a hard way to go

Continental Divide
I drove until just after dusk that day, through Denver, down the eastern slope of the Rockies, into Kansas, along ramrod-straight I-70. I almost stopped for the night in Manhattan, but I pushed on to Topeka.

I stayed in a motel with a "Pets Welcome!" sign, ate a greasy piece of pizza from a gas station across the street and wondered about the nation's continental divide.

Not the one I'd driven across just a day earlier.

The other one, the one that starts with Matthew Shepard and ends with Topeka's own Fred Phelps. I won't honor him with his title, the Rev.; he doesn't deserve such reverence.

You know Fred, founder of godhatesfags.com. A guy who spews venom and calls it Bible verse. A guy who makes a mockery of true faith. A guy who has a so-called "Gospel Memorial to Matthew Shepard" on his Web site that reads, "Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 1,821 days."

It took me just a moment, at 65 or 70 miles per hour, to sweep past the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide.

We, as a nation, can't muster the same speed when it comes to eliminating the divide that makes gay, lesbian and transgender people the object of hate and scorn, the divide that relegates them to second-class citizenry, the divide that tacitly allows homophobic thugs to beat a young man to death.

It's been five years since Matthew Shepard was murdered, a year since I held an unexpected memorial service for him in my car, passing by. How much longer must we wait to heal that divide?

That road was a lonely place for me. But I had a new job waiting at the far end, a loving family who would join me, a world of hope to get me down that snowy road. And I had Bonnie Raitt, singing about an angel from the place I would soon be living.

Matthew had the loving family, the hope, a future unfolding against a horizon as wide as the Rockies. But he also had a sexual identity that some find reason to hate. So he perished against that fencepost, abandoned and alone.

I hope — after the beating, after the hate had been spent, during those 18 hours before he was discovered — I hope Matthew Shepard found music in his head, some voice, like Bonnie's, that helps you down the toughest roads. And I hope that voice was singing about a different angel, one just being born, from Laramie.
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[07 Oct 2003|05:18pm]

Grrr I just typed up a long entry that was full of vigor and it didnt display so this one's gonna be half-assed, sorry guys.

We had another diversity club meeting today, it went better that last weeks. There weren't as many kids, but there were some new faces which was good.

We talked about MixItUp at lunch Day, which is November 18. Basically, it's a day when you sit with people at lunch that you normally don't associate with and find out about their intrests etc. For more information check out mixitup.org I've saved stickers, fliers and iron-ons to my comp, it depends on how far we want to take this. It's what we make of it.

We need to figure out how we'd seperate everyone, whether by colors, month they were born, cards. One girl said her school last year in Kansas did it with colored lolipops and designated tables w/ that color on it. Hmmm... But I think it would be a fun activity if we pull it off, which means we need to start promoting it soon.

MetroTown is November 21, it would be neat to do a whole week of Diversity stuff, since Mix It Up is the 18th, any suggestions let me or Rae know.

Talked about a fieldtrip that Mr. Funk may be planning next semester to the Yucatan for an affordable price, I'll update with more information when I get it haha.

Fundraisers: Rummage sales, candy sales, car washes, dance-off, maybe bring back Buddy for A Day...

Community and School Involvement: Habitat for Humanity, Donations to Foundations, Movie days, Toy/Food drives, Mix it Up at Lunch, DOS, Volunteering at the Culture Festivals. Oh and I had a pretty neat idea, Maybe on Mix it up day, after school we can convince administration to let the student body do a chalk mural on the blacktop or parking lot depicting images of "what diversity means" or something and have someone take an overhead picture with everyone and the mural. That would be neat...

Speaking of Culture Festivals, There's a Hispanic Festival in Downtown Melbourne on Saturday, October 25th. Check out the flyer in Guidance!

Well that was basically today's meeting, at the end we went into our backgrounds, which was pretty neat. Next meeting is Tuesday Oct 14, tell your friends!
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[17 Sep 2003|06:27pm]

This is Rae, and I'd like to add to Sarah's earlier post. There is a rumor flying around that all non-academics clubs are possibly being banned. This could be caused by a number of things, but I have a few ideas and my thoughts circulate around the diversity club. They probably haven't brought it up yet, but since we haven't yet been established the rule hasn't gone into effect. If there are any problems, contact me.

Also, we really need good word of mouth. The communication is off and I have only been informed by three people that there is even a slight interest in getting it started again. I would personally like to, but what good would it do to have one person in the club? We are there not to tick people off or try to harass them into liking us, or changing their opinion. We're there to form a group of people who share the same opinions. While we'd like to open minds to who we are and the way we are, we don't want to insult people because that's conflicting.

If you know of anyone that is interested, see me. I am around campus, or on AIM at Okifyoubreak. If anyone wants to add someone in, talk to me. I need to know these things.
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[17 Sep 2003|04:17pm]

Hey everyone, this is Sarah

Sorry for the delay, things have been busy for everyone. So with the new school year we have gained new students and lost of friends. With Nick gone there's been a "changing of the guards." The club is going to have a shaky start, Rachel and I need to sort through stacks of papers and articles and pamphlets that Nick has left to us.

What are some of the goals you want the club to achieve this school year? Metro-Town is early, friday November 21st. I need to talk with Mrs. Miles and others to find out what exactly is done there, I've never attended. Anyone who has any experience, please email me recklesslyabandoned182@hotmail.com

I want to hold a meeting in the near future. This week is difficult because other club meetings interfere, and Friday's are usually difficult to coax kids to stay after. So definitely sometime next week.

And congratulations John on your nomination, good luck!
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[02 Aug 2003|11:49am]

[ mood | contemplative ]

Journal check: Who is still reading up on this community? The new school year is about to start up and we're going to be busy with organization. The first week is going to be overwhelming, so I'll update afterwards with what we're going to do this year, and I hope it can get passed on through word of mouth.

Questions? okifyoubreak is my AIM screen name. I'm available for most of the day.

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[28 Jul 2003|12:01pm]

Had a dream last night. At the time I thought it was just some random, weird dream. But as I was vaccuming the floor, it suddenly hit me and I understood it.

We were at my old school, Ocean Breeze (no relevance, all my school dreams happen there) And all the SHS clubs had to put on a dance routine. Nick came up with one and showed it to everyone, but I couldnt get it. It was about a few minutes before we had to go on, and I still couldn't get the dance right. So we're sitting outside the cafetorium and I ask Nick to show me one more time how to do it. He shows me, and I get it. He then gives me a motivational speech, "you can do it, I know you can etc etc." We go into the cafetorium and watch one of the club's routine, there were about 50 or so peopla (Im guessing it was eco sea lol) and they all had matching uniforms (so did we) and they were awesome. We get on stage, and we do our routine, jump and flip on trampolines, Mike Ice comes outon stilts and does a little number and I scream out, "Tin Roof, Rusty" (no relevance, its a song by the B-52's, Love Shack, I was listening to it on the radio last night) And we get a standing ovation because we were so good and pulled it together.

So here's what it all means. I've been wondering what to do with the GSA for the past few weeks. Nick puts this "dance routine" together (the club) I'm having trouble learning the dance, (trying to think of what to do) and Nick gives me a pep talk (he believes in me). Everything comes together, so everything in the club is going to go smoothly, even if at first, it is a little chaotic and bumpy.
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[10 Apr 2003|05:33pm]

[ mood | blank ]

So Day of Silence came yesterday. April 9th 2003. For different outlooks on the day, visit the friend's page. Many positive and negative views were expressed. For more info, e-mail me. InfinitusVirtus@aol.com and Sarah great job along with the rest of the GSA. ~Nick

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4/10/03: Following the Day of Silence [10 Apr 2003|03:24pm]

[ mood | determined ]

Earlier, DoS was explained; purpose, and sentiments. Yesterday was the actual day, and there are a few things that we addressed.

Most of the feedback we got was actually negative. Most of us got really stressed out by blatant insults that the general population of badge-wearers recieved. Each one was categorized as a faggot, or something degrading as such. No names will be mentioned here, but a great deal of people upset us, even so-called supporters.

It really put things into perspective for us. We know exactly who is reachable, and who is on our side, or at least will give us a decent amount of repsect. The majority was against us.

This is a very negative area of the states. Many visitors comment on how unfriendly everyone here is, and it's true. Some people fail to even make their own judgments anymore, but they will conform to what others think, even if they inwardly respect it. They are so afraid to speak out, that they will just keep the cycle of abuse going. It's getting harder and harder to want to be yourself.

We have to work on a new approach. We need to work not so much on everyone because some people obviously can't handle adulthood, even adults. We should focus on keeping our heads high and not be afraid to help people be themselves. They still can't scare us, they just help us become more aware.

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Website? [01 Apr 2003|04:22pm]

One thing that I think we should definitely get up and running this year is the website. Right now theres nothing on it, and I want to change that. I think Rachel is in charge of doing that, so I guess if you want to help/make suggestions/whatever talk to her about it. (I want to help Rae, give me info please)
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Sunday Newspaper Article [31 Mar 2003|05:29pm]

Hey again

Did everyone read the article in this Sunday's (3/30) Florida Today? There is an article in the local section titled...
"Satellite High newspaper staff questions school's oversight"
I dunno if I can copy/paste it (if thats legal or whatnot) But I'll do it anyway! (P.S- Love the picture in it Nick hahaha)

High school newspaper staff questions school's involvement

All students' rights come first, officials say

By Kimberly C. Moore

SATELLITE BEACH -- The staff of Satellite High School's newspaper, The Telstar, says school administrators are acting heavy handed in regulating the content of paper, while school officials say they are simply trying to protect all students' rights.

"We understand that 'disruptions in a learning environment cause problems,' but we do not agree that our First Amendment rights should be oppressed," said The Telstar Editor-in-Chief Nancy Dyer. "Even though we are students, we do exercise journalistic values, morals and ethics."

The charge stems from stories, opinion pieces and parts of stories that have been removed from the paper this year.

Principal Mark Elliott declined to comment, referring all questions to School District Spokesperson Sara Stern. He did, however, refer to the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, that allows administrators to remove from school papers items deemed "biased, prejudiced, vulgar, profane, unsuitable for immature audiences" and speech that would "substantially interfere with (the school's) work" and be disruptive.

The Supreme Court also ruled that while "students in public schools do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate . . . they also are not automatically co-extensive with the rights of adults in other settings."

Some of the items cut from the paper this school year include a story about the dangers of administrators driving golf carts on campus; an opinion article on why only athletes should receive varsity letters; a letter to the editor complaining about the school's guidance department; and part of an article regarding learning-disabled students on campus. An article dealing with gay students was also put on hold.

School board policy states that "students shall not be disturbed in the exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to assemble peaceably and to express ideas and opinions, privately or publicly, provided that such exercise does not infringe on the rights of others and does not interfere with the operation of the schools."

School District Spokesperson Sara Stern said in many cases, the students were asked to resubmit articles after correcting mistakes or taking out names of students and teachers and failed to do so.

"We hurt ourselves at the beginning when they started blocking smaller things and we didn't take a stand," said Adam Becker, a senior and the paper's sports editor. "I really disagree with their definition of 'disruptive.' "

The students say they have gone to Assistant Principal Doug Cook and asked why certain things were removed and were told it would be "disruptive."

In 2001, an article on birth control had a line regarding birth control replaced with a line about abstinence. Cook said at the time that the article seemed to be promoting teen sex.

The Telstar has been named one of the best student newspapers in the state by The Florida Scholastic Press Association. The organization also named last year's editor, Warren Kagarise, the Student Journalist of the Year in Florida.

First amendment and student newspaper organizations looked at the editor's list of complaints and deemed some of them to be censorship.

"I think the censorship these students are describing are truly extreme and most cases beyond the pale -- and I think illegal," said Mark Goodman, a spokesman for the Student Press Law Center based in Arlington, Va. "In school publications, administrators have to show the censorship is reasonably related to education and not based on a particular viewpoint. Viewpoint-based censorship is not allowed."

Charles Haynes, with the First Amendment Center in Arlington, said their organization frowns on prior review by school officials.

"It undermines what it means to be a student journalist," he said, adding that the students might not have a legal leg on which to stand. "I don't know that they have much room on a legal basis, although what is legal might not be the right thing to do. The students should still push for a free press."

A recent poll of more than 1,800 schoolteachers, administrators and the general public taken by The First Amendment Center shows more than 65 percent of teachers, 75 percent of administrators and 55 percent of the general public surveyed responded that students should not be allowed to cover controversial topics in their student newspapers without approval of school authorities.

An article written by Nick Smith about gay life in school was put on hold, Elliott said, because students were identified without parental permission. Elliott was concerned that these students might be harassed or even assaulted on campus.

The article discussed students revealing their sexuality, stereotyping people based on assumptions, and homophobia on campus. Smith said he had an idea the article would be cut from the upcoming issue.

"Nobody from administration even came to me to tell me why," Smith said.

One parent of a gay student quoted in the article made Elliott's point clear. She refused to allow her son's name to be used in Florida Today and asked that none of his quotes or her quotes be used either.

"It is inconsistent with our educational mission and infringes on students' rights," Stern said about the article on gay students. "We have an obligation to hold it."

Dyer, the paper's editor, said she has already spoken to an attorney who is interested in taking the case on a pro bono basis.

"We are looking for a way to get our voice heard and maybe a way to minimize the amount of censorship we are receiving," Dyer said.
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Just a Quick Update on Day of Silence [31 Mar 2003|05:13pm]

Hey everyone, Just to update people on what we got accomplished last week...
okay, Thursday we had a tiny meeting, the 5 or so of us got some about 4 posters done and a bunch of little construction paper-sized posters (to post up in teachers' rooms) completed as well. Nick came around, hell, I dont remember the time haha, and I called the t-shirt company, was routed to the tshirt guy (who wasnt home) so we decided to use a member's tshirt iron on program to do our shirts. Nick whiped us up a creepy (but cute) scorpion with an X over his mouth and a sign around his neck reading something like "Day of Silence 4/9." So sometime this week (hopefully) we can meet and make up some snazzy tshirts.

Then on Friday I gave the proposal to Mr. Elliot 2nd period, got called down to Mrs. Anderson's office 3rd period with a list of things that had to be changed/added, and I got out of 4th period and went to Mrs. Miles's room to fix it. I returned to Administration and brought our completed posters to get approved. I wasnt called back down to their offices 5-6th period, so I'm hoping that everythings A-OK with it. Then I went back to Miles's portable 6th and made some more little posters.

Monday before school/during 1st period we have to cover the school and classrooms in the posters. Also, I'm gonna do some more research on victims of hate crimes to make 3 posters (1 for each day) featuring 3 people each day. (So 9 total) I already have 3, Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr. and one girl (the name has escaped me at the moment) So I have 6 to go. Anyone with any suggestions, please email me: recklesslyabandoned182@hotmail.com

So I guess thats it, talk to everyone later
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Proposal to Mr. Elliot [27 Mar 2003|08:53pm]

Dear Mr., Elliot,
The Diversity Club/GSA of Satellite High are planning to participate in the National Day of Silence this April 9,2003. We have three days of events leading up to the Day of Silence, with the final day, Wednesday April 9, concluding the events.
The first day of our “week of prevention” will take place on Monday April 7. During lunches 1-4, a table will be set up on the senior patio with club members over-seeing signups. Students wishing to participate in the Day of Silence must sign up, including their name, grade and first period teacher. There will also be a poster up featuring 3(????) victims of hate crimes. Each spotlight will include a short but sweet biography about the victim and what happened to them. (The only photos included will be tasteful pictures of the person, such as a school photo.) There will also be a place for students to make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Tuesday will again be sign up days with more victims of hate crimes being recognized. Students will again have the chance to make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
On April 9, members of the Diversity Club/GSA will use the signup sheets and allot “pledge cards” to participating students in their first period class. During lunch, a teacher luncheon will be offered to any teacher in Mrs. Miles’s portable (#9) the portable will also act as a “safe spot” incase any students experience cases of harassment during the day.
If you would like any more information, please feel free to contact Mrs. Miles in portable 9; she would be more then welcome to gather it for you.

Thank you for your support and cooperation,
The Satellite High Diversity Club/GSA
Sarah Yerves
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[20 Mar 2003|04:03pm]

[ mood | busy ]

We're in session right now, and a lot of people didn't get to come in. Here is a brief run-down:

The focus is getting us all jobs to work on. Day of Silence is coming right up, so we need to get the ball rolling. We need all the help we can get, so if you want to contribute, talk to Nick.

DOS (Day of Silence) is a day fo silent reflection on prejudice and discrimination. You walk around with a sign, and remain quiet for the whole day, granted your teachers know in advance. Instead of being literally vocal, your silence shows your support for a cause, and it's a very cool idea.

Day of Silence is not just a Satellite thing. Do some research on it if you are viewing this journal and you don't go to Satellite. Get something organized, and make the difference.

Our center spread has been approved and edited. If Nick wants to add anything to that statement, he is welcome.

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[15 Mar 2003|10:23am]
[ mood | creative ]

"people fear what they can't understand and hate what they can't conquer"

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The Art of Coming Out [12 Mar 2003|06:23pm]

[ mood | artistic ]

"It's not that we're not ready to speak, it's that they aren't ready to listen."

It's not unusual for a person to feel like they have to hide things today. The world is constantly watching you, and they wait for some flaw to show up so they can prove to you how much better they are. The truth is, most people can't be honest with themselves and others, and by letting people know who you are you are already one step ahead of the game.

Then you have ton consider who has you under the most pressure to succeed. The people you love and trust the most can be the hardest people to talk to about something you've known for years. You've spent so much time with them, and yet they know very little about you.

Coming out is a strength few GLBT teens lack. It's a form of art, if you will. The hardest part to master is keeping the pride. You can tell family or friends, and let their insults get the best of you, and then you hate who you are. It's something that very few people can accept, no matter what they say. A family can be diverse, but still cringe at the thought of raising a gay child. At least you have admitted it to yourself. That is the first step.

Then you want your friends to know, since you trust them to stay with you through everything. In most cases, it's harder to tell family than friends. Some familes never know. It's a little daunting to hear that kids are most afraid to talk to the people that are supposed to love you unconditionally. Once your classmates know what you are about, and you ignore the ones that you know aren't your true friends, you start to feel better about coming out afterall.

No one can tell you what to say, or prepare you for how people will react. You have to be prepared for the worst, and hope for acceptance. You'll know who is on your side should you decide the time is right to let people know. The strength lies within you. You know yourself better than the average person, even adults, and that is the art of coming out.

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Introduction. [10 Mar 2003|06:52pm]

[ mood | busy ]

After getting the techical difficulties settled, I have added a few people and have selected posting rights. If you can't post, comment here, and I'll get back to you. I've gotten this thing figured out now after only quite a few weeks into the existance of the community.

If you aren't familiar with our content, we are the Gay-Straight Alliance of Satellite High School. We are titled "Diversity" but we are really about acceptance of the GLBT community. You don't have to be GLBT to be a member; we are bridging the gap between the communities, and basically trying to make the statement that you are not alone, and that you are entitled to respect, no matter what race, sexuality, or religion.

We don't have many set rules for people right now. I'm sure we'll build up a more structured community as we learn from experience. The number one rule is to be respectful. Make your comments tasteful. When you have something to post, make sure it is along the lines of an important event, a good point, a poll (get back to me on that. I have a paid account, so if you need an official one, just ask me) or something pertaining to the main cause of the community. An example of a post we are trying to avoid is, "This weekend, I went to the mall..." That's a journal entry. If you want to make it "This weekend, I went to the mall, and I saw something that I feel we should discuss," that is exactly what we are looking for.

If there are any questions, contact the maintainer

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-user"just2quik4ya">') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

After getting the techical difficulties settled, I have added a few people and have selected posting rights. If you can't post, comment here, and I'll get back to you. I've gotten this thing figured out now after only quite a few weeks into the existance of the community.

If you aren't familiar with our content, we are the Gay-Straight Alliance of Satellite High School. We are titled "Diversity" but we are really about acceptance of the GLBT community. You don't have to be GLBT to be a member; we are bridging the gap between the communities, and basically trying to make the statement that you are not alone, and that you are entitled to respect, no matter what race, sexuality, or religion.

We don't have many set rules for people right now. I'm sure we'll build up a more structured community as we learn from experience. The number one rule is to be respectful. Make your comments tasteful. When you have something to post, make sure it is along the lines of an important event, a good point, a poll (get back to me on that. I have a paid account, so if you need an official one, just ask me) or something pertaining to the main cause of the community. An example of a post we are trying to avoid is, "This weekend, I went to the mall..." That's a journal entry. If you want to make it "This weekend, I went to the mall, and I saw something that I feel we should discuss," that is exactly what we are looking for.

If there are any questions, contact the maintainer <lj-user"just2quik4ya"> or myself. Have a blast.
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