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A little something to remember...

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says,
"I will try again tomorrow."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

HNT #64




Happy HNT from the Yuba River! Spent all day Tuesday soaking in the sun on this beautiful river.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gays in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Kamal was just 16 when gunmen snatched him off the streets of Baghdad, stuffed him in the trunk of a car and whisked him away to a house. But the real terror was about to begin.

The men realized he was gay, Kamal said, when he took his shirt off and they saw that his chest was shaved.

"They told me to take off my clothes to rape me or they would kill me immediately. This moment was the worst moment in my life," he said, weeping as he spoke of the 2005 ordeal.

"I was watching them taking off their clothes, preparing to rape me. I did not know what to do, so I started shouting loudly, 'Please do not do that! I will ask my family to give you whatever you want.' " VideoWatch the tormented life of gays in Iraq »

His pleas went unheeded. "The other two kidnappers took off my clothes by force, and, at that time, I saw them as three dirty animals trying to tear my body apart."

He was held for 15 days, released only after his family paid a $1,500 ransom. He was raped every day. Only once, he said, was he allowed to talk to his family during captivity. "I told my family that I was beaten by them, but I did not dare to tell my family that I was raped by them. I could not say it, it's too much shame."

CNN spoke with Kamal, now 18, and his 21-year-old friend Rami about what it's like to be gay in Iraq. Coming out as gay is not easy in any country, but to do so in Iraq could mean a death sentence or torture.

The two men rarely show feelings toward each other in public. They spend a lot of time in Internet cafes in Baghdad, surfing gay chat rooms and seeking contacts with other gay men in Iraq and elsewhere.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the situation for gays and lesbians in Iraq has deteriorated. Ridiculed under Hussein, many now find themselves the targets of violence, according to humanitarian officials.

Lesbians are also victims of harassment and violence, but not nearly as often as gay men.

It's unknown how many homosexuals have been killed by militias in the lawless streets of Iraq's cities, but some Web sites post pictures of Iraqis they say were killed for being gay.

One photo on the Iraqi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender site shows a group of men standing around three male bodies sprawled on a street, blood pouring from their heads. "Gay Iraqi victims of the police and death squads," the site says.

A U.N. report on human rights in Iraq reinforces the accusations of violence. Although gays are supposed to be protected by law in Iraq, it says, they face extreme brutality.

"Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile toward homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them," the report said, adding that homosexuals have been murdered.

"Militias are reportedly threatening families of men believed to be homosexual, stating that they will begin killing family members unless the men are handed over or killed by the family," it said.

The report was issued at the end of 2006 and is the last U.N. study to touch on the subject.

Human rights experts say homosexuals are targeted for cultural reasons as well.

"Gay men and lesbians in Iraq face a lot of risks right now, because homosexuality is sometimes interpreted by people in Iraq as being a Western import," said Scott Portman with the Heartland Alliance, a group that promotes human rights worldwide. "So they can sometimes be targeted by insurgent groups or militias, in part, because of animosity toward the West and, in part, because homosexuality is not well-accepted in Iraqi society."

He added, "the biggest threats right now are from militia organizations, who will attack and actually sometimes kill gay men and women."

Kamal and Rami say the dangers are all too real in Baghdad -- and they live in secrecy not to shame their families.

"I would rather commit suicide than allow my family to find out I am gay," Rami said.

Kamal said he often pretends to have girlfriends in social settings and tells his friends he's dating girls. "I am also careful with the way I dress -- not to show them that I am gay, especially my family."

What would his family do if they found out?

"They will force me to give it up, and I cannot do that," he said. "The 'normal' people cannot live in Iraq. Imagine how the life is for gays."

Rami added, "I do not know why people hate gays even though so many have this tendency. But still they hate it."

Homosexuality is a touchy subject for many Iraqis. When CNN asked Iraqis in Baghdad how they felt about homosexuals, we found intolerance to be widespread.

One man said he considers gays no different from "criminals and terrorists." Another claimed that homosexuality was "illegal under Islamic law, and [gays] should be punished by law like criminals."

Rami said he once fell in love with a man who was part of the Mehdi Army, a Shiite insurgent group loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Their relationship eventually soured.

"One day he told me he would come over to my house and kill me in front of my family," Rami said. "I told him I would come outside and be killed in the street because I do not want my family to find out I am gay."

Both men hope to escape Iraq. They say their ideal destination would be San Francisco, California. For now, both of them keep their feelings secret.

Kamal is still tormented by what happened to him nearly three years ago.

"During my sleep, I only see nightmares, and I start crying. My family thought it was because they were beating me."

He paused. "Only my close friend Rami knows about this secret."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

HNT #63


Yesterday I ventured to Hoyt's Crossing of the Yuba River. Spent the entire day swimming in this beautiful lake with nothing on but some sunglasses. Hope everyone has a very happy HNT!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dole AIDS bill has failed!!!

A plan by Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) to rename the current AIDS relief bill after the late conservative Jesse Helms has failed.

Playbill.com reported July 20 that Dole's plan had caused an uproar angering many who have worked for and been affected by HIV/AIDS. Among those offended by Dole's proposition were Tom Viola, the Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and Philip S. Birsh, the President and Publisher of Playbill, who also serves as the BC/EFA Treasurer.

Viola, who had expressed his displeasure in a mass e-mail, told Playbill.com July 22 that he offers his "sincere thanks to all who responded to [his] e-mail expressing outrage that Senator Elizabeth Dole was trying to whitewash Jesse Helms' despicable 20-year record on AIDS in the United States Senate, as it affected hundreds of gay men, as well as men and women in communities of color in the United States - by naming the a global AIDS relief bill in his honor.

"Your quick response and efforts to let Senator Dole know that such a cynical move would not be tolerated paid off.

"As a staffer in Dole's Senate office told a friend of mine who called her office directly said: 'Yes, we have been inundated with phone calls, e-mails, telegrams and letters the vast majority opposing the Senator's efforts,' which ultimately failed."

Members of Dole's staff told The News and Observer, a North Carolina newspaper, that "Dole's amendment wasn't considered because she introduced it too late — after a procedural move had already determined which changes could be considered." "This is a convenient way of 'saving face' without having the amendment defeated by Senate vote," says Viola.

The bill — without Helms' named attached — is known as PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and has been passed by the Senate. The bill will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the nation's largest industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. Since its founding in 1988 the organization has distributed over $130 million for services for people with AIDS, HIV or HIV-related illnesses. For more information visit www.BroadwayCares.org.

*

Helms was a long-time opponent to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research. In fact, the blog Joe.My.God has recalled many of Helms' AIDS-related comments:

# Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."

# Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

# Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."

In a mass e-mail BC/EFA's Viola writes, "I hope you'll give some thought to how sickeningly ironic this is. It spits on the graves of hundreds of thousands of Americans, men women and children of every race and economic background who died of AIDS, including scores of my friends. . . . Helms made institutionalized neglect, disdain and hatred government's official response and he carried the day for a long while as people I loved, knew well, casually and worked with died. . . Dole's recommendation demeans hundreds of thousands of Americans currently living with HIV/AIDS and implies that Helms' hatred for gay men and Americans of color everywhere (except in Africa where they are safely a continent away) is acceptable, even good. In Jesse Helms' world we are all dispensable, better dead. . . . It's a sad, sick and deliberate attempt to re-write history and clean-up Helms' sad legacy. His hatred goes down in history. People will refer to it for decades. Dole wants to minimize that, create plausible deniability. 'Look a Jesse Helms AIDS bill. Clearly he cared.' He did not."

Playbill President Birsh added, "It is inconceivable that a bill would be named after a man so intolerant and divisive. As Treasurer of Broadway Cares/EFA, it is my duty to publicly object to this irrational and poorly considered pandering to the memory of a man known for his cruelty to all those who suffered with HIV/AIDS during his time in the Senate."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

HNT #62


I spend a great deal of my life living in hotel rooms, so I figured I'd give you a Hotel Room HNT. Hope everyone has a great HNT!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

HNT #61





Tonight I took my first naked yoga class in Sacramento. The teacher was incredible. Gave a really challenging class, and it was refreshing to just be naked doing yoga again. I look forward to going back. So, I got home and figured a yoga themed HNT would be perfect!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

HNT #60




Here's a cowboy HNT. I just finished a production of Oklahoma. This was a photoshoot I did to make closing night cards for my friends in the cast. Thought they'd be perfect for HNT #60!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

California

I'm out in Sacramento for the rest of the summer! Flew out yesterday, and my body is still trying to adjust to the time change and the whirlwind of closing a show on Sunday night.

Starting rehearsal this morning for Gypsy.