From the desk of the president...

How quickly the campaign promises the current White House Administration made just last year to the LGBTQ+ community are forgotten with the ban of transgender men and women who want to serve their country in the military.  Once again our community becomes a political pawn.  First it was the so called “bathroom bills” which state after state tried to implement, with a few successes thus far but without much objection from the Administration.  Now the ban is a blatant attack on the right of every American to serve their country, specifically on the transgender community.  President Trump in his tweet, further marginalized a community already done so by a government not providing protections to the LGBTQ+ community who are American citizens.   In his tweet, he states that transgender people in the military would cause “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Why just last year, the Rand Corporation at the request of the former Secretary of Defense reported an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender people serve on active duty out of 1.3 million armed forces members and another 830 to 4,160 in the reserves.  Nearly two dozen other countries allow transgender people to serve in their armed forces including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.  The report also states health costs would increase only between $2.4 and 8.4 million annually which is just a fraction of the estimated $32.3 billion budgeted for the armed services health care programs.  It was estimated that only 130 transgender people a year would seek gender reassignment surgery.

I am unsure what President Trump means about “disruption” since I believe that most soldiers and sailors would not question the expertise of a fellow serviceperson, especially one that has your back.  The disruption comes when military loses qualified medical personnel, translators, chaplains, officers and combat ready personnel.  This is what disrupts our ability to be an effective military power.

We would be amiss if we didn’t look at why the LGBTQ+ community continues to be victimized in this day and age?  Is it possible that the community is complacent by not recognizing how important guaranteed protections are vital to every American citizen?  If you have not experienced the fear of or discrimination itself then you might not feel a need to speak out or to take action.  An example is on June 11th; we tried to fill a bus for the National Pride March in Washington, D.C. and could not even muster enough people for half a bus.  Greater Reading was represented by a few who decided to drive to the rally.  The LGBTQ+ community wants to celebrate their diversity and unity with the rest of the community at Pride events all year but where are you when it comes time for the festival, events and programs?  By using Pennsylvania’s estimated percentage of LGBTQ+ people of 3.6% and apply it to Berks County’s overall Population (2015) we are 14,950 potentially strong.  Not even 10% of the LGBTQ+ community attends or supports Pride in celebrating who you are in a safe place.  Now we have The LGBT Center of Greater Reading which has developed partnerships with agencies and organizations, providing support groups, educational and advocacy programs.  Without you we cannot maintain or create the services, programs and events you want and need.

The time for A CALL TO ACTION is now.  You and the LGBTQ+ community can become a political force in Greater Reading by registering and voting so that we do not lose the gains we have made over the past years. Become the advocate by responding to advocacy organizations request to call, send emails or write letters to politicians, organizations and businesses that need to know where you stand in promoting your community’s civil rights, those enjoyed by other American citizens.  You are part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, step up and be comfortable with who you are.  Many of us shared and  know the difficulty of coming out, keeping secrets, feeling alone and fear of others finding out who you really are.  Just remember, most of us were there and we can tell you it can be one of the most freeing moments of your life.  Need support, there is a whole community out there for you including Pride and the Center.  We do wish to thank those who are active and support our community.  You are the backbone of keeping us LGBTQ STRONG!

On August 16th, the Reading Fightin’ Phils will host the 5th Annual LGBTQ Night at First Energy Stadium, a stadium that seats 9,000.  There are enough of us to fill the stadium plus.  It’s not just about baseball, it’s about community!  Let’s support the Reading Phils and show Greater Reading that we are LGBTQ STRONG!       

Benedict M. Renkus, President
Reading Pride Celebration
PO Box 15242
Reading PA 19612-5242
610.375.8209

Stirling Event Art Auction

The following pieces will be available at the art auction during our Stirling Event this weekend! There's still time to get your tickets for this fun event! Join us for food, drinks, a performance, and good conversation -- all in support of Reading Pride Celebration 2017!

The bus trip has been canceled

Unfortunately, Reading Pride Celebration regrets that we will NOT be arranging for a bus to the National Pride March in Washington, D.C. on June 11th. We were not able to garner enough interest to be able to provide this service for the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Reading. The deadline was May 8th to purchase tickets. We were unable to sell enough tickets to even to fill half a bus for this important event given the present political climate and the need to speak out and be heard. We wish to thank all those who did purchase tickets to represent our community at this national event. Your money for the tickets will be refunded. 


With Pride, 
Ben

Benedict M. Renkus, President
Reading Pride Celebration
PO Box 15242
Reading PA 19612-5242
484.240.9660

Kay Haring Book Signing!

February 25 (11:00-1:00) and February 26 (1:00-3:00) at the Reading Public Museum

Join the Reading Public Museum for a meet and greet, book signing with Kay Haring, sister of famous artist Keith Haring and author of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. Iconic pop artist Keith Haring comes to life for young readers in Kay's picture book biography. This one-of-a-kind book explores the life and art of Keith Haring from his childhood through his meteoric rise to fame. It sheds light on this important artist’s great humanity, his concern for children, and his disregard for the establishment art world. Reproductions of Keith’s signature artwork appear in scenes boldly rendered by Robert Neubecker.

Don’t miss the interactive storytime incorporating movement and stories inspired by the artwork of Keith Haring.  Mimic the movements of his most famous figures, enjoy storytime, and then add your artistic designs to our collaborative art project.

Book sales benefit Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Berks County Community Foundation. $16.99 for a Hardcover Book. Book ideal for Children 5-8 years of age and anyone interested in this hometown hero. For more information on Kay Haring, visit kayharing.com. To reserve a copy of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing please contact Melissa Varone at melissa.varone@readingpublicmuseum.org. Copies will be available for purchase during the weekend long book signing event.

Access to the book signing with paid Museum admission includes meet and greet with author, special activities for children, access to all Museum displays and view of Haring works on loan in the Modern Gallery.

Dead of Winter

Theatre Inspired by Berks!

Joel Richard Gori will direct RTP’s new work by Sue Lange and Elizabeth Clark in the January/February run of DEAD OF WINTER: Berks Haunting. This new play will draw on haunting folk-lore of the forgotten people of Berks County’s history including the Lenni-Lenape, slaves, abolitionists, and beatniks between the 1700’s and 1950’s. exploring what haunts us today.

This ensemble piece continues RTP’s success of Berks-inspired historical pieces that include 2013’s May Be Honest and 2014’s Speakeasy.

Starring: Nelly Torres, Amy Young, Vicki Haller Graff, Kyle Lewis, Margot Adams, Christopher David Roche, and Nia Kendell

Music composed by Chris Heslop

Tickets:
$25 general adult admission at the box office
$20 general adult admission online
$10 student tickets (K-College)
$10 theatre industry rate available
**Group discounts available**

Dates & Times:

Friday, Jan 27th @ 8pm OPENING NIGHT BOOK SIGNING WITH CHARLIE ADAMS!

Saturday, Jan 28th @ 8pm
Sunday, Jan 29th @ 2pm
Friday, Feb. 3rd @ 8pm
Saturday, Feb 4th @ 8pm
Sunday, Feb 5th @ 2pm

Venue:
Olympian Ballroom (603 Penn Ave, West Reading 19611). Across the street from the West Reading Tavern, Say Cheese, and Chatty Monks!



RTP Theatre Tips!
**Don't know what to wear to the theatre? That's ok! Wear whatever you like! We want you and your family to be comfortable as we all have fun!**

**RTP is an eco-friendly company that utlizes an online ticketing system. Just purchase your tickets online and check in at the door!**

**Arrive 15-30 minutes early to check in, grab something at concessions, and secure your seat!**

https://www.facebook.com/events/182941208846806/

Mourning the loss of one of our community members

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Gregory Courtesis AKA Bianca DeMonet. Greg was involved with Reading Pride Celebration throughout the years. As Bianca DeMonet, he has served in the court of Miss Reading Pride Celebration. His passion, creativity, dedication, and kindness will be missed by many. Our most sincere condolences to his family, loved ones, and friends. The drag and LGBT community will certainly feel this loss. We thank you for your contributions to life and for your spirit. Rest in Peace.

A Post-Election Message from the President of Reading Pride Celebration

In response to the political situation after Tuesday’s election...


We in the LGBTQA+ community find ourselves confused and some have expressed concern about our civil rights.  Do not panic!  It would be difficult if not impossible for the President to take away our marriage rights.  The Supreme Court has made their decision and to overturn that decision would be difficult and take time to change. Basically, marriage equality is the only federally supported right that we have.

Remember before the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality, individual States had approved marriage equality either by legislation or by federal judges’ rulings.  In Pennsylvania, we do not have state-wide protections that would protect the LGBTQA+ community in housing, service and employment as all other minority groups do such as discrimination in race, creed, disabilities, etc.  More and more local municipalities are considering or already have these protections  The City of Reading is the only municipality in Greater Reading that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the ordinance against discrimination in 2009.  The Human Relations Commission 610.655.6141’for the City of Reading which has two LGBT Commissioners on its Board is the agency that would investigate any violations to the ordinance.  So it is important to continue to support our rights on the State and even local levels.

Reading Pride Celebration with Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Reading and Berks county Community Foundation for the past two year have worked on the “LBGT Initiative” to have businesses and organization sign a pledge to welcome and serve the LGBTQA+ community in there establishment and treat any LGBTQA+ employees equally within their place of business creating a safe and diverse atmosphere.  About 170 business and organizations have signed up on our resource page and display a rainbow sticker with Greater Reading printed across the bottom.  This is a way to educate people regarding the LGBTQA+ community and the struggle we have for our civil rights.  Patronize those found on our resource page and encourage other businesses and organizations you patronize to sign the pledge on our resource page or call us for further information.  If we cannot get blanketed federal protections then we have to work on local governments, businesses and organizations.    

What is more at risk are the more recent rights granted to our Transgender community such as expedite changing of names and gender on federal documents which if you have not completed do so before the new administration is sworn in Washington, D.C. January 20th. LGBT protections granted to federal employees also by Presidential executive order are at risk you may want to seek legal advice through a lawyer or union.

Also if you know anyone who is without health insurance, it is strongly suggested that they apply for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) which can be completed on line at www.healthcare.gov x, by calling 1.800.318.2596 or by calling Berks Community Health Center 610.988.4838 (www.berkschc.net) for an in person appointment.  We know that this program will be at high risk of being repealed but signing up now may give you an extra year of coverage you might not otherwise have.  Do it now and do not wait for the December 31st deadline!   

So where do we go from here during this time of uncertainly and how the changes may effect not just our community but others that experience discrimination like women, people of color, groups of people who are judged by actions of a few such as Muslims, and people from certain regions of the world, the disenfranchised are all at risk. Remember, together “WE THE PEOPLE …” have the power to make a difference, to unite our struggles, tell our stories of who we are and be there for each other.  So if you receive a “Call to Action” from an advocacy group, do not ignore it but instead act on it, sign that petition, march for a cause, attend that seminar to educate and advocate or volunteer with that group that is trying to make a difference.  Together we can make a difference!  

Should you have questions, need referrals or want to volunteer call us at Reading Pride Celebration 484.240.9660 (www.readingpridecelebration.com), or the newly formed The LGBT Center of Greater Reading 610.698.4063 (www.thecenterofrdg.org) or our good friends at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in the Lehigh Valley 610.347.9988 (www.bradburysullivancenter.org).  Stay informed and get involved!

With Pride,

Ben

Benedict M. Renkus, President

Reading Pride Celebration

PO Box 15242

Reading, PA 19612-5242

484.240.9660

info@readingpridecelebration.com

www.readingpridecelebration.org

 

NATIONALLY KNOWN LGBT JOURNALIST TO SPEAK AT KU

KUTZTOWN, Pa., Sept. 30 — In honor of LGBT History Month, the nation’s most awarded LGBT journalist Mark Segal will speak at Kutztown University on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. in Alumni Auditorium in the McFarland Student Union.  The event is free and open to the public.

Respected by his peers for pioneering the idea of local LGBT newspapers, Segal is one of the founders and former president of both The National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. He is known as the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. His memoir, “And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality” was released in October and has become a best seller.

In June 1969 Segal was one of the four members of the action group that organized demonstrations for three nights after the infamous Stonewall riots. He joined forces with others to create the Gay Liberation Front, which signified the new radicalization of the gay community in New York.

Wanting to take the community out of isolation, Segal created the Gay Raiders and took the fight national. The Raiders’ campaign against the television networks changed America and the gay Rights struggle.

Segal was America's first gay television star when he disrupted the CBS “Evening News with Walter Cronkite,” an event covered in newspapers across the country and viewed by 60 percent of American households, many seeing or hearing about homosexual rights for the first time.

Segal founded the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) in 1975. He has served on dozens of boards and commissions, including the Philadelphia International Airport Board.  In 1974, he created the historic Governor's Council for Sexual Minorities. This was the first governmental body in the world to specifically look at the problems faced by the LGBT community. That was followed by the first executive order banning discrimination in state government.

Aside from publishing PGN, Segal has also reported on gay life from far-reaching places as Lebanon, Cuba and East Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He represented the gay press and lectured in Moscow and St. Petersburg at Russia's first openly gay conference, referred to as Russia's Stonewall.

Segal currently coordinates a network of local gay publications nationally to celebrate October as gay history month, with a combined print run reaching over a half-million readers.

Segal was recently inducted into the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association's Hall of Fame, appointed a member of the Comcast/NBC Universal Joint Diversity Board where he advises the entertainment giant on LGBT issues.

For more information contact Christine Price, director, KU GLBTQ Resource Center, at 484-646-4111 or price@kutztown.edu.