May 2008 Archives

Blast from the past

After I finished editing this week's cover story on Cathy Renna, I told Will O'Bryan how much I enjoyed his interview with her, that it really brought me back to the old days of D.C. queer activism.

You'll note that I didn't say "good old days," because despite the fondness with which I may remember the early 1990s, the reality is that they were truly scary days in many ways. These were the days before effective HIV/AIDS treatments, when obituaries still brimmed with the deaths of gay men. Much of the pro-gay effort of the first Clinton administration collapsed in the Gays in the Military fiasco, when newspapers and news shows followed U.S. senators, both Republican and Democrat, through the close confines of submarines to illustrate how homos would destroy military morale. And even many of us who were on-the-edge activists doubted we would see marriage rights any time soon, if even in our lifetimes.

Obviously, things do change, and faster than we might have expected. But they don't change without effort, and Cathy stands out in my mind as one of the activists who achieved the most with her efforts. I can't say that I always agreed with the stances she and GLAAD took on media issues -- my libertarian streak often runs against the more progressive instincts of GLBT media critics -- but you can't deny they had an incredible impact on how the country's mass media covers our community. And it's a better world because of it.

It's hard to keep the activist fire burning for years on end -- at least that's been my experience -- but I've always been impressed by how Cathy has really pursued the causes she believes in (I know this because I've been on the receiving end of many of her story pitches). I'm glad she'll be back in Washington with her family, especially as we're on the verge of what could be a huge shift in political power. The possibility for change in the coming years may be immense, and we'll need all hands on deck to make it happen.

Proud to be honored

In this week's feature story package on the GLBT Asian and Pacific Islander Pride & Heritage celebration, we highlighted the two people (Joseph Truong and Trang Duong) and one organization (South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)) being honored on Saturday for, according to Pride & Heritage, "work empowering the local A/PI GLBT community."

While it was mentioned briefly in the feature, we didn't profile a fourth honoree -- Metro Weekly. It's generally a little awkward for a publication to determine how to cover itself, but in this case we obviously wanted to focus on those members of the local A/PI community who have done such stellar work.

That said, I do want to call a little more attention to the award because I'm both excited and proud to have the magazine recognized in such a wonderful way. I've been fortunate enough over the past few years to become friends with a number of those who have made AQUA and other organizations such fast growing and effective groups in our community.

One of the things that most interests and excites me about our entire Washington GLBT community is just how diverse it's becoming -- and how it's only going to become more so. With the huge A/PI communities across the area, its pretty much inevitable that the Asian GLBT presence will become an ever larger part of that diversity. And, as with any growing minority community, those in the majority often have a lot to learn in terms of dismissing stereotypes and making everyone feel welcome in all our community spaces.

I believe that the role of a local gay and lesbian publication is to reflect as many diverse aspects of that local community as it can, so I'm especially proud and honored that Pride & Heritage chose to recognize our efforts. And I wish them a happy and joyous pride celebration.

The Pride & Heritage reception is tomorrow evening at Apex -- read more about it here, or visit the Pride & Heritage web site for more information and tickets. And don't miss the Dragon Boat races!

Sun dissed

As an aside to the Domestic Partner May 1 story about skin-cancer screening, Ban the Tan, it's worth mentioning that I know too well how scary this can be. My sister, Megan, died from melanoma about 10 years ago.

While she had very pale skin, she learned how to make it tan. She rarely burned, but she was dedicated to just the right amount of exposure and lotion to get a beautiful tan. Going to college in San Diego in the early 1980s, it was the thing to do.

Years later, after the birth of one of her four kids, a melanoma lesion appeared on her back. Surgery followed immediately, at which time her doctors at Scripps were pretty confident that they'd managed to excise the tumor, and that it hadn't moved to any other part of her body.

That's when the clock starts -- five years in the clear, and you can be pretty confident that the cancer was completely removed. But about five years and six months later, a lesion appeared under her arm.

From her home at the time, Japan, she waited a couple of weeks so that she could enjoy Christmas with her four kids and husband, before heading back to Scripps in San Diego. There, the chemotherapy took its toll on her. The melanoma eventually spread to her brain, where the treatment was radiation. While initially successful, the melanoma returned to her brain, where the radiation treatment could not be repeated.

Within a year of the return of the melanoma, at 38, with a great marriage, four young kids, and years of avoiding the sun after her college-tan days, she died.

Locally, a friend of mine has also battled melanoma. Years of Florida sun exposure manifested themselves as melanoma after she moved to D.C. The chemo ravaged her body and cost her some lymph nodes. But she survived. And, similar to my sister's case, about five years later, another melanoma tumor surfaced. Thankfully, it was not a sign that the original cancer had spread, but an isolated case. This time, she was well aware of what to look for and immediately went to her doctor, who immediately removed it from its spot on her cheek. These months later, no one can even tell that she had this tumor removed from her face, which is testament to modern surgical skills.

While I wish I could tan myself, purely for reasons of vanity, I know I can't and that I shouldn't try. It could end up killing me. As it stands, those childhood burns may still. At least with increased awareness of skin cancer, all of us stand a better chance of being able to catch skin cancer early. And though there is some minor debate on whether sun exposure is a leading cause of skin cancer, avoiding the sun may save your life. Getting tanned, on the other hand, won't really get you anything.

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