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My Mother’s Funeral — June 23rd 11AM

Posted by on June 18, 2014


We’ve made the decision to hold funeral services for my beautiful mother, Roseanna Bisch, on Monday June 23rd at 11am at:

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, California 90038
www.hollywoodforever.com
323.469.1181

My loving Mom will be laid to rest next to my big brother Marcus who we lost two years ago. We feel certain this is what they both would have wanted.

We encourage those who knew her and all friends of the family to attend. Afterwards there will be a reception to rejoice in her Louisiana roots with good old-fashioned country cooking and mint juleps.

For those who would like to send flowers or remembrances, please send them to the address above. My mom loved flowers more than just about anything.

My mother also loved people – all kinds of different people. Because all three of her boys lived in Los Angeles at one point or another, and because she treasured sharing stories with our friends, she often said that she had, “So many sons and daughters in Los Angeles.” We’d love to have all of her many sons and daughters over to help celebrate her life of strength, resilience, joy and love.

That said, we are working hard to reach all of her family and friends. Any help passing this information on to the folks who knew her would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for all of your love and support during this time.

Dustin Lance Black

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A Letter to PCC Students

Posted by on April 18, 2014

Dear PCC Students,

In 1992 my parents lost their jobs in the months leading up to my leaving for college. We could no longer afford the University I was accepted at, so I turned to the Community College system and Pasadena City College. I enrolled in honors courses, worked two jobs to pay rent and still found time to tutor both math and ESL at PCC. My mother taught me there is nothing more meaningful than serving your fellow man. It was a proud day when she watched me walk at PCC’s graduation with an AA Degree, an honors tassel and a Dean’s scholarship.

November of last year, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Community College League of CA. In the presentation, my film work, Academy Award, WGA and Spirit Awards were all mentioned, but the accomplishment I was most proud of was my half-decade of work with AFER to strike down Prop 8 at the Supreme Court last summer and bring equality back to California.

After my acceptance speech I was approached by PCC Administrators and asked to speak at my old campus. A few months later, I received an invitation asking that I be PCC’s 2014 Commencement speaker. I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me.

This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been disinvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a “scandal” in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.

For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer.

In 2009 a group of people surreptitiously lifted images from my ex’s computer and shopped them around to gossip sites in a money making scheme. These were old images from a far simpler time in my life, a time before digital camera phones and internet scandals. They were photos of me with a man I cared for, a man who shared my Mormon background and who was also struggling with who he was versus where he came from. And yes, we were doing what gay men do when they love and trust each other, we were having sex. I have never lied about my sexuality. If you invade my privacy, this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents.

In 2010 I took the perpetrators of this theft to Federal court and Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled unequivocally that the defendants had indeed broken the law. The details of this case are readily available for anyone to read — including PCC’s leadership and Board of Trustees.

In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this “scandal,” not the perpetrator.

With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?

Over these past five years, I have spoken at over 40 major universities including Harvard’s Kennedy School, Penn, UCLA, USC and recently spoke at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television graduation. I’ve been the featured speaker at NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference), NACA (National Association for Student Activities), HRC’s National Gala, spoken to over 200,000 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the March on Washington, walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to help win a fight for my people and been honored for my work for equality on the floor of the California House of Representatives. Never once, at any of these events has this issue ever come up. Not once. Not in the press. Not with the students. Not ever.

In fact, PCC is now only the second institution to ever blame me for what happened in 2009. The first was Hope College in Michigan whose Dean pro-actively made a statement openly admitting he did not want a pro-LGBT message on his campus. It seems to me that same animus is at play here now.

I congratulate all of the 2014 graduates. I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my Community College education at PCC into a fruitful career. I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.

As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC. They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.

While I deal with the legal and financial ramifications of this injury, I urge you not to let PCC’s Administrators get away with sending such a harmful message. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the struggle for equality it is that when you are stung by injustice, you must find your pride and raise your voice. If you are outraged like I am, you must show it. You must speak truth to fear and prejudice and shed light where there is ignorance. Now is that time at PCC.

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK
PCC ’94 UCLA ‘96

PCC CONTACT INFORMATION:
PCC PRESIDENT — Mark Rocha, mwrocha@pasadena.edu
NOTE: In a subsequent letter from Robert Bell, rhbell@pasadena.edu, who I am told lead the fight to rescind the invitation, no mention was made of the invitation or confirmation, but it is clear that he and others on the Board of Trustees were aware that this offer was extended and accepted. Their discussion of this issue (at time code 02:08:20) can be viewed here.

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Shedding Light In Russia

Posted by on February 8, 2014

Last night a torch was lit to mark the opening of the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. While I commend every athlete who takes part in these games, I can’t help but think of the many LGBT brothers and sisters I met on my recent trip to Russia who are persecuted daily just for being who they are.

The Olympic Charter’s 6th principle clearly states that discrimination of a person based on their immutable characteristics is “incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” With this in mind I ask: how can the Olympics be held in a country that illegalizes, brutalizes, and marginalizes an entire group of people just for being who they are? Allowing Russia to host these games is a monumental hypocrisy that threatens to tarnish one of this world’s greatest traditions. We must never allow such hypocrisy again.

But all is not lost. In the 1970s we learned from people like Harvey Milk who when faced with similar discriminatory laws urged gay and lesbian people to come out and let light shine in on their lives. He taught us that truth and light are on our side. This fact was confirmed in California in 2009 when those opposing equality were finally forced to walk into a court of law and testify under oath. Under the scrutiny of daylight, their arguments fell apart.

When light shines, the truth is made clear and progress toward full LGBT equality is realized… and guess what, the Olympic torch brings with it a helluva lot of light.

For the sake of those suffering in Russia and beyond, this moment must not be wasted. Over these next two weeks, I urge those within the glow of the Olympic flame: athletes, coaches, visitors, spectators and Russians alike to live in bravery and speak their truth openly as LGBT persons or allies of equality. History tells us that such valiant honesty can correct the record, dispel the lies and ultimately save countless lives.

These new laws in Russia were designed to create silence and darkness. The Olympic flame was built to shed light. With courage and heart from those on the ground, the light of the flame may yet prove one of the greatest heroes of these Olympic games.

To learn how you can support LGBT Russians visit http://uprisingoflove.org/

Share your thoughts on this topic with me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Why I Support Carl Sciortino For Congress

Posted by on August 26, 2013

There is a remarkably compelling candidate running to become the eighth openly LGBT member of the United States Congress. His name is Carl Sciortino and he’s a Massachusetts state representative running to fill an open seat in the House of Representatives.

There’s so much I loved and admired about Harvey Milk, that drove me to write the screenplay about him. I see some of those characteristics I most admired in Carl.

In 2004, just after the court ruled for marriage equality in Massachusetts, Carl was a 24-year-old medical researcher working at Boston’s LGBT health center. Carl and some friends went to meet with their state legislator about marriage and were shocked that the lawmaker dismissed them as “you people.”

Tensions were high in Massachusetts. The Vatican, President Bush, Governor Romney and the religious right were trying desperately to stop same-sex couples from marrying in the first-ever state to allow it. They promised to defend anti-gay lawmakers and unseat those who supported marriage equality.

Carl searched for someone to run against his lawmaker. Everyone said no, that the guy couldn’t be defeated, but Carl refused to take no for an answer and decided to run himself.

In spite of homophobic mailers accusing Carl of being a “radical homosexual extremist” and his opponent’s supporters’ desperate attempts to scare away his volunteers at the polls on Election Day by calling them hateful names, he overcame all odds and won by fewer than 100 votes.

Like Harvey Milk, Carl showed the profound courage to run, and not wait for someone else to save the day, because he knew how important it was to offer hope at that crucial point in history. And when he won, Carl gave hope to all those fighting for the freedom to marry in the early days that this was a cause they could win, at a time when victory or loss was very much in question.

Even as a new legislator, Carl saw it as his responsibility to fight for every member of the LGBT community. He courageously drove a transgender non-discrimination law through the legislature and to the governor’s desk, staring down members of leadership who weren’t happy about the bill.

One of my favorite attributes of Harvey’s was that he was a pure populist. He worked hard for all people who have been made to feel “less than,” and all minorities who the system wasn’t working for.
Harvey called this his “coalition of the us’s” — not only gays but blacks, Asians, seniors, the disabled. He understood the interconnectedness of our common struggles.

Fighting for the “us’s” is at the core of who Carl Sciortino is. Carl’s top priority has always been fighting for working people who have had a tough go at it, whether they or the cause is popular or not. He co-founded the Progressive Caucus in the Massachusetts legislature, led an override of Mitt Romney’s veto of a higher minimum wage, fought to close corporate tax loopholes, and helped pass Massachusetts’ landmark universal healthcare law.

Carl believes strongly that we must create a true coalition, where every citizen, regardless of sexual orientation, understands that the fight for the “us’s” isn’t about any one group but instead a fight for justice and equality for anyone who has ever been singled out as second-class.

Please stand with me in helping send this courageous fighter to Congress.

To make a contribution and learn more about Carl, click here.

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Tomorrow Is Personal

Posted by on June 25, 2013

Tomorrow’s decision isn’t just political.  Each of us has a very personal reason why our stomach is filled with butterflies today. Here’s mine:

5.5 years ago, while making MILK, my big brother who was living in Virginia came out to me.  I remember wishing I could hold him that day, but I was in California. Being far apart was never easy for us. S o for years we’ve worn simple white gold bands to keep each other close when we were too far for an embrace.

Then, 4.5 years ago, after a devastating loss over Proposition 8, Cleve Jones and I declared in the SF Chronicle that “NOW IS THE TIME” for Full FEDERAL Equality for LGBT citizens, the time to demand that our gains in one state apply to every citizen… including my beautiful big brother way out in Virginia.

I reaffirmed that promise on an Oscar stage months later, we marched on Washington to demand action, and I got to work helping build AFER in order to challenge Proposition 8 in Federal Court.  It has been the honor of my life to be involved with this case.  So, as I walked up the steps of the US Supreme Court earlier this year, I wanted nothing more than to call my big brother and let him know that the freedom I might feel with a win could also be his… but I couldn’t make that call.

Last year, late in the evening of January 24th, my big brother slipped his ring off his middle finger and I slid it onto my left hand.  I remember being surprised that it fit so perfectly, that we had the same ring size. I’d always thought of him as so much bigger than me.  A few hours later he lost his battle with cancer and left this earth, never knowing what it might feel like to be a full and equal citizen in the country he loved.

For the past year, I’ve worn my family ring on my right hand and his on my left, never taking them off, never letting him be too far away, looking to him whenever I would take a stage to give a speech or when I needed the courage to make a tough call.

Today, on the eve of the Supreme Court’s historic decisions on our case, I’ve been fidgeting from nerves and anticipation, taking his ring on and off and on and off.  And then without thinking, I slid his ring onto the same finger as mine. It stayed there for some time before I finally gave it my full attention, but when I did, I couldn’t help but notice that together they form a perfect EQUALITY symbol… and I felt certain and strong again.

My big brother is with me still in this fight.  I know it.  And regardless of the decision tomorrow, I know that TOGETHER we will soon be EQUAL in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. Because this is personal. I know we as a people will not stop fighting until we live in a nation where we no longer leave a single one of our brothers or sisters behind no matter who they love or what state they call home.

For so many of us, for so many reasons and for so long now, tomorrow is, was and has always been about FAMILY… for those we’ve loved, those we’ve lost, those we were born to, the families we’ve built and families we still dream of building.

And for me, tomorrow is about my big brother.

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Harvey Milk Day 2013: Where is “the coalition of the us’s”?

Posted by on May 22, 2013

Today is Harvey Milk Day in California.

And I’m left to wonder what Harvey would say if he were here.

I imagine he’d start by saying that this day isn’t about him.  For Harvey, it was always about the movement, never about ego.

He’d likely say this day is for the kids out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias who are feeling hopeless, who still feel that what makes them different makes them “less than.” He’d tell anyone who would listen that they must come out, stand up…and send that young person a much-needed message of hope.

But I’m afraid the next thing Harvey might ask is, “What has happened to the coalitions we started building?”

Because as proud as I am of the work so many brave people have done to come out and share their stories, I’m afraid we have neglected one of the most critical pieces of Harvey Milk’s successful political philosophy.

Harvey Milk was not myopic when it came to his equality. If he had been, he never would have been elected. Harvey was a pure populist. He worked hard for all people who have been made to feel “less than,” and all minorities who the system wasn’t working for.

Early on he backed the unions in the Coors beer boycott in the 70s—forging an unexpected alliance between gays and union truck drivers. He went into the Chinese communities and made sure the ballots were written in Mandarin instead of English. He fought for seniors and the homeless.

It seems the message we too often miss from Milk’s work is that all Americans have an interest in equality because soon we will all be minorities in some way or another—it just depends on how we slice the pie.

Separate, we are all vulnerable. Together, we are unbeatable.

Harvey called this his “coalition of the us’s.” He wanted equality for  ”not only gays, but the blacks, the Asians, the disabled, and the seniors.” He understood the interconnectedness of our common struggles.

The idea was simple but brilliant. Harvey believed that people who are very different deserve equal protection. And he knew that if we were ever going to win that freedom and keep it, we had to stick together.

When I wrote the movie “Milk,” I focused mostly on Harvey’s call to send a message of hope to the young LGBT people who were suffering, likely because I had grown up feeling a lot like that isolated kid from Altoona, Pennsylvania.

But here’s the thing: I grew up gay, but I also grew up Mormon. In Texas. I grew up with a single mother who walked with crutches because of polio. And we had no money; I was a free lunch kid. We were different in so many ways beyond just the gay thing…so why didn’t I shine a brighter light on Harvey’s “coalition of the us’s?” It’s one of my few regrets with the portrayal.

Because the bottom line is this: We in the LGBT movement have a long way to go when it comes to joining together with other groups who are seeking equal opportunity and equal protections. Too often, I witness a myopia that I fear may keep us from crossing the finish line of full equality and leave any gains we make feeling impermanent.

Never has this been clearer to me as these weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling on full marriage equality. With a true coalition, every citizen—regardless of sexual orientation—would understand that this isn’t simply a gay and lesbian fight, but a fight for justice and equality for anyone who has ever been singled out as second class.

When the Supreme Court does get it right, it should be clear that this is a victory for everyone who has ever felt different in some way, which increasingly means every single one of us. But if it continues to leave gay and lesbian families vulnerable, it makes all families vulnerable.

Now more than ever, we need organizations and individuals to do the hard work to rebuild, build out, and strengthen our coalitions in order to reach out and find commonality with unexpected new allies.

We need the “us’s” to stand together publicly with our voices raised to remind the world that this nation is strong because of our differences, not despite them.

Because when that day comes that the U.S. Supreme Court rules for full equality for gays and lesbians, it won’t send a message of hope solely to LGBT young people. It should be clear that the Court has sent a message of hope to EVERY young person who has ever felt “less than” for being different.

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At the 2009 Academy Awards I promised young people they would soon know federal equality. Later that year, I became a Founding Member of AFER, and with the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies we backed a federal case against Proposition 8 in CA determined to make good on that promise. Keep up to date on this historic civil rights case at AFER.org. Learn more