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Haas Convening on Youth Suicide and Family Acceptance – Photos

Haas Convening on Youth Suicide and Family Acceptance – Photos

by Karen Ocamb on March 14, 2011

On Saturday, March 12, I was among the 32-40 who attended the 2nd annual convening of LGBT journalists, editors and bloggers  in San Francisco, sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund.  We packed into a conference room at the Haas headquarters on Sansome Street to hear an update on immigration reform, and extraordinary presentations from Ann Haas on LGBT Youth and Suicide Prevention; Carl Siciliano and Ksen Pallegedara on LGBT Youth Homelessness and the Ali Forney Center; Shannon Minter on the status of Prop 8 and DOMA cases; Caitlin Ryanon her powerful work with the Family Acceptance Project;  and Jason Cianciotto on LGBT Youth in America’s schools.  Here’s a group shot courtesy of Tracy Baim, publisher of The Windy City Times and editor of Obama and the Gays, to which I contributed.

I will be on IMRU tonight discussing the convening and President Obama’s historic Anti-Bullying Conference. I am also working on posts for LGBT POV and a piece for Frontiers In LA. Meanwhile, here are some shots you might enjoy.

Haas Foundation Bloggers/Reporters Convening (Photo courtesy Tracy Baim)

In this photo: Michael Rogers (photos), Eden James (photos), Phil Reese (photos), Andrés Duque, Karen OcambJeremy Hooper (photos), Jean Albright,  Matt Baume, David Stern, Shuan Knittel, Tracy Baim (photos), Ksen Pallegedara, Zack Ford (kneeling), Joe Mirabella (photos), Carl Siciliano, Chris Geidner, Rod McCullom (photos), Daniel Villarreal (kneeling), Adam Bink (photos), Chris Johnson (photos), Ed Kennedy, Jerame Davis (photos), Caitlin Ryan, Jason Cianciotto (kneeling), Bil Browning (photos), Jos Truitt, Rex Wockner (photos), Elizbeth Plata, Matt Comer, Erik Resnick, Shannon Minter, Sunni Brydum (photos), Andrew Belonsky (photos), Joe Jervis (kneeling)(photos), Cynthia Laird (photos), Michael Jones (photos), Liza Sabater, Ann Haas, Mauricio Rodriguez, Ed Plata.

Other photos:

Andres Duque (Blabbendo) and Rod McCullom (Rod 2.0) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jeremy Hooper (Good As You) and Eden James (Change.org) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jos Truitt (Feministing) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

David Stern (Frontiers In LA) and Chris Geidner (MetroWeekly) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Matt Baume (Stop8.org), Cynthia Laird (Bay Area Reporter) and Zack Ford (ZackFordBlog) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The cramped conference room (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tracy Baim (Windy City Times), Mike Rogers (BlogActive, PageOneQ) and Phil Reese (Same Sex Sunday podcast) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Ed and Elizabeth Plata and Adam Bink (Courage Campaign)

Rex Wockner, center, at work

Rod and I take each other's pictures - much to the amusement of Matt Comer (Q Notes) and Zack Ford (ZackFordBlog) (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Joe Jervis (Joe.My.God) shooting as Ann Haas watches (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Rod, Shuan, Matt, Zack, Andres working (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Caitlan Ryan and Shannon Minter (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Caitlan Ryan, The Family Acceptance Project, laughing during her presentation (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Caitlan Ryan, Elizabeth and Ed Plata give presentation about family acceptance, including moving film (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Incredibly smart Ann Haas, Director of Prevention Projects, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

Ksen Pallegedara and Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center

Me, Matt, Michael, Chris and Daniel

Our conveners - Bil Browning (The Bilerico Project) and Matt Forman, Haas Jr Fund

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 14, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Ha! My pupils are huge. I look possessed.

So nice to finally meet you in person, K.O!


Karenocamb March 14, 2011 at 6:38 PM

What’s that old phrase – wide-eyed and bushy tailed???? Whoops, maybe that’s inappropriate – but what I mean, of course, is that you are fresh and eager and a wonderfully enjoyable person who has taken on the important, albeit disgusting, task of exposing our ruthless religious enemies. Thank you!

So nice to have finally met you, too!


Ksen March 14, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Talking with my hands, as usual. LOL


Patrick Connors March 14, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Karen -

What do you think about Haas organizing / inviting writers (some pro some semi pro) from all over the country to come to SF and hear some statistics? Did you learn anything new or useful at this summit? Would the information been just as helpful if it were included in a press release or was it necessary for this gathering to be held?

I ask because I find it odd that in a city like SF with an enormous homeless population that is a renowned LGBT youth magnate there would be an information session like this that pretty much excluded San Francisco journalists, activists, and professionals. How much money did Haas spend to get y’all here and why was it important for writers/bloggers to get the information they were feeding?

I’m cautious about appearing envious of not being on the guest list. Please know that I do not have a blog (yet) and I am not a journalist and this subject matter – while important – is not something I focus attention on (not to say that I ignore it either). The event was announced on Friday as an exclusive “invite only” event with no details about where, when, what, who, how and when some people raised issues with the appearance of this secrecy they have been shamed, ridiculed and dismissed.

I’m no seminar denialist for anyone interested in such things – but why was this one handled so oddly and defensively? What was supposed to be accomplished as a reuslt of the gathering and by the way this gathering was announced?

Please know that I’m a San Francisco resident extremely frustrated by being a part of the largest LGBT community in the country and we can’t get out Congressional Rep (Pelosi) to hold a town hall meeting to hear from us, nor do we ever get access to EQCA, or any other organization that represents us…unless we pay at the door. And now last weekend dozens of out of towners were shipped in to receive a message that many in SF would like to hear…or could use…and might even (god forbid) have input to share.

You must have been aware of some of the rancor and I’d appreciate hearing what you think about what you heard over the weekend and what I say here.

Thank you!

Patrick Connors (on FB and uppityfag on Twitter)


Matt Foreman March 14, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Patrick -

There was no hidden “agenda” behind this convening. It’s simply an opportunity to be able to present in-depth information about issues of the day to LGBT editors/bloggers. None of the information is secret and the convening was wholly on the record. The reach of those in attendance is immense, but how or if they choose to use what they heard is completely up to them.

We’re proud to be able to help connect in-person these editors and bloggers, almost all of whom devote their entire lives to informing our community of what’s going on with little or no compensation, to some people who are experts in fields like suicide prevention, homeless youth, immigrant/LGBT rights, and ways to prevent homelessness. Most of the presentations involved fairly dense statistical information about what is known and what is not known about these issues.

There are dozens of other issues which deserve similar focus, but there’s only so much that can be covered in one day and still allow for meaningful give and take.

There’s simply no way to have a convening of this sort without some people feeling excluded. That goes with the territory and I am sorry that anyone feels left out.

A 4-hour town meetings for subjects like suicide prevention and homelessness? Maybe, but then what about the people who can’t come because they work evenings or weekends, or live too far, or can’t afford to get there? And why San Francisco and not Oakland, San Jose or Topeka, for that matter?

Matt Foreman, Director
Gay & Immigrant Rights Programs
Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
San Francisco


Patrick Connors March 14, 2011 at 10:45 PM

Thank you for your reply, Mr. Foreman.

I don’t think that a 4 hour town hall meeting is necessary and having to choose SF over a neighboring locale sounds like you are using excuses to avoid the difficult task of being open to the public.

How much notice was given to Bil Browning and the attendees from Saturday?

There is zero transparency and outreach to the general LGBT public in San Francisco from the organizations/politicians that represent us. For example, we had to pay EQCA to hear Nancy Pelosi speak to us a year ago at Harvey Milk Day. Her own LGBT liason won’t help make a Town Hall meeting happen, yet Jackie Speier manages to hold open public meetings in her district without helping raise money for a non profit political lobby.

Instead of there being any attempt at openness there are excuses offered like the ones you list above. That is why there is ongoing suspicion and cynicism.

The “left out feeling” could have been avoided by announcing the event in advance. Were attendees asked to not discuss the event – it’s agenda or locale – until immediately prior to the event? How much money was spent educating visitors to SF about homelessness while there are an abundance of LGBT youth in SF that could use support?

Did anyone in attendance ask questions like the ones I pose above or would they be too beholden to the largess of their host to want to appear ungrateful?

Karen – will you address the issues I raise?

I do appreciate your attention to my comment, Mr. Foreman.


Anonymous March 15, 2011 at 12:06 AM

I concur with the comments and questions posed by Mr. Connors.

What was the agenda for the day? How much money was spent? Who was responsible for organizing the convening? Who shaped the agenda and what were the goals and objectives of the convening?

These are important questions that I believe need to be answered if we as a “queer” “community” have any hope in building bridges.

There was a large opportunity that was missed in being able to formally connect the queer/lgbt blogging community to the larger queer/lgbt Bay Area community. A community that HAS resources in spades, and of which I KNOW people who would want to find ways to bridge the divide between what is happening here locally (especially in innovation in arts, political action and non-traditional journalism/blogging) to others nationally. Why wasn’t there an open session where members of the community can come and meet the people face to face who bring us our news? With “limited” time and funds, maximizing the time of the folks who are visiting this wonderful place is imperative. Keeping doors closed all the time (I do acknowledge needing some closed doors) is counter-productive to actually building community. In fact, pieces like this add to the alienation felt by so many queers.

As someone who does community organizing, popular education and theater, I understand that the educational andro/pedagogy used in the convening matters. Was this just an opportunity to learn from “experts” about the plight of LGBT youth homelessness? What about speaking or hearing from a real “expert”, someone who is living right now as a queer homeless youth? Their stories matter as much (if not more) than data that can be given as a slide show/powerpoint/fact sheet after the fact.

And finding someone who can speak from that personal perspective of being a queer homeless youth is not difficult to find here in San Francisco. It does require being open and allowing the organizations that are working with this population in to the conversation. It means honoring a peda/androgolical philosophy that empowers those on the “bottom” to be active participants in their own learning, growth, and engagement.

These nuances matter. The only way forward as a “community” is to work against the prevailing culture of “closed” and hierarchy. And that includes funders being open and *actively* transparent about how much money they are putting in the production of community building events, what the intended aim was, and what was actually accomplished.


Karenocamb March 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM

Hey Patrick –
Sorry I didn’t get back more promptly but I’ve been out covering other stories – the West Hollywood election results are about to become final and it’s very big deal here. Plus I’m on deadline for Frontiers so I’ve had to work on that, too. AND I just wrote and recorded a piece for OutQ News on the new Freedom to Marry “Say ‘I Do’” campaign.

So – a couple of things. Thanks to Matt for responding.

Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God also said on his Facebook page that it was a gathering intended to help those of us who write about these issues basically understanding them better, at a deeper level.

And yes, I learned a lot and STILL have much to digest before I do more on the issues raised. For instance, Ann Haas talked about how more people who come out think about suicide and experience depression than those who simple live their lives….She has stats, which I don’t have in hand at the moment – but heavens, that bears way more follow up. I’ve asked Ann for a one-on-one interview because there are so many more questions to discuss.

Caitlin Ryan’s work is available at the Family Acceptance Project – http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/ – but she, too, had info I want to discuss more fully. For instance – she talked about the rates of HIV and the connection with prevention and the family. That – as you know – is critically important given the overwhelming continuation of stigma.

Re the issue of LGBT youth and homelessness – I have a story that I have not yet posted

As to the convening being a “secret” meeting – not in the least. The idea was to get this information out and get it out with stats and facts and a better understanding. I asked about strategy and public policy implications – but no one went there. This was about the research.

BTW – I shot video which I’ll post on Frontiersweb.com tomorrow so you can see for yourself.

I hope that answers some of your questions.


Szollman March 15, 2011 at 12:38 AM

Thank you, Ms. Ocamb and Mr. Foreman for replying to Patrick and the other gentleman’s questions and concerns.
As Patrick identified, transparency and accountability are lacking from our providers and electeds here in SF. We are all working to change that.
While I caught a few clips Saturday I am really looking forward to see the full tapes. All Best, Stephen Zollman


Patrick Connors March 15, 2011 at 5:11 AM

Thank you, Karen! What do you think about what Michael says? Curious about your view on the openness / access – or lack thereof….


AnotherCommenter March 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Joe Jervis also posted on his facebook page the following:

Am I terrible for being highly amused that the person complaining the loudest about being “excluded” from this weekend’s journalists summit is incapable of constructing a single grammatically correct sentence?

Now, there’s an attitude of inclusiveness for you!


MPetrelis March 15, 2011 at 4:37 AM

From my blog: http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/03/some-equality-bloggers-are-more-equal.html

Some Equality Bloggers are
More Equal than Others

For a community that sure talks a good line about wanting openness and equal access for all, there are way too many organizing meetings that are invitation-only. Democracy is very lacking in our movement and here are recent examples of gatherings that were not open to the wider the community, gatherings that were supposed to inspire non-attendees.

There was the May 2009 weekend of the Dallas Principles, no public meetings were held by the organizers of the October 2009 March on Washington which failed to produce the promised network of 435 Congressional district captains, the February 2010 gathering in Tennessee launching GetEqual, plus the recent OutGiving 2011 conference put on the Gill Foundation.

And this past weekend saw the Haas Jr Foundation host its second invitation-only blogger meet up in San Francisco. A key organizer of it, Bil Browning of Bilerico.com on Friday blogged about it, which was the first I heard of this effort:

“I’m convening a gathering of 30-some top LGBT bloggers, journalists, and newspaper editors to talk about major issues facing our community that currently don’t get nearly the amount of ink as some of our more sexy and popular problems. The focus this time will be on immigration issues and teen homelessness and bullying. This is the second year in a row for the convening. …

“The good folks at the Haas Foundation are paying for everyone’s travel expenses because they believe in the power of spreading knowledge. Quite a few bloggers would never have this experience or be able to sit and speak to some of the folks shaping our movement, so I’m really proud to be playing my part in selecting attendees and facilitating the trip. Plus, everyone invited can live-tweet, blog, Facebook, whatever they’d like; it’s all on the record and there’s no secret information! …”

Sure, it’s great that the top bloggers invited can write about the happening, but notice that Bil says not a thing about any part of the confab being open to anyone, nor does he write about a public forum component. He is just so happy to be singing the praises of the Haas Jr folks to notice the lack engagement with the local community beyond those elite enough to snag an invite.

Frankly, with Haas Jr paying for everyone’s travel costs, and maybe other expenses, I don’t expect the attendees to offer up any public criticism about the non-democratic aspects of the confab or anything to do with the foundation and how it spends its substantial endowment.

I sent off a snarky note to Haas Jr’s gay director Matt Foreman and Bil, saying my invitation was lost in the mail, and Matt replied:

” Your name is on the list and I just saw your nametag.

” We only have so much room and we’d like to keep this as interactive as possible, which becomes increasingly difficult as the numbers go up.

“There’s a welcome reception at Trigger at 7:30 to 9pm. The day starts tomorrow at 9 am for light breakfast, with the program starting at 9:20. If you arrive after 9:30 you can’t get in as our building has no [guard?] on at the front door on weekends.”

Nice to know if I wanted to attend I could, but I wrote back to Matt explaining that I already had Saturday plans to hang out with my husbear. If I had been given more advance notice that I could be there I might have gone, after first asking about full transparency or totally open parts of the confab, and if I could have seen an agenda of who was speaking, when, on what topic, etc.

Let’s be honest. The Haas Jr organizers probably didn’t want me around, not when I’ve been requesting town hall meetings with Matt ever since he went to the foundation, and he’s not willing to hold such events. There’s also my continuing campaign with the Haas Jr-funded Equality California demanding that EQCA put on open meetings.

I not taking the lack of an invitation until the day before personally, since I spoke with my friend and blogger Tommi Avicolli Mecca. He’s a longtime radical queer advocate who now works for a housing rights group in San Francisco helping homeless gay youths get shelter, mental health services to prevent suicide, and assisting gay immigrants with housing and other needs.

Tommi didn’t make the cut of Bil Browning’s 30-top bloggers and he wasn’t invited to attend.

One top lesbian blogger, Pam Spaulding, blogged last week about her speaking engagement and role at the OutGiving meeting, and her tone was disappointingly one of sneering and defensiveness about it all. From her headline alone, “Tin foil hats off – primer on what OutGiving 2011 was not”, the concerns of people criticizing the lack of transparency with the Gill Foundation and its conference are dismissed by Pam.

I must add that she was also one of the select few to attend the Dallas Principles meeting, and I’m not sure she quite gets the transparency and democratic engagement demands folks like me and Tommi are putting forward. Who knows? If I were in the high echelons of the gay blogging pecking order and asked to observe and advise a Gill Foundation confab, or ask to be at any of the many other invitation-only meet ups put on by other foundations, I might feel differently.

But my gut feeling is that the Haas Jr/Gill Foundation/GetEQUAL/Equality California way of very selective engagement not just with bloggers but the wider community too.

If I lived in a city where the likes of the Human Rights Campaign, EQCA, Haas Jr, Horizons Foundation, the local community center, all worked together to hold joint town halls to discuss how we organize as gay people and what our issues are, I’d show up at their next meeting and put these matters on the agenda.

However, San Francisco is simply not a city currently meeting the transparency and full democratic engagement needs of the at-large gay community.


Anonymous March 15, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Hi Michael, we ask that all commenters here not post full articles published elsewhere in our comments section. Please edit the above into an excerpt.

Thank you.


MPetrelis March 15, 2011 at 9:00 PM

hi all,

i’ve got a follow piece up at my blog about the costs of the junket put on by the haas fund, including several comments from karen’s post. check it out:
http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2011/03/what-was-cost-of-haas-funds-junket-for.html .



Phil Reese March 18, 2011 at 12:13 AM

Much like last year, I thought the summit was extremely informative and helpful. As an unpaid freelance blogger unattached to any particular news gathering organization, the writing and research I have to do takes a lot of time and is a lot of work. I do it because I love it, not because there’s a paycheck at the end (there isn’t). As such, attending these types of summits is extremely helpful, because I get a primer on an issue, and an orientation about the path to follow as I continue to read up, research and write about the issue.

Last year’s immigration summit is a great example–I consider myself an immigration reform advocate, and someone with very personal connections to the effort to support same-sex binational couples. However, I learned tons at last year’s gathering, and it really gave me a path and a language for discussing the issues in my posts that I didn’t have before. We don’t need LESS gatherings of this sort, we need MORE–and yes, we need to get MORE writers, journalists, podcasters, vloggers, editors and bloggers TO these summits.

In the end, all I learned at this summit, the opportunity for me to ask questions and brainstorm with my fellow writers: this will make me a more capable and competent writer on these issues. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I really think that my readers and listeners are the true beneficiaries.


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