Category Archives: Human Rights

Celebrating 5 years of community service! 2014 has been a year of tremendous growth and success for Free2Be!

Dear Friend of Free2Be and the LGBTQ South,
For the past 5 years GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc., now doing business as Free2Be, has been positioned as a leading organization representing the LGBTQ people of Alabama and the South.  With your support we have advocated successfully for under-represented minority groups while providing direct social services designed to meet the needs of LGBTQ people.This year Free2Be was positioned to be the only organization in Alabama to receive Federal funding to create culturally specific programming to support to LGBTQ people and our family members who are victims of violent crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. With this funding we are supporting the health and safety of LGBTQ people across Alabama through the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project.With these amazing opportunities comes the need to increase our financial support from you, our friends. Our current Federal funding is based on reimbursements.  This means we must raise several thousand dollars in order to begin the process of spending money on programming so that we may then receive the grant funding in the form of monthly reimbursements.   Increasing our current fundraising is essential to our ability to re-apply and to receive future grant awards for this extremely important work.All of us here at Free2Be are thankful that you have joined us in our mission to build a compassionate and inclusive society.  I have included links and summaries of the wonderful things that the agency is doing with the support we receive as well as the link to where you may give your gifts online.  You may also mail them to us at the address at the end of the newsletter.I wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and invite you to continue with us on our amazing journey in 2015!
Sincerely,  James Robinson
Executive Director
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The Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project provides help and support to LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of Alabama when they need it most. Every year LGBTQ people are beaten, harassed, and killed just for being themselves.  Many cannot find safety at home or in their intimate relationships.  Free2Be Safe AVP provides crucial services for people who need help and support:

  • Counseling for victims of hate violence, domestic violence, and sexual violence.

  • Therapeutic support groups for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and children experiencing trauma after witnessing acts of violence.
  • Peer support groups for LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ young adults, and adults who are Transgender.
  • Nationwide referrals for services.
  • Public education and prevention services.
  • All Free2Be Safe AVP services are provided free because of the support of generous donors and grant funding through the Victims of Crime Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act.
  • All people needing help are welcome regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

RCPride 2015 with #

Save the date! June 21st 2015 – Huntsville’s Historic Depot & Roundhouse

North Alabama’s Celebration of Diversity and Equality.  Building a compassionate & inclusive South by bringing diverse individuals, groups, and communities together!

* Rocket City Pride benefits the Free2Be LGBTQ Resource Center & the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project.

Free2Be Radio

Bringing you conversations, spoken word poetry, & music from our friends around the World!  Hosted by activist and advocate for the LGBTQ community and founder of Free2Be James Robinson


Book Review “Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children”

Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children. Edited by Rachel Pepper (2012) Cleis Press, Inc.

What a wonderful collection of honesty from these mothers. You can feel the love and genuineness as you turn the pages of each child and mother’s story. They are so compelling it is difficult to put the book down. As a Social Worker and ally of the LGBTQ community who works at the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project, I learned so much about the hardships that we as a society, place on these children and families. You’ll discover that Transgender and gender variant children are, in reality, the wrapping paper that fascinates us with the beauty outside of the box.

Book Review By: Lynn M. Hazard, LCSW (

Joseph Henley

I am a Gay Christian… I have nothing to hide.

Growing up gay in Alabama was not easy. I never used the word gay to describe myself, not even in my own mind.  I was taught by my parents and my church that being gay was wrong.  Of all the sins that were out there (and there were plenty!) being gay seemed to be among the very worst.  I lived with feelings of guilt and shame and spent long hours hiding and trying to pretend I was not who I really was. This led to extensive one on one sessions with my parents, painful sessions with a counselor, and eventual my willing admission into an Ex Gay facility in Kentucky.

My time in the ‘pray the gay away’ facility has had long reaching negative affects on my life. The promised ‘cure’ of being free from the ‘demon’ of homosexuality was a tempting offer. The hope of a ‘cure’ led to my willingness to open my mind to the most abominable accusations against me as a person I have ever experienced. The rules (curfews, mandatory bible study/prayer sessions, hard labor, lack of sleep to name a few) were difficult, but the systematic psychological degradation of my personal identity had the greatest negative impact on my well-being.

For six months I allowed my spirit to be progressively beaten down. I was told I was rotten and worthless.  When I cried because of the pain I was told I needed to ‘press in’ or to ‘go lower’ and always that I was ‘in the right place’.  When my right to speak was taken away I sat in silent contemplation of how they were leading me to believe that the person I am was inappropriate.  After graduating I went through a long period of depression and despair because I was realizing that I was still gay.  I felt hopeless.

Later, when I got a chance to move away from home and begin a new life in Indianapolis things changed forever.  Away from the influences of home, I was able to start thinking about my life and who I was.  If things were not changing, maybe it was because they were not supposed to change.  I began to fill my life with people who were unconditionally supportive of me.  After a few short months of living free from oppression, being exposed to positive influences and finding accepting friends I decided to Come Out.

Coming Out was difficult after so much effort to ‘remove the gay’ part of me but being true to myself felt more right every day.  It was incredible when I no longer had to fear that people would find out my deepest secret.  I was able to act, think, and simply exist as the person I have always been… the gay man God created me to be.  The freedom to be open and honest about my sexual orientation was exhilarating.

I gained strength from many others who had made the Coming Out journey before me. When I connected with old friends I was often surprised with how accepting they were of my ‘new’ identity.  I survived this dark journey and my new life is progressively getting brighter.  I am ready to receive the amazing future that is ahead of me.  Whatever damage had been done to me in PLM is now undone and I couldn’t be more ready to embrace my true self.

Living an authentic life since that time has been challenging… at times difficult… but overall completely wonderful. Learning to be me… truly me, is the best feeling in the world.

– Joseph Henley



Gay-Straight Alliance necessary for school’s growth

- Beryl Kessio

Editor’s Note:  Beryl is a student at Sparkman High School which is in the Madison County school system.  (Harvest, Alabama)  She is Editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crimson Crier.

History has been made at the school with the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, and I am proud to call myself an Ally.  After the long announcement read by Erin Coggins introducing the club, students and even teachers seemed confused about the motives of the club. “What is a Gay-Straight Alliance and why do we need one here?” they asked.

In essence, a GSA is a school club in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight and questioning students converge to discuss significant issues that we all face in a safe, accepting atmosphere. One firm rule of the GSA is that students are never to ask another student to discuss their sexual orientation unless he or she volunteers that information.

Sorry to disappoint those who thought we would be traipsing through the halls with rainbow flags and glitter bombs parading our sexualities. We have a more savory mission: we are advocates for all students; maintaining a safe learning environment in our school is paramount to the club, along with promoting acceptance and awareness throughout the community.

We need this club now more than ever.  Our school’s motto—excellence our tradition, diversity our strength—embodies the need for the GSA; we are a school filled with voices aching to be heard.

In many parts of the word, it can be deadly to be anything other straight. Even here, there are unspoken hindrances placed upon those who identify with certain labels.

It seems that the odds are stacked against LGBTQ youth. Bullying is a staggering problemfor those who identify as or are assumed to LGBTQ. According to a 2009 survey by the CDC, of more than 7,000 LGBT students aged 13–21 found that in the past year—because of their sexual orientation—eight out of 10 had been verbally harassed and six out of 10 felt unsafe at school. Suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are especially high compared to other groups. Even as our understanding of human sexuality evolves, there is one thing everyone can agree on:  students can never reach their full potential if they are targets of hatred and insolence. All of this points to the need for safe environments in which youth can be themselves without fear of reproach from their peers.

Today, we have labels for every subset of human interest— “Directioners,” “Whovians,” “Potterheads” and “Deadheads” are a few. There are endless boxes we can check; we as a society categorize ourselves to oblivion. Do not misunderstand; labels provide us with a collective culture we can identify with. There comes a point, however, when we must ask ourselves when our inherent urge to classify does more harm than good. When it comes to sexuality, labels are often misconstrued. They oversimplify. No label captures the deep, innate complexity of what it means to be a human being.

In the GSA, we call each other Allies. I am an Ally because I choose to illuminate the shadows cast by ignorance. Allies transcend those labels that are placed on us, allowing us to interact without bias or pretense, without judgement or condemnation, because before we are straight or gay, we are people.

The school has a place where all students, regardless of identifier, can show solidarity by celebrating the characteristics that make us beautiful individuals, and that is something I have no shame in being a part of.

(Republished with permission of the author) is part of


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Understanding LGBTQ Abuse in the South

Understanding LGBTQ Abuse in the South

- The Good Men Project

“Sometimes, the roots of violence against LGBTQ people go much deeper than the hearts and minds of a few people or communities.”

Join us and give your support to the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project serving LGBTQ Alabama and the Deep South.  Together we are working to create safe communities based on healthy relationships.

 Give to support the LGBTQ South…
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James Robinson is an activist, advocate, and a leader in the struggle to secure equality and social justice for the LGBTQ South.  He is the founder and executive director of GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc. located in Huntsville, Alabama.  His is deeply rooted in the forms of fundamental Christianity prevalent in the Deep South.  He is a deeply spiritual person who uses his personal struggles as a source of strength to help others.  He can be reached at

James in NJ