Analysis of Advocacy Websites

Human Rights Campaign is one of my favorite organizations.  One of the largest and most effective human rights nonprofits, HRC works to support LGBTQA rights, in addition to women’s, immigrant, muslim, and other minority rights.  


One of my least favorite organizations, on the other hand, is the Pro-Life Action League.  The advocacy group makes excellent use of logical and emotional appeals to prevent women from receiving abortions and create legislation criminalizing the procedure.


The Pro-Life Action League does most of its organizing online, where members can donate to the cause and read facts and arguments related to the issue of abortion.  The website cleverly uses the word “baby” instead of “fetus,” which has been proven to evoke a stronger response from neutral parties. By creating a user-friendly website that simply lays out the arguments of the pro-life cause, people who are sorting out their opinions on the matter have clean and clear access to the half of the story that would sway them to pro-life advocacy.


In addition to supporting their own argument, the Pro-Life Action League establishes itself as the opponent of Planned Parenthood.  By criminalizing the leaders of Planned Parenthood and claiming to be open and honest with prospective members, the Pro-Life Action League gains access to many people who are not fond of the pro-choice organization, regardless of how they actually feel about abortion.


Finally, the pro-life organization actively mobilizes its members to prevent abortions.  On the “take action” page of the website, the Pro-Life Action League urges members to picket abortion clinics, to pray outside of women’s health facilities, and to initiate “sidewalk counseling” to convince women not to abort their pregnancies.  By confronting these women in person, the members of PLAL are extremely effective in creating second thoughts for women entering abortion clinics.


I disagree with almost every point that the Pro-Life Action League argues, but they are arguably effective at promoting their platform and stopping abortions.  I can learn from the organization in my advocacy project by using the logical approaches that the pro-life group does, and hopefully use their tactics to, ironically, oppose their message.

Persuasion Paper Outline


The United States has made enormous steps forward regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual (LGBTQA) rights.  In addition to a diminishing stigma, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in 2015 that effectively allowed same-sex marriage in the United States.  Steps like these give hope to the LGBTQA community that better days are coming, and that an era of discrimination is coming to an end. Being gay, bi, queer, or anybody else is no longer a crime; today’s youth are becoming emboldened to claim their sexuality in a public forum that is more accepting of them than ever before.

However, the fight is not yet finished.  Many American institutions are inherently homophobic; they continue to promote a heteronormative narrative that teaches people that homosexuality is different, deviant, and unhealthy.  The United States’s public school system is one of these institutions. Despite teaching students of every gender, sexuality, and orientation, public schools by and large are using curricula that assume a heterosexual norm.  According to the experts, these heteronormative curricula not only exclude LGBTQA students, but actively create a hostile, homophobic environment.


The Problem:


The Solution:

Deliberation Nation: Hate Speech vs Free Speech

Deliberation Nation was, for me, a mix of fascination, anxiety, and desperately trying to find time to attend a second discussion.


As it happened, the only deliberation I was able to attend was Friday’s Hate Speech vs. Free Speech discussion.  Although it was the only meeting that fit into my schedule that week, I’m really glad that it was the one I was able to go to – I found the conversation engaging and thought provoking, and I’ve come back to think about the deliberation  several times.


There were about 12 of us seated at cafe tables in Frasier Commons, and after five minutes of introductions and donut-munching, we split into two groups.  The approach teams then spoke to the smaller groups, giving us a more intimate setting for conversation and discussion.  I thought this method was really effective at engaging every attendee, as the small groups forced a certain level of participation.  I enjoyed discussing all three approaches, but I found our discussion of legal censorship particularly fascinating.  I was sitting next to a girl who had a very different idea of free speech than I do, and it was really cool to discuss how far our government can really go to prevent hateful speech.


All things considered, the Hate Speech vs Free Speech deliberation was a really cool experience.  I got to see what it was like to sit on the other side of a deliberation (without the anxiety of “Oh god I hope we can get them to talk for the whole 20 minutes”), and I was able to meet other Freshmen that care about this issue.  I thought the deliberation was a fantastic opportunity to challenge my perceptions of free speech and hate speech, and to practice civic engagement with other Penn State students.

Sex, Sluts, and STDs: How Sex Ed Creates Stigmas

The second approach to our deliberation considers the social stigmas placed on sex and sexuality in the United States.  We want to talk about how abstinence only curriculums promote double gender standards and misconceptions about intimacy.  We started doing research on how social stigmas are created in our current sex ed curriculums and began looking at what changes we wanted to see in the United States.



The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a great article that discusses social stigmas created by our current sex education situation.  The piece delves into the issue of abstinence only curricula, which tend to create the misconception that STDs and other negative health problems are caused by sexual promiscuity.  This is not accurate, and the article suggests we combat that stigma with a more relaxed view of sex and sexuality.  We should promote sexual health regardless of what kind of sex people are having, and inform our students on the myriad of ways STDs can actually be spread.



The Center for American Progress also made an argument regarding stigmas in sex ed.  The article explains that LGBTQA students are often at a severe disadvantage, because schools do not provide sex ed programs that are inclusive of all sexualities.  The piece suggests creating a more comprehensive K-12 curriculum that would encourage students to ask questions and maintain their sexual health.



I was surprised at how much research has been done regarding sex ed and social stigmas – I would have thought that their findings, which clearly indicate a problem in our society, would lead to action creating a more inclusive and comprehensive curriculum.  The lack of appropriate sex ed programs for students has created a cultural problem with stigmas that affect each and every one of us – children, teens, and adults alike.  We need to address the issue of abstinence only sex ed curriculums and face the taboo our society has put on sexuality – let’s talk about sex baby.




Works Cited:

“LGBT-Inclusive Sex Education Means Healthier Youth and Safer Schools.” Center for American Progress, 28 June 2013,

“Sexual Health Training and Education in the U.S.” PubMed Central (PMC), Mar. 2013,

Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed), Baby

Our group has decided to discuss sex ed for our deliberation this month.


We believe that this is a subject that is usually considered taboo do discuss in public, and that is exactly why we need to bring it to the deliberation table.  We know that some states in the US require sexual education for middle and high school aged students, but we also know, partially from our own experiences, that our current sex ed system is certainly not proactive about teaching safe sex practices, but in many cases actively harming adolescents.


We discovered that many students reach college without knowing how to properly use condoms, and are uninformed about the risks and consequences of STDs and sexual harassment.  Our group wants to meet with members of the State College community to figure out what the pros and cons are of our current system, and to discuss potential ways to create a more comprehensive and inclusive sexual education curriculum in the United States.


We have broken our deliberation into 3 approaches to cover three different aspects of the sex ed conversation – first, the medical misconceptions regarding birth control and vaccinations, followed by a look at the social stigmas associated with sex and human functions, and finally the effect of sex ed on harassment and rape in our culture.


My role in our deliberation is to tackle our second approach: Social Stigma.  Our sub team is working to find out how our current sex ed curricula promote unhealthy patterns including homophobia, period shaming, and double standards for sexual behavior between genders.  So far we have found that LGBTQA students are far more likely to get STDs and be uncomfortable seeking answers to their questions regarding sexual health because sex ed is taught from a strictly heterosexual perspective (read the Center for American Progress’ article ).  We also found that most American girls grow up with the idea that menstruation is a dirty function, and that “men don’t like to hear about it.”


We will be continuing our research and developing several key questions to put in our deliberation packet.  We hope to spark conversation on campus and in State College about sex ed, and how it desperately needs new regulation.  We want to point out that the way students learn about sex, sexual health, and respect for intimate partners is incredibly important, and our country would benefit from enhancing our sex ed curricula – let’s talk about sex ed baby!

This I Believe Script

Anybody who knows me at Penn State will tell you that I’m outspoken.  I’m a diehard supporter of LGBT rights, and I can typically be found entrenched in a debate about gender equality or waist deep in research on religious discrimination.


I didn’t always have that rep though.  I was known for being a talkative child, but not for being the outspoken advocate that I try to be today.  If you’re wondering how that changed, it’s pretty simple: I was raised by two moms.


Like most kids, I spent my early childhood without worrying about what was “normal” or “abnormal.”  I had my mom, dad, and little sister, and that was that.  My world shifted however when I reached the fourth grade and my parents divorced; my mom, sister, and I moved in with Tara, who has since become another mother to me.  My new home and family were huge changes for me – I didn’t always handle myself very well, but never once did I find it weird or unusual that my mom had moved in with another woman.  I became accustomed to referring to my parents as “my moms,” and I don’t remember a single time in elementary or middle school when anybody challenged me about why I phrased it that way.


High school was a different story.  I spent my freshman year at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School, and I was hit by the reality of prejudice in a way I had never experienced before.  Many of my teachers voiced their opinions that homosexuality was a sin, and that two people of the same gender could not properly raise a family together.  I was surprised by the harshness of their words, and angry that nobody was standing up to challenge their hateful message.


One day, about halfway through the year, I reached my breaking point.  I remember sitting there in my blue uniform and knee high socks, thinking “Why isn’t someone saying anything??  Why doesn’t someone speak out?”  Then it occured to me, “I need to do it.” I was terrified to speak out about something the adults in my school disagreed with, but I was tired of being silent.  I raised my hand, feeling small.  I explained to Mr. Papirio, my history teacher that our class lovingly dubbed Papi, that I didn’t believe the church could tell us who we can or can’t love; I shared that I was raised by two women, and expressed that I felt lucky to be part of such a loving family.  I challenged my teacher to find something about my upbringing that made me different from the rest of the class.  When I finished, I expected Mr. Papirio to argue with me, to tell me why I was wrong.  I sat there, shaking in my hideous saddle shoes, waiting for an argument.  Instead, he thanked me for sharing my story, and told me that I had shaken his perspective.  I was taken completely by surprise, but his reaction helped me build the courage I have needed to keep fighting for my strongest beliefs.


Looking back, that day changed my life.  The simple act of standing up in Papi’s class, of voicing my belief in my parents and in equality regardless of sexuality – it redefined my world view and set me on a path to a career in LGBT advocacy.  It made me the outspoken and passionate young woman I am today, and made me more confident as a friend, an ally, and an advocate.  I don’t expect to change the minds of everybody I meet, but I do believe in the power of speaking out for equality – it empowers the world to be a better place.

Homosexuality of the Ancients: The World Before Homophobia


  • For the past several decades, the world has become engaged in a conversation about homosexuality
  • Individuals and activist groups have appealed to their governments around the world, demanding equal rights to love who they choose
  • Within the past several years, many governments have repealed homophobic laws or created legislation protecting the rights of the LGBTQA community
  • However, the world is still hostile towards people of different sexualities, regardless of the legal progress we have made
  • It is still dangerous to be open about your sexuality
  • The world wasn’t always this way
  • Before the rise and spread of Western culture and monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the majority of the world looked at homosexuality as a normal and natural part of life
  • All of the major civilizations of the ancient world were inclusive of different sexualities
  • We live over the ashes of a world that understood that love and gender are not black and white concepts
  • Let’s take a trip around the world


Today: Egypt

  • Human Rights Watch is an advocacy organization that brings attention to issues for the LGBTQA community
  • In September 2014, 7 men were arrested for “inciting debauchery”
    • They were suspected of performing a same sex marriage
  • The Egyptian government has forced those arrested for debauchery to undergo anal medical examinations, where men are “checked” to make sure they haven’t engaged in homosexual activity
  • Despite there being no law banning homosexuality, people convicted of debauchery are sentenced to up to 8 years of jail time

Ancient Egypt

  • Homosexuality and gender fluidity were normal parts of Egyptian life
  • The gods regularly shifted gender and engaged in same sex relationships
  • Horus and Seth
    • Not a romantic relationship, as they were both trying to prove the other was the “passive” member
  • The god’s weren’t the only ones to accept same sex relationships
  • Tombs of the pharaohs and prominent Egyptians depicted normal life, and many of them showed homosexual relationships
  • Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were servants to the Pharaoh, and were buried in a conjoined tomb

Today: China

  • China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 (“hooliganism”)
    • Removed it from the list of mental illnesses in
  • CNN published an article in December of 2014 describing public sentiment towards homosexuality
    • You only have one child so you want your child to be ‘normal’ like everybody else”
      • Xiaogang Wei, Beijing Gender Health Education Institute
  • The article continues, claiming many members of the LGBTQA community get married to the opposite gender anyway, either to pretend to be straight or to produce a child
  • As of 2013, Chinese clinics still offered “shock treatment” as a cure for homosexuality

Ancient China

  • Confucianism was tolerant of homosexuality and same sex relationships
  • According to WomenOfChina, The emperors of the Han dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) were often openly gay and kept male lovers throughout their rule
    • Emperors Wu and Wen were both known to be gay
    • Emperor Ai had slept with his male servant – when he got up he ripped his sleeves so as not to disturb the other man
      • “Relationship of the cut-off sleeves” stems from this story
  • Galeote Pereira, “The greatest fault we do find among the Chinese is sodomy, a vice very common in the meaner sort, and nothing strange among the best
    • The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies

Joel Molero, 19, was brutally murdered for being openly gay

Today: The Americas

  • Argentina Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay have passed legislation allowing gay marriage
  • Many Latin American countries have tried legally protecting LGBTQA rights
    • However, it’s not enough
  • According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 600 people in Latin America were killed between January 2013 and March 2014 from homophobic violence
  • Joel Molero, a 19 year old Peruvian man was murdered and dismembered  in for being openly gay in November of 2012
    • According to HuffPost, information not released by the press until June of 2013
  • In North America, the US and Canada have legalized gay marriage
    • Parts of Mexico allow it
  • Despite legal changes, discrimination still pervades everyday life
  • June 12, 2016 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando
    • One of the worst shootings in our history
  • Approximately 20% of hate crimes in the US in 2012 were on the basis of sexual orientation
  • I’ve witnessed people harassing each other in high school for their sexuality

Tribal Americas

  • Many native South American tribes included same sex relationships in daily life
  • The Moche people of Peru (0 CE – 800 CE) left erotic pottery depicting same sex couples
  • The Incan Empire considered both homosexuality and premarital sex normal parts of life
    • A fact the conquistadors were horrified to find out
  • In “The Construction of Homosexuality,” David Greenberg discusses the commonhomosexuality of the Mayans, as described by Spanish missionaries
  • Most Native American tribes were accepting of homosexuality
  • Navajo tribes considered gay marriage a normal union
  • “Common law marriages” applied to everyone
  • Two spirit” is a common term
    • You are blessed to have the spirit of male and female
      • LGBT tribe members often became religious leaders for that reason
  • Crossdressing and androgyny were both totally acceptable

Today: Africa

  • Multiple African nations have tried to claim that homosexuality is a Western concept brought by slavers and colonists to Africa
  • Bisi Alimi is a Nigerian journalist – he has written about homosexuality in precolonial africa
    • He was forced to emigrate to the UK after receiving death threats for revealing his sexuality
  • South Africa is the ONLY African country to legalize gay marriage
    • Homosexuality itself is still illegal in OVER 30 African countries
    • Jailing, Beatings, and occasionally the death penalty are CURRENT punishments for homosexuality

Tribal Africa

  • Bisi Alimi argues against his government, reminding them that the Yoruban word “adofuro,” meaning homosexuality, has existed long before the colonial era
  • The men of the Zande warrior tribe often married younger men
    • Lived in the region that is now Sudan, where being convicted of homosexuality often means the death penalty
  • King Mwanga II of Uganda was well known for being bisexual – he was open in his rebellion against the Christian colonists who tried to criminalize homosexuality in Ugandan culture


  • Egypt, China, The Americas, and Africa were only 4 of the many many regions that accepted homosexuality as a normal part of life
    • Ancient Rome, India, Russia, and all of the other hubs of culture today were inclusive of different sexualities
  • As of right now, only 26 countries have legalized gay marriage
    • There are 195 countries in the world
  • Hundreds of people are murdered every year for being open about their sexuality
  • Despite the progress that anti-discrimination laws have made, the LGBTQA community is still in physical and emotional danger from the rest of the world
  • Laws and policies will not fix the situation – we need social change to truly make a difference
  • We need to go back to our roots
  • Every ancient civilization was tolerant of homosexuality,including same sex relationships as normal parts of everyday life
  • Gender did not have to be a black and white concept, and neither did sexuality
  • When you are sick, you try to rid yourself of the disease
    • Homophobia is a disease in our global community, and we must get rid of it
  • The ancients recognized the true rules of nature – love is love, regardless of gender
  • Let’s take an active role in changing the world perception, and act like the ancients


Homophobia in the Rise of Christianity


  • Today our society is slowly becoming more accepting of homosexuality, recognizing that it is a normal and natural thing
    • But how did the world become homophobic in the first place?
      • Was it always that way?
  • Homophobia is a Judeo-Christian construct that has spread around the world with Christian expansion.


Christian Origins (Background)

  • Christianity formed around the Mediterranean
  • Founded on Judaic beliefs and the fulfillment of  the greatest Jewish prophecy
    • Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God incarnated in human flesh
  • Teaches forgiveness and love as founding principles
    • Based on Jewish texts (10 Commandments) and Jesus’ teachings
  • Also teaches that sex (for purposes besides procreation) is sinful
    • Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by God
  • Emphasizes the responsibility to spread religion and “spread the good news”
    • Missionaries carry out this job by travelling to foreign countries and working with populations to “civilize” and spread Christianity
  • As the church began to organize, the Catholic church developed and remained the only form of Christianity for centuries
  • Soon after its formation, the Christian church was persecuted by the Romans
    • Shortly after that, the Christians took over it


Ancient Rome

  • Homosexuality was totally normal
  • Both gods and mortals were involved in same sex relationships
    • Statues and buildings dedicated to appreciating the body
  • Jesus was infamously crucified by a Roman
  • Emperor Nero persecuted early Christians, earning him the title of “AntiChrist” (666)
  • Shortly afterwards, Christianity began to spread through the Roman empire
  • As Christianity gained traction, more people began to condemn homosexuality
  • 392 AD Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire (pagan religions were banned)
  • As the Roman empire declined, the stigma grew


  • Europe became intolerant of homosexuality
    • This lasted for centuries
  • The Western world was extremely Christian, and Westerners were the first to expand and colonize multiple continents
  • When Western expansion began to occur, colonizers took their homophobic culture with them
  • Began a transition worldwide to homophobic ideologies


Western Expansion

  • In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    • He was a dedicated Catholic & mandated his crew remain devout
  • He reached the Caribbean and was the first to interact with the natives, whom he called “Indians”
    • He and his crew immediately began the process of converting the Native Americans to Christianity
      • This included enforcing their homophobic ideology
  • The voyage of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria began a centuries long persecution of homosexuality


Early South America

  • Many native South American tribes included same sex relationships in daily life
    • The Moche people left thousands of ceramic pieces depicting same-sex intercourse
  • The Incan Empire considered both homosexuality and premarital sex normal parts of life
  • Spanish conquistadors were horrified by these “immoral” people
    • Francisco de Toledo wrote about the Incan empire so that Christian Europe would know how “uncivilized” it was
  • Conquistadors began to burn homosexuals at the stake
  • Spanish settlers taught the remaining Natives to practice Catholicism


  • Today’s Latin America is primarily Catholic
  • Despite modern laws protecting LGBTQA rights, many people identifying as gay/lesbian/etc face extreme discrimination
    • Physical, verbal, and emotional violence
  • This modern persecution is the legacy of the violent conquistador behaviors, based on a zealous, but typical for the time interpretation of Christianity


The Protestant Reformation

  • In 1517, Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” on the doors of a church
    • Began the protestant reformation
  • Establishment of the Lutheran, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, later followed by Methodist, Quaker, and Baptist
    • At the time, all of these denominations still maintained the same view of homosexuality
  • As more Christian denominations formed, Europe faced the struggle of choosing an official religion
  • Many Europeans decided to leave the continent so they could practice their religion freely


Early North America

  • Most Native American tribes were accepting of homosexuality
  • Navajo tribes considered gay marriage a normal union
  • “Common law marriages” applied to everyone
  • “Two spirit” is a common term
    • You are blessed to have the spirit of male and female
      • LGBT tribe members often became religious leaders for that reason
  • Crossdressing and androgyny were both totally acceptable
  • English settlers arrived, bringing their religion with them
  • Depending on what places were colonized, the denomination of Christianity differed (Spain was Catholic, England was Anglican, the pilgrims were protestant)
    • They all held the same stance on homosexuality however
  • The colonizers condemned the two spirit way of life
  • Colonizers tried to teach the Navajos that same sex relationships were sinful


  • Today, being a “two spirit” is not an honorable trait
  • Along with the loss of land, life, and culture came the loss of acceptance of homosexuality as a normal institution
  • All Americans, Native or not, have to fight to be recognized and accepted for their sexuality


PreColonial India

  • India has historically been accepting of homosexuality, despite modern debates on that subject
  • Until it came under British influence, beginning in 1612, homosexuality was a natural part of life
  • Hindu texts depicted transgender gods and same sex relationships
  • The act of kissing (especially in female same sex relationships) was actually supposed to bring people to a higher state of consciousness
  • The British East India Trading Company arrived and began trade with India
    • Brought Protestant Christianity with them
  • The British condemned India’s open attitude towards homosexuality and tortured those found “guilty” of being gay
    • Publically trapped between 2 wooden boards, where people passing by could harass them


  • India has had a difficult time overcoming the stigma of homosexuality
  • In the time since British colonization, India has tried to reject many of its Western influences
  • Hinduism has still remained the most powerful religious force in India, but the Christian influences of the West still remain
  • Some try to claim that homosexuality is a Western construct
    • Despite it being the opposite
  • Starting the conversation has been difficult, as discussing homosexuality has been taboo
    • Result of refusal to explicitly describe homosexual “crimes” to prevent contagion



  • The rise and expansion of Christianity caused the rise in homophobic attitudes all over the world
  • Christian explorers and missionaries carried their ideologies with them to new places, where they claimed the rest of the world was acting “immorally”
  • Ancient civilizations and cultures that had always included homosexual practices were forced to adopt Christian heterosexual lifestyles
  • As time went on, these attitudes became commonplace, and being gay was a trait that was suppressed in millions of people
  • As our world slowly becomes more accepting of homosexuality as a natural trait, it is important to acknowledge that this is not a new idea
    • It’s an ancient one

The Faces of War

“It’s What I Do” tells of Lynsey Addario’s life as a conflict photographer – it unveils the inner workings of a woman who has seen almost every modern world conflict up close. However, the pages of her memoir do more than just detail her experiences; it tells the stories of those on the other side of her camera lens.


This image from the memoir has been seared into my memory.  This boy’s face (pg. 189, 210 ) is full of uncertainty, his brow furrowed with the weight of his surroundings.  The dirt on his lip and his bloodshot eyes reveal that this child has faced more in his short lifetime than I will ever have to; the bandages on his face a stark contrast to the brightly colored bandaids I wore on my scraped knees as a child.  This photo reminds me to fight for peace, to prevent more pictures of children like this one.


This second picture is equally penetrating to me.  These Pakistani men serving the Taliban (pg. 198, 210) look directly into the eyes of the camera, their gaze unwavering.  The young, handsome face of the man in front is unsmiling, his head resting gently against his automatic weapon.  War has forced him to become a man, and no matter which side he fights for it breaks my heart that youth all over the world are losing their innocence to violence and hatred.


My passion blog centers around discrimination and ways American college students can fight for equality.  We as young people can connect to the powerful visuals, and I will use that to further my cause.  By showing the world how people are affected by prejudice I hope to strike a chord in my peers that will encourage us to promote peace, and protect children from horrors of war.