“Waves of protests surrounded Vladimir Putin’s return to power as Russia’s President in March 2012. Since then, parliament has passed so many new laws restricting civil liberties that some people now call it the ‘mad printer.'”
– Amnesty International Wire (Amnesty.org)
Russia’s Civil Liberties Record: Getting Worse and Worse In Word & Deed
“Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth.”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
According to the Associated Press, Russian State Duma Deputy Zhuravlev (Putin’s United Russia Party/parliamentary caucus) is introducing a law making “nontraditional sexual orientation” viable grounds to remove child custody for LGBTQ parents.
In the draft bill for this proposed new law, Zhuravlev wrote:
“Following the letter of the law that forbids propaganda of non-traditional sex to minors we must restrict such propaganda not only in mass media but also the family… if one of the child’s parents indulges in sexual contact with persons of the same sex, the damage to the child’s psyche is immense as a mother or father serves as an example for their offspring.”
Additional grounds for denial or revocation of parental custody include alcoholism, drug abuse or any amount or type of drug use deemed inappropriate, which has nothing at all to do with gender, sexual orientation or law-abiding families established in-place, having committed none of these substance-related offenses.
Here we see yet another instance of punishing allies in addition to homosexual persons, as once passed, this bill would affect families and children who aren’t even LGBTQ-identified. Custodial rights could then be revoked if both or either parent were gay (out or not), so if two parents happen to have an understanding in their relationship, share post-divorce custody, etcetera, the parent who happens to be gay can be penalized, or a child can be taken away from one or both parents for any so-called ‘homosexual-affiliated’ reason(s).
As it is already illegal to mention homosexuality around children or to advise or counsel LGBTQ or questioning youth. This recent unfortunate move is thought to be the next step in Russia’s plans to eradicate gay tolerance, inclusiveness or protections altogether for LGBTQ persons, friends, allies or families.
At this point, though the bill is to be debated before it is formally passed, it seems such motions are little more than a formality. Russian lawmakers keep clinging to the through line that their anti-gay motions and laws are being instituted to protect the children, rather than being anti-gay.
Putin has already banned LGBTQ people residing in other countries from adopting Russian children, and as of this writing, the Russian government is also considering reinstating a gay blood donor ban.
Though boycotts and protests are occurring worldwide, even Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is throwing his hands up in the air, saying Russia will not change their minds or policies in terms of its anti-gay legislation, and Rogge’s sharing little more on the matter.
Rogge told the press, “…one should not forget that we are staging the games in a sovereign state, and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence on the sovereign affairs of a country.”
Activists, lawmakers, PR representatives, athletes, spokespeople and officials can make all the claims they want leading up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, but we won’t know who’ll be arrested or how LGBT people or allies will be treated (both on arrival, during the events and while attempting to leave Russia) until it’s too late.
Many LGBTQ folks (like Johnny Weir) are Russophiles and/or have Russian spouses or partners. Have you been to Russia? Did you love it? If so, how do you feel now that Russian policymakers are passing all of these awful anti-LGBT laws?
“You’ll never know my heart/like my heart/knows my heart…”
– From Billy Eichner’s Taylor Swift Parody, “Glitter and Ribs”
Art Imitating The Art of Emo Country-Pop
First Taylor Swift is the MTV VMAs victim (“I’ma let you finish”) , and now she’s the Mean Girl VMA vamp (just for mouthing the words “shut the eff up?). It’s kinda hard to keep up with all these pop star reality TV tragicomedies, isn’t it?
In the wake of Real Taylor Swift’s (ahem. Choreographed.) STFU incident and her recovery from it, Faux Taylor Swift just wants to muse aloud and brood.
So y’all, can we just take a second to wax nostalgic about the end of another bummer summer? Puh-lease?
‘Cause really: which Taylor Swift are we supposed to believe in? Good Girl Taylor Swift or Bad Girl Taylor Swift? ‘You know we’re all either one thing or the other, don’t you?
Well, don’t you?!!!
In the new music video “Glitter and Ribs,” Funny or Die and Fuse TV’s resident smart-aleck sets the record straight. In the video, Faux Taylor Swift is every girl not yet a woman. She’s sassy, cute, happy, frustrated, sad, apologetic. She cries ugly, feels heartbroken, is independent. Yes. She’s strong, young, um…no. She’s old, totally weak and totally dependent. Yeah. Well…?
Celebrities are just like us—totally ambivalent and utterly complex.
Hook Up, Heartbreak, Cash In, Repeat
The real target of this video is the crazy, silly entertainment industry. “Glitter and Ribs” breaks down the “summer fling to summer heartbreak” song formula, the lie that is the ingenue/Lolita aesthetic, and the naughty habit pop stars and producers have of recycling the same song and video over and over to communicate the same ideas—and how that theater of the absurd spills into offstage antics, which then strangely become “real-life” antics.
And then the whole (press) cycle begins again.
As with everything in life, there is of course a grain of truth to what’s going on (private details we’ll surely never know) and how that contributes to Swift’s own creative process. Many artists believe that suffering is a key ingredient necessary for creative inspiration, and Swift just rocks that trope in her own Taylor-ish ways.
And why wouldn’t she? Doing so is a lucrative business, and these recurring themes work for her. The music business is indeed a business. Broken-hearted music sells, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” doesn’t apply to this particular case study and music biz model.
Swift’s sales figures and chart positions are telling: there’s catharsis to be had from hearing and singing along with this narrative that’s ever on repeat.
Still, when you think about the artistic choices Taylor Swift and her press team make compared to…say, India Arie’s, the repeated messaging, saga and drama that “Real Taylor Swift” is broadcasting do seem to be more than a little bit laughable.
And sometimes, ya gotta laugh to keep from crying.
Unless of course, you’re Faux Taylor Swift, because “life won’t always be glitter and ribs.”
So ciao for now…see you next summer never-ever-ever!
xo (sniffle, sniffle) xox,
P.S. Ms. Faux Taylor, wash your face full of runny mascara away, come back to your viewing device of choice, and watch Billy on the Street. That’ll solve everything. For now.
[Please note that some of the visuals in the videos are NSFW – Not Safe for Work. YouTube usually requires a login before those who are over 18 can view them, but we can’t promise this will be the case. Some of the selections are Rated PG-13 due to language and imagery.]
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about working out to LGBTQ-inclusive anthems that puts a lil’ extra pep in my elliptical hyper-step.
Living by a gay-owned gym staffed by fab music lovers who know their stuff doesn’t hurt—but when you have your own playlist, you can take all your fab on the road, or stick it in your headphones and jog it out.
Need some suggestions? Thought you’d never ask.
The tracks below have either been co-opted by gay folks or penned and performed by them (mostly the latter). You’ll find some classics and discover some newbies.
Big Freedia – Azz Everywhere – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbR5wPpoOiw
In the words of George Clinton, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” This track’s less about your bootie and more about your free spirited shaking of said behind. And that’s right Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the TwerkMaster General, Big Freedia. Girlfriend brings the party on “Overdrive. Overdrive! Overdrive! When you take a ride!” Everything Big Freedia touches is dope. As the Queen Diva of New Orleans Sissy Bounce, she’s spent many years crafting her tracks and performance/recording skills to be at the top of the “bands that make you dance.” You don’t listen to this song—you DO THIS song. Don’t worry, she rocks it like a drill instructor all along the way—you won’t get lost, Boo.
September – Cry for You (Remix) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf1kcbFzWyI
A regular club and Pride performer, September works that Swedish pop thing in a sweet, coy little way. Interesting tidbit—the riff’s from Bronski Beat’s track “Smalltown Boy” (different playlist for a different day, but an absolutely riveting track about the struggles of coming out. September seems all coquettish, but the song’s saying in essence, “Eff off, Dear.” It’s not like she didn’t try. Mm-hm. She really tried. It’s just time to go. And you can shout that along with her at the top of your lungs in 3…2…
Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG2ixYJ79iE
You’d be surprised how many college kids aren’t aware of this track. The song used to be utilized as a joke in TV movies or films to wink-nudge at the audience that so and so character, vibe or environment is queer. (No.) Sandra Bernhard reclaimed the beauty of this track in-community by recording her rendition of it, as well as performing a shelarious routine declaring her love for Sylvester and coming up in his era. This is a song about freedom and authenticity—and the bass line, riff, and chorus just won’t quit.
Manila Luzon — “Hot Couture” official music video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gdbbHr1d2A
Consider this to be your water break or cool-down song, as it’s a bit more mellow. Sickenly scrumptious hook and lyrics about dressing yourself up in your own love. It’s a delight to watch Manila Luzon (and Mini-Manila Luzon) pay tribute to fashion *as* function and looking fierce doing it. The little storyline involving baby Luzon in the video is a bit of a misty-eyed sitch, and it’s something they didn’t have to add to a song that’s focused on fashion. Love. It.
Madonna – Don’t Stop (Smegster Remix) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VSZIVCJ5ow
From all reports and regardless of past bisexual dalliances, Madonna is “Madonna-Sexual” and Super-Ego-centric–she’s been both loving and loathsome to queer folks including for whatever reasons, her out gay brother (sigh). Still, she’s family and her work keeps the emphasis on the “fun” part of dysfunctional (maybe not so much lately?). Anyway—in itself, “Don’t Stop” from “Bedtime Stories” is anthemic, but needs a little HI-NRG to keep your BPMs and heart rate up and healthy. We aim to please, so here you go. Can’t call this track a “refix,” as the original’s pretty damn delicious.
Hilary Duff – With Love (Rhv Vs. Dave Aude Club Mix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZJE_xSC9pc
Hillary Duff’s kept a pretty even keel and steered clear of cray cray ex-child star drama. (No drag queen harassment or trolling tweets in sight). In fact, Ms. Duff’s set aside some “sweet time” to create some Think Before You Speak gay-ally PSAs (thanks guuurl). As for this particular remix, the positive affirmations in the lyrics are undeniable. “Tell me I’m wrong, that I’m coming on way too strong. Don’t think I’ll be crushed. Just do it with love. Love, love, love!” We are divas—do we not bleed? Proceed with caution. Just do it with love.
George Michael – Outside – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwZAYdHcDtU Because George made the absolute best out of a terrible arrest, “Outside” makes today’s list. Never one to shy away from social commentary, this song’s about adventure and its subtext flirts with how Michael himself got popped for it. Albeit risky, he certainly went on an “adventure.” This track’s about play in its every connotation, finding the strength to collect yourself and sally forth again and again, and moving your body-body at the party-party.
The Bird and the Bee – Fcking Boyfriend (Peaches remix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAcqkX7O0Q
Are you asking him or telling him? Eh, same thing. “When you laid down with me, you never slept that night?” Come on. Poetry. Sheer electro-poetry bliss. Work it out.
Flawless (Go to the City) George Michael & The Ones (Mike’s Ultra Clean Extended Remix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYcTlot5evY
Shout it with me: “You’ve got to go to the city!”
Call it what you will—a coming out anthem, a runway ready hit for the children, or absolutely flawless. Here’s yet another track with, like, triply-lovely significance. The track was inspired by a fantastic movie of the same name and it is indeed “Flawless.” The Ones are at the very least exceedingly queer-friendly (what? Like everyone has to present a card at the border? I’m not walkin’ around with a queer-counting clipboard), and George Michael’s “Flawless” is encouraging a dear friend (or perhaps his younger self) to leave a drab humdrum town and get out…for good. “Well you’ve got to think of somethin’, ’cause your job pays you nothing. But you’ve got the things God gave ya, so the music may yet be your savior…you’ve got to go to the city.” The Ones chime in “Like perfection. Like no other. Flawless. Absolutely flawless.” Mmm. Quelle motivational!
If I find out this song’s about Andrew Ridgely I will start crying tears of joy, right there on the elliptical stair-stepper. I swear before Yeezus I will.
Cazwell – Ice Cream Truck (Dee Jay Tatto Club Mix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jr3okGlL4A
Brazilian-born and NYC bred, Cazwell is a prolific, hella-experienced rapper-producer, and his label’s got this naughty habit of populating his videos with eyefuls of scantily-clad models. Unheard of! Sure…anyway, the original video is cute, camp and somewhat ironic contraposed with the visual hotness you see here, but his remix amps things up just a notch or two. Qué sabor….
Extra Fun, Funny Goodies, & More Diva Tributes:
RuPaul – Jealous Of My Boogie (Remix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLemKdmoris
Looking So F*kin’ Good – RuPaul & DJ ShyBoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBG5R_EJ0SM
Depeche Mode – People are People Remix – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi5uWsI9G6g
Lady GaGa – Bad Romance (David Guetta Remix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_OkDzkSuvQ
Latrice Royale & Manila Luzon — The Chop (Official Music Video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlHzdXFCJ-c
Willam & Rhea Litré in “Let’s Have a KaiKai” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfWeBYd7rkQ
Whitney Houston – It’s Not Right But It’s Okay (Thunderpuss Remix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSOWUwRFwi0
Scissor Sisters – Filthy / Gorgeous http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4RcBZy2jZA
Ru Paul – Workout http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUjUF0mFJ9A
XELLE featuring Mimi Imfurst “Queen” Official Music Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLqW6n29TYE
“WERQIN’ GIRL” Music Video by Shangela Laquifa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hArTHxRpKmM
Alyssa Edwards : Drop Dead Gorgeous (B. Ames Mix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOC_VGuc6Sc
Donna Summer – Last Dance (long version) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW-3Hp1EVdQ [Tempo changes at 1:30]
Willow Smith – Whip My Hair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymKLymvwD2U
Stardust Vs Madonna – Dance & Sing / Music Sounds Better With You Mashup (White Label Mix) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVZrCWNT-yA
Sahara Davenport (with Gomi)– Go Off (Official Video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KziZUnSYRRA
The Ones – Flawless Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_e5oYqNRSM
George Michael – (Funny and funky) Go to the City Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgGDcn46aW8
“’Cause you’re beautiful. Like no other.”
Listen / work out to all these songs at once by clicking this playlist link.
Enough cardio for now, but we’ll bring you more. There will always be more.
Fave workout selections, anyone? (Heteronormative tracks, albums and playlists welcome.)
Close-Up – by A. R. Ammons
Are all these stones
and the mountain
but reluctant to
admit my praise could move it much
shook a little
and rained a windrow ring of stones
that it was so
Stone felled I got
up addled with dust
without much consequence
Obviously I said it doesn’t pay
to get too
close up to
and the mountain friendless wept
it couldn’t help
Re-Imagining Religion: “Falling In Love Will Not Send You to Hell.”
– Randy Roberts Potts
“All students are required to sign a pledge stating they will live according to the university’s honor code. Prohibited activities include lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, and a range of sexual acts including homosexual behavior and sex outside marriage.”
– Excerpt, ORU Student Codes , Oral Roberts University
Wouldn’t you know it: every time the “gay agenda” is reexamined, the “master plan” appears to become more and more normal on the face of it. Because it is.
“The gay agenda” is “the human agenda:” we all want love. Hope. Home. Family. We all desire the same things.
Back in 2010, Oral Roberts’ out, gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts read a letter to his closeted gay Uncle Ronnie (Oral Roberts’ eldest son) and recorded a viral video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI) to honor Ronnie’s life, as unfortunately, his uncle had already passed away when Randy was just a kid (in June of 1982).
Randy’s irrepressible spirit remains to alchemize life’s tests and turn them into life’s testimonies.
In the video, after 2:38 minutes of silence (during which time we see the handwritten letter for his uncle), Potts reads a revelatory poem entitled “Close-Up” written by A. R. Ammons. Then, Randy moves into his own compelling testimony about the strange magic behind growing up with a gay uncle (around whom Randy’s mom was most captivated), and how it affected Potts himself.
We witness Potts as he entreats Ronnie’s spirit (for healing? For explanations?), “When my mother spoke of you, a look of awe lit up her face. You were the one voice in her life that could inhabit multiple worlds at once…. You stood for everything she was afraid I would become: gay, intellectual, and godless. And yet nothing caused my mother’s face to light up like your memory. I was jealous, and I always hoped to be you.”
Randy recounts following in his uncle’s footsteps simply by following his heart, and reminisces about the tragedy of losing a loved one who took his own life because he felt he had no options. No hope. Because he felt that life would not and could not get better.
“I’ve seen pain and loss and sorrow,” Potts continues. “I would have held you in my arms had I been a man at the time…. but there’s no one holding you, because you’re holding on to no one. And now I’m here sharing the same destiny…. your path and mine are crossed. They intersect…in some ridiculous dance.”
With a tonality not unlike Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight,” Potts brings us into present day. Yes, he is angry, but we can somehow see the light at the end of the tunnel, the burning hot flames of passion for living forever aglow in Randy’s heart. We somehow feel his uncle lives in some kind of virtual second life, through Randy.
Another “Gay Agenda,” Another Pleasant Valley Sunday.
“Oral Roberts was the first and one of the biggest of the televangelists. He brought the Pentecostal faith to mainstream America, he started a self-named university, and of course lived a rich life through his relentless please for money from his followers. His grandson Randy Roberts Potts grew up with him…steeped in that really sheltered, Far Right Christian world. Now he’s following a calling like his grandfather, but with an unexpected message.”
In sharing his story with MSNBC, Potts did indeed reveal he’d felt suicidal too—coming out was unthinkable to him. Having married a woman and raising three children with her, Potts’ coming out narrative is a common one that always feels mysterious and new during the discovery process. He told Hopkins, “Honestly, I thought I was just a really good christian that I just didn’t sexualize women.”
Though Potts’ closeted gay uncle passed away when Randy was just a boy, as he unfolded the discoveries about Ronnie’s life, they paralleled discoveries of his own.
It is now Randy’s life mission to reach back across the table and minister tolerance and inclusiveness to evangelicals themselves. Potts informed Page Hopkins that he’s doing so non-publicly, holding confidential meetings with religious leaders and consulting with them regarding family cohesion, suicide prevention and myriad other positive effects of practicing religious tolerance.
In one of the most romantic and courageous activism campaigns out there, Potts and his partner are now conducting what they call an ongoing “performance project designed for conservative towns with visuals of domestic gay life.” Potts is setting up storefronts from town to town , choosing to put his normal day-in day-out familial relationships on display, in a performance art piece called—what else…
To watch Potts’ It Gets Better video in its entirety, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI
Have you got time to sit and pray a while? Check out Randy Roberts Potts – Re-Imagining Religion Series at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uYWf2WfPH8. During his ministerial speech in this video, Potts reveals that his brother is also gay and his family still ostracizes them both.
And for more information about suicide prevention and LGBTQIA resources and support, please visit the It Gets Better Project at http://www.itgetsbetter.org.
State’s Ban on Conversion Therapy Does Not Violate Free Speech
The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco ruled on August 29 that the state’s ban on conversion or reparative therapy that aims at turning gay minors straight does not violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment. This is a precedent for California and prohibits health practitioners from offering psychotherapy aimed at changing gay youth’s sexual orientation.
Excludes Religious Groups
Unlicensed pastors and lay counselors affiliated with church programs that seek to change gay youth to straight sexual identity are exempt from this law. The therapy’s effect on gay persons has been questioned or rejected by all the mental health professional associations. Reports of suicide, low self-esteem, depression have been experienced by those who have undergone reparative therapy. There are no long-term studies of the efficacy of the therapy.
Alan Chambers, Director of Exodus International, one of the more well-known ex-gay Christian organizations, issued an apology in June as did Robert Spitzer, M.D. of Columbia University who retracted his “Ex-Gay Study of 2001 last April. Spitzer, one of the original psychiatrists who led the movement to have homosexuality as a disorder removed from the Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual in 1973, deemed his study faulty.
Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris stated that the ban was necessary to protect children from a coercive practice that can put them at increased risk of suicide. Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed into law a similar ban on reparative therapy for minors in his state.
Injunction Against SB1172
The new ban was scheduled to go into effect January 1 but was put on hold by the 9th Circuit. District Court Judge William Shubb blocked the law banning the harmful therapy.
The cases that the appeals court had to decide on were brought by professionals who practice sexual orientation change therapy, two families who said their teenage sons benefitted from the therapy, and a national association of Christian mental health counselors argue that the ban infringes on their free speech, freedom of association and religious rights, and in the case of the counselors, jeopardizes their livelihoods.
However, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985, Judge Susan Graber, a 1998 appointee of Bill Clinton’s, and Judge Morgan Christen, a 2012 appointee of President Barack Obama, heard the case and unanimously held that California has the power to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies deemed harmful, and the fact that speech may be used to carry out these therapies does not turn such bans into prohibitions of speech.
The law says therapists and counselors who treat minors with methods designed to eliminate or reduce their same-sex attractions would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.
Full-time Associates in 2014 Can Cover LGBT Spouse or Domestic Partner
The world’s largest retailer and single largest employer outside of the federal government said on August 27 that it will offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners of its U.S. employees in all fifty states next year. Regardless of local laws that vary from state to state on same-sex marriage, Wal-mart spokesman David Tovar said, “since we operate in all fifty states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the United States.” Another spokesperson Randy Grove, stated that “by adopting a single definition, we’ll offer clarity and consistency for our associates.”
Wal-Mart, that, in the past has had human rights violations, is not only extending the usual health benefits, but is adding a vision plan, critical illness or accident plans, life insurance, and 100% coverage for some surgeries, including hip replacement and programs to quit smoking.
Conditions for Receiving Benefits
In a postcard that was sent to workers, employees were notified that the “full suite” of benefits will be available starting January 1. The sign-up period runs from October 12 to November 1. To qualify, the employees’ domestic partners can be covered if they are legal spouses, not legally separated or a domestic partner defined as “someone living in a relationship similar to marriage for at least twelve month with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely.”(Of course, the benefits also apply to heterosexual couples who are domestic partners.)
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, isn’t looking for proof from employees that they have met the requirements; they are working on an honor system. More than half of its 1.3 million U.S. employees are on its health-care plans. However, the company currently does not know how many employees will use either of the new benefits.
The policy change occurred after discussions within the company, but not the result of any board vote. The inclusion of LGBT domestic partners is regarded as a “business decision,” not a moral claim.
The company caused controversy when previously it halted plans to build stores in D.C. after the District passed a law requiring large retailers to pay at least $12 an hour to employees. Executive Director of the LGBT labor group Pride at Work, Darren Phelps, said he wants to see more from the company in terms of wages for employees.
According to Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index, Wal-mart previously offered an LGBT-inclusive policy, but lacked partner benefits and didn’t provide transgender-inclusive health insurance or LGBT competency training or resources. The implementation of domestic partnership benefits will improve the company’s rating on the HRC’s CEI score.
Bayard Rustin Organized March on Washington in ‘63
If you, like I, didn’t know the name of Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), don’t feel ashamed. Called “the unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin was unapologetically Black and unapologetically gay and for a significant period of history he was erased,” comments Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition for Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Raised as a Quaker in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Bayard Rustin learned from his grandmother Julia to take a nonviolent yet effective stand for equality at an early age. Rustin rallied against Jim Crow laws and the case against the Scottsboro Boys in his youth.
In the 1940’s, he was jailed for refusing to fight in World War II. He helped found the Congress of Racial Equality and led the first “Freedom Rides” of the 1940’s. He initially planned a “March on Washington” in 1941, but” the threat to stage a march on Washington to protest racial discrimination prompted Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination throughout defense industries,” wrote David Garrow at The New York Times.
Affiliation with Dr. King
Rustin first met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 when he help organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was he who educated King in Gandhian nonviolent protest principles. He is credited with mentoring King and helping to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He became the top lieutenant to King and labor leader A. Phillip Randolph.
“The New Niggers Are Gay”
Early on, Rustin saw a need for coalition building and forming allies. He debated Malcolm X and stressed the importance of seeing the world’s various races as one big family. In a 1986 speech, “The New Niggers Are Gay,” he raised the similarities between the struggles of the black and LGBT communities: “The new “niggers” are gays. It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change. The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.”
It was Rustin who organized the 1963 March on Washington that brought more than 200,000 people to the rally at which King delivered his famous “I have a Dream” Speech, the same year that Medgar Evers was assassinated and Birmingham saw police violence against civil rights demonstrations.
A master at logistics and details, Rustin organized buses, lunches, child care and celebrity speakers. He accomplished all this without the help of internet and computer.
Very Much His Own Person
Rustin was openly gay in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. “This was unprecedented for a Black man at that time,” said Reverend MacArthur Flournoy, director of Faith Partnership and Mobilization for the Human Rights Campaign.
The F.B.I. had a large surveillance file on Rustin. Strom Thurmond lambasted Rustin as a “communist, draft-dodger and homosexual,” After Rustin was arrested in 1953 for a “sex perversion” offense, and sent to jail for sixty days, his credibility suffered as a civil rights activist. The U.S. government also used his sexuality to undermine him. Thurmond had Rustin’s arrest file entered in the congressional record.
After his arrest, he became more discreet with his liaisons. He met his partner Walter Naegle, then 27, whom he later adopted (they couldn’t marry) in 1977. Naegle is white as was Rustin’s previous partner, Davis Platt, who died in 2008.
Naegle has been working with a team within the Bayard Foundation to keep his legacy alive, notably helping in the 2002 documentary Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. Rustin was one of the sixteen honorees to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom which was presented to Naegle for Rustin’s contributions.
“Miley Cyrus’ twerk-filled performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards has become the most discussed, polarizing few minutes in a show that saw an ‘N Sync reunion and silhouetted Kanye West singing “Blood on the Leaves”. More than one think piece has accused Cyrus of appropriating and exploiting black culture for her own benefit at the detriment of its pioneers [like Big Freedia].”
On The #MileyTwerk Controversy and Queer Black Culture
“I’m a singer. I’m not a twerker, I’m not a rapper. I’m a singer…. I really can sing. And you know I can twerk—watch my videos. So there.” – Singer/Pop Artist Miley Cyrus
[Note: In principle and practice, many of the clips and links below are NSFW. Not. Safe. For. Work. Surf with caution. Some of the content doesn’t prepare you for this fact pre-launch.]
Feminists are not having it.
Kids in San Diego are getting in trouble—like “suspended” in trouble.
But y’all know twerking is nothing new. By now, you’ve likely traced its roots back to Africa’s diaspora, strip club feasts of fancy or your garden variety YouTube/Vine video. Let’s just say it’s familiar.
Twerking’s “a new thing” for Miley Cyrus to do in public (not counting press campaigns planned far in advance of any twerk attempts), so therefore it is “news.” Girlfriend is owning it as-is—so by now ya gotta know, it is Miley’s full intention is to twerk poorly and call attention to the fact that there’s not all too much junk in her trunk.
Ms. Miley ain’t out to win twerk-a-thon championships, and nothing that a Disney grad does—one who’s still on top—is accidental.
Now that that’s out of the way: folks can’t tell what they find most offensive about Miley’s runaway bootie: her lack of hip gyrations, her cultural appropriation, using African American folks as props alongside teddy bears, or her choice to milk every last drop of so-called shock value from ratchet living ’til it’s dry.
MC’s camp is well aware that the so-called American TV demographic isn’t ready for a real-deal twerk. Why would she practice twerking aiming to make that look authentic when it wouldn’t get on the air for the world to see? (Let the “people props” get closer to that.)
As for cultural appropriation, using people as props et al—this is nothing men (and/or Madonna!) haven’t done for decades in the entertainment industry—does that make it okay?
While ratchet/twerking music and culture’s aimed at dancing and partying all night (among, ahem, other ideas), twerking draws upon elements of queer culture. We are everywhere, so why would this not be the case?
LGBTQ folks find Miley’s new-found popularity scenario to be familiar: she’s shining in the spotlight, riding the wave of a cultural trend that’s been around in this form for at least 20 years. When such a trend makes its way to heteronormative culture and is performed by (at least more) heteronormative superstars, it’s salacious, sexy and provocative. “Controversial.” When it’s performed by LGBTQ folks in-community, people are confounded and disgusted. Granted, “disgust” is a subtextual form of interest and arousal, but most folks don’t take much time to process through that appropriately.
Too, to hear Huffpost/AOL tell it, their #MenAtTwerk compilation is one of America’s funniest home videos. As it’s taken out of context, that’s one viewpoint—but because of the platform and audience Huffpost has, such a viewpoint leaves room for much misinterpretation. In-culture, the #MenAtTwerk bootie-clap collage could be considered to be hot, fierce, authentic, queer-inclusive and/or funny at the very least. Not just “funny.”
Back in February, RuPaul and Big Freedia released the hypnotic video and single “Peanut Butter” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFoRH-VtFO4) flanked by raw, hot models and dancers (courtesy of Chi Chi LaRue and Big Freedia), and a whole…lotta…arse. (The title of the track is “Peanut Butter,” so no surprises there). This underground club banger’s selling well and re-popularized twerking in-culture in a way that Miley still has yet to understand. Ru and Freedia are internationally famous pop stars too—you just don’t hear about them in the press every…other…second on every other channel.
‘Bout That Actual Life: On Actually Fierce Twerk Game
“I haven’t really seen one bad comment about my twerk video,” she said, then added jokingly, “This is the first thing! All right, I can’t sing, I can’t act, I’m dumb, I’m a hillbilly, but I can twerk, so whatever!” – Miley Cyrus
What did not get as much mainstream press time in this latest cultural case study? Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia, killin’ it with a jaw dropping set at the Afro-Punk Festival, which took place on the same day as the VMAs did, in the same city and cultural mecca (Brooklyn).
Still, Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia’s mic is on. People are watching, listening and learning. Big Freedia isn’t any fly-by-night dilettante or hobbyist. This artist is the real, live deal—she’s been all up in Bounce culture and then some since 1999. While promoting her new FUSE show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce (http://www.fuse.tv/shows/big-freedia), she’s making her voice heard, sharing her reflections about the repeated #MileyTwerk spectacle.
While she’s honest about leveraging this strange, emerging opportunity, Big Freedia minces no words: twerking has been screwed and chopped by mainstream culture, and someone from within the culture itself needs to set the record straight.
Sissy Bounce is here, it’s queer, and it’s always been with us.
Reigning Sissy Bounce Queen Diva: Big Freedia Takes New Orleans Bounce to the World Stage
In Her Own Words
“… It’s offensive to black culture and black women who’ve been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don’t even have the moves down yet. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.” – Big Freedia, on Miley Twerk-A-Mania
Big Freedia doesn’t just make Bounce music—she makes Sissy Bounce music.
She had plenty to share regarding Miley’s twerk-storm. From a recent interview with Fuse TV (http://www.fuse.tv/2013/08/big-freedia-miley-cyrus-twerk), here are a few thoughts Big Freedia shared with her audience:
“…. she was trying to twerk. For one thing, we have a dance in bounce music called ‘exercising’ where you just open your legs and shake your butt a little bit from side to side… but she still didn’t even get that right because she didn’t have any butt control. She needs more practice.”
“When you have my dancers, they’re professionals. They’re from New Orleans and know what they’re doing . When they started dancing, it was original twerking. Miley’s dancers were prop dancers. None of them were professional dancers.”
“They could’ve used girls from New Orleans, even if they were not black, who knew what they’re doing. They’re just using anybody possible just to get that buzz since twerking is hot now. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, though. I knew the twerking thing was really taking off, but I didn’t know it would blow up like this.”
FUSE asked, “Going back to Miley, let’s say you were the choreographer and saw her performance as a dress rehearsal. What specific tips would you have given her?”
Big Freedia responded, “Don’t do it.”
Big Freedia also told Colorlines.com she plans to release a response track called “Twerk It,” which “explores the roots of twerk vocabulary.”
Twerk Couture: Bad Girls Twerking Badly Still Puts Twerking On the Map
You can’t really explain [twerking],” Miley said. “It’s something that comes naturally…It’s a lot of booty action…. I’ve been practicing probably for the past two years, in my own time in my living room.” – Miley Cyrus, to E Online
This is an achy-breaky trend that will not die, and Miley isn’t even attempting to backpedal her way out of it. She is riding it for all it is worth to her—and she’s not in this twerk game alone. She of course has handlers and press people. In her mind (from all press interview accounts), Miley really is just chilling with her friends and doing what she loves.
It’s A Feminist/Black/Queer Thing: Miley Isn’t Here to Make It Rain.
On Channeling Nothing
RT @MileyCyrus “Mile, if twerkintwerkin woulda been invented…. And I had a foam finger…. I woulda done the same thang you did.” – DAD
If you watch Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” video or even Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the point of the shimmery video spectacle is not about making sure celebs and models are “dancing well.”It’s all about the performative pantomime. Again, we already know this yummy aesthetic quite well: Andrew Christian and Chi Chi LaRue’s underwear ad campaigns alone take bootie-shaking to beatific heights, masterfully conjoining commerce, spectacle and eroticism. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8S94OlPt7o.
Don’t let Miley’s twerk game fool you: titillation sells, and you can always take that to the bank. Twerk is another set of clothes for Ms. Cyrus. Miley’s still got time for high fashion photo shoots with Terry Richardson and has covered V, Cosmo, Harper’s, Elle UK and counting in recent memory. Those magazines don’t (yet) encourage ratchet couture spreads, and this twerking thing is but another momentary fashion prop for some.
Too, engaged to a man or not, Miley is gay-friendly and (many say) a queer lass indeed. Playing at queering culture isn’t something that can be shut on and off. Cyrus makes a proactive point to remind her fans about this, and the We Can’t Stop video is all about playing at bi-chic tropes and omnisexual aesthetics that may or may not keep happening when cameras stop rolling.
In terms of controversy and criticism goes, Miley takes it all in stride. Trained to deal with the public from a very early age (at least years old), she and her handlers know how to keep people talking and to take “faux rebellion” nowhere near the bleeding edge of real rebelliousness.
As for the pop star’s heiney? Here we have the good ol’ “Goodie I still get to look trick:” you criticize a woman for shakin’ what her momma gave her, telling your partner, the press, your friends, “Oooh! This is just scandalous!” All the while, you’re never taking your eyes off her bum and assorted hijinx. Scandalous attention is still attention.
We Can’t Stop Miley Cyrus. We Won’t Stop Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus’ only responses to criticism have moved along two main streams of thought.
Here’s one: when criticized for her unicorn onesie twerk video, Cyrus essentially said [paraphrased] “J. Dash is happy…no one heard of his song “Wop” before I did that.” And two: when hip hop legends such as Jay Z shout her out in their rhymes and in the press, people tell Miley he’s dissing her. Her responses?
RT @MileyCyrus Somewhere in America a Jay Z song is onnnnnn
RT @MileyCyrus That’s a win win forrrrrr me.
RT @MileyCyrus Call it what you want. But I don’t see Mr. Carter shoutin any of you bitches out. #twerkmileytwerk
And Jay Z agrees.
Miley is still working with (and yes, twerking with) Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg), Odd Future, Ludacris, Big Sean, Pharrell, Juicy J, Nelly and many other rap artists du jour. The Yin Yang Twins wrote a stripper pole-ready song about her tush and twerking it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-UXJO-iydM)
The verdict is in: Miley is “right” on all accounts.
Speaking of accounts, Miley’s still posting pictures of her bootie @MileyCyrus, and you can keep up with Big Freedia’s latest pics and posts @Bigfreedia.
So let’s get a move-on #MCTWERKTEAM…. Assume the #MileyTwerk position and represent.
“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” debuts Wednesday, October 2 at 11/10C on Fuse TV and you can buy her album “Queen of Bounce” on iTunes by clicking here (http://www.bigfreedia.com).
You can learn (and dance!) more by watching the documentary “Big Freedia The Queen Diva” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0yrp3nsvAs
You know Miley’s on top of the promo gig too: according to Miley’s Twitter TL, you can of course pre-order #Bangers / Wrecking Ball on iTunes here: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wrecking-ball/id691238659?i=691239109).
Now Playing – Big Freedia – Y’all Get Back Now
Because she is royalty, let’s give the Diva the last word. Big Freedia recently told the Daily News:
“Twerking—and it’s a lot more than twerking—comes from a long history of music and dance in New Orleans. Twerkin’ happen around the world for a long time now, so I’m very excited that it’s coming into the public eye, as long as it’s respected.”
We could say more on the matter and likely will.
But wouldn’t you rather be dancin’ and watchin’ all up on this anyway? Let’s free you up to do that. And let’s keep it real: how many times have you had to switch to your “kitty pics” screen-saver so you wouldn’t get caught watching “Peanut Butter” on loop? Oh—that was just us? Oh, okay. Right.
And The Winner Is…
Because Twitter announcements count as official (well…until they don’t…), Twitter scooped most folks on this first: Ellen DeGeneres announced her delight to be returning as the emcee for the Oscars ceremony next year, on behalf of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences.
DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Finding Nemo”), in the customary “Aw shucks wink-wink” way we know and adore, shared this joyful tweet on her Twitter page:
It’s official: I’m hosting the #Oscars! I’d like to thank @TheAcademy, my wife Portia and, oh dear, there goes the orchestra.
The broadcast’s executive producers (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) cosigned her “squee” on Twitter, tweeting:
Neil Meron @neilmeron welcome back to the Oscar stage, Ellen…we can’t wait to start working with you! @theellenshow @theacademy @craigzadan
And they love Ms. Ellen so much, they went from pitch to decision in a mere 48 hours’ time.
“I agreed with Craig and Neil immediately that Ellen is the ideal host for this year’s show,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President. “We’re looking forward to an entertaining, engaging and fun show.”
According to the organization’s CEO Dawn Hudson, “Ellen is talented, wonderfully spontaneous, and knows how to entertain a worldwide audience. She’s a big fan of the Oscars; we’re huge fans of hers. It’s a perfect match.”
All This Funny Business
According to Variety magazine, “’The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ has won 45 Daytime Emmys during its 10 seasons. Though DeGeneres’ show airs on NBC owned-and-operated stations, she has a history with Oscar broadcaster ABC, with her landmark sitcom ‘Ellen’ having run there from 1994-98. In 1997, DeGeneres won the Peabody Award and a writing Emmy for the episode in which her character came out as a gay woman, with 46 million viewers watching.
“Over the last eight years, the 2007 Oscars hosted by DeGeneres stands as the top rated in both adults 18-49 (14.1 rating/33 share) and women 25-54 (19.2/40).”
Since coming out in 1997, though Ellen shared myriad challenges she faced because of her public declaration, she’s a master at the art of the “Reboot and Rally.” These days, you feel like she’s never missed a beat.
You always get the sense that even while Ellen’s ribbing you, she’s laughing with—not at—you, and you’re never on the arse-end of even her snarkiest inside jokes. Ellen saves more observational or cutting humor for political issues.
Case in point: remember when she riffed on fatphobia? Ellen quipped:
“Now [Abercrombie & Fitch] actually have a double zero. What are we aspiring to? ‘Honey, do these jeans make my butt look invisible in this?‘”
Crafting jokes, skits, comedic sets and punchlines in such a way is living a rarefied air and artistry we don’t see quite enough of. Too, though reading and shade has its place in queer culture, this type of kidding around is based on finding and digging into flaws, and adding salt to wounds (real, perceived or straight-up made up).
In other words, the origin and intent of reading/shade/the dozens, however creative, is more degrading.
And Now, Your Host…
Ellen’s first Oscars hosting gig took place in 2007. In a tongue-in-cheek self-released press statement Ellen added:
“I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm….”
Laugh on, Ms. E. Laugh on.
Click below to watch 5 of Ellen’s Best Award Show Moments:
The 86th Annual Academy Awards takes place on March 2, 2014. So is Ellen the right woman for the job, or what?