Admired and Desired: Checking In With Margaret Cho

I’m the One That I Want: Can We Reclaim the Word “Tranny?”


“I refer to myself as gay, but I’m married to a man.”

– Margaret Cho

LGBTQIA identity isn’t about who you do it with. Until, of course…it absolutely is.

Margaret Cho (“Drop Dead Diva,” “I’m The One That I Want’) is as scrappy as she is electric. She’ scrappy because she’s taken so much guff, sharing her multiple talents on and off-screen (she acts, sings, directs, writes, designs clothes, is a walking tattooed work of art and is a standout standup comic). Cho can transition from an elegant purr to a lioness’ growl with no hesitation. She’s electric, because she sings the body electric: she’s sensual, naughty, flirtatious, often bawdy and ultimately playful.

If you’ve seen her comedy flick “I’m The One That I Want,” the efforting in her journey to long term success is palpable. You get the sense she’s had to claw her way all the way up to the glass ceiling and had to brace herself with her back up, and kick the glass away with a pair of steel-toed Doc Martens just to disappear the damn thing.

Cho doesn’t “play the queer card,” or the race card. Rather, she is queering play. She is queering entertainment. When you can let the cameras roll and share  minute details about your open relationship on morning chat shows, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/28/margaret-cho-i-refer-to-m_n_180383.html) segue into outing fellow celebs (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/margaret-cho-outing-john-travolta_n_3478594.html), put the world on notice that you will get down with anything that moves as you like (just like men do), and always leave ’em laughing…if anything, you could say Cho plays “the laughs card.”

But to what end? Her comedic M.O. Doesn’t feel like a manipulation, rather it’s a weapon.

As she’s currently promoting her latest venture, the MOTHER TOUR (http://www.margaretcho.com/2013/07/29/mother-tour-get-pre-sale-tix-today), thoughts and themes come to mind about Margaret Cho’s presence in the world.

There’s Some Tranny Chasers Up In Here

“ A few words about ‘trannychasing.’ I am not a trannychaser. Ok, actually I am a trannychaser. No I am not. I am a trannycatcher! Just kidding!” – Margaret Cho

As a self-confessed “tranny chaser,” Margaret Cho’s taken a good amount of flak for her feelings and affirmed desires, without too much apology. It’s a tough concept to think about, as she’s done so much brilliant work and she’s really been out there on the road, touring with Ani  DiFranco and Lilith Fair, indie all the way for decades on end, fearlessly advocating for queer rights, feminist and race equality, and respect in the entertainment industry.

There’s no doubt Cho is sex positive (she’s on the Good Vibrations board alongside much of her other activist and fund-raising work), queer-identified and trans* inclusive: she directed the highly acclaimed “Young James Dean” video  by Girlyman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_ia7Dikq0), featuring trans* peers and allies, covering lyrics about coming up as genderqueer. And her routines, filmic work and writing boasts a high trans* visibility ratio, including clearing the floor for trans* folks, often guys, to speak as well. She supports fellow trans* comics and entrepreneurs and leverages her celebrity to help folks make a steady income who might not do so otherwise. She will tweet, promote, and help to encourage business ventures for others—often tirelessly.

Folks have voiced concern with her humor about her “trannychaser” (or catcher) jokes and statements, and Cho has formally explained her viewpoint (http://www.margaretcho.com/2007/06/26/true-colors-break), stating these are just jokes based on reverence and respect, and that folks are taking things out of context—too seriously.

Fellow Tobi Hill-Meyer states Cho is objectifying trans* men (http://blog.handbasketproductions.com/?p=7) as cisgender men often do with  trans* women, fetishizing them and changing people into “things.”

“Trans IS a legitimate gender” is a defense against the objectification idea, posted by Cho’s comedic peer, Ian Harvie (http://ianharvie.com/trans-is-a-legitimate-gender).

Harvie wrote on his blog, “ If you believe Transgender IS a legitimate gender, how can you argue that it’s wrong to eroticize Trans people? If you do not see Trans as a legitimate gender, then what’s wrong with you?!I’m Trans, I’m Butch, and identify as a Trans man, regardless of my given biological sex. I absolutely believe it’s okay to be attracted to, exoticize, fetishsize, and eroticize any and all Trans people. After all, a fetish is something that we desire or that turns us on.”

Too, RuPaul penned the song “Tranny Chaser” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQOu2d0L1qE) as a declaration of sexuality, desirability, and a playful take on the concept. “Do you wanna be me?” the song bridge begins.  Fully aware of the seduction in the words, RuPaul goes on, “That don’t make you gay.” “Or do you wanna [beep] me? That don’t make you gay….”

It’s hard to laser-focus down to one “right take” on the issue when so many folks in-community with so many different experiences feel empowered by the erotic aspects of being queer and desired. Other bloggers have called Cho’s comments disgusting, meanwhile, she is blowing heteronormative minds open simply by sharing the concept. Rhetorical questions arise: is it better to be vilified, “romanticized, dehumanized, or eroticized? If we’re all “in on the desire,” is it wrong? Is there a happy medium that requires no context?

Cho grew up in San Francisco, which could explain matters somewhat. In the City, you are what you say you are, even if you change your mind about it tomorrow. Middle America doesn’t quite dovetail with such a mindset (yet?).

Issues of class and power can’t be ignored: though they all had challenging beginnings in their careers, now relatively better-paid or well-paid performers, Cho’s, Harvie’s and RuPaul’s experiences differ by definition from that of a queer or trans* man or woman who doesn’t have the same means or sense of empowerment to lead with sexuality, or who might lead a different lifestyle, might have experienced more harassment with less resources and so on.

When these issues arise consider them to be a gift: because they grant us the opportunity to talk about them, and hopefully to come to kind conclusions at the end of the day. There are no easy answers, and let’s hope we can all find ways to continue to ask the right questions and uplift one another, wherever we meet—even if it can never be in the middle.

Let’s hope we can amicably find ways to “agree to disagree,” and let’s keep shining, living, loving and relating.

Can a person really be a “fetish?” Is that even the issue here? Please share your experience.

 

The Great Gay Migration – Suze Orman Urges Gay Couples to Move for Marriage Equality

Love Wins: Respect For Marriage Finds Federal Support – But Which States Are Most Supportive?Love Wins: Respect For Marriage Finds Federal Support – But Which States Are Most Supportive?

“People ask, ‘What’s the big deal about being married,?’ When it comes to insurance, estate benefits, pensions, it’s really important that this happens on the federal level, not just the state level.”

– Suze Orman

Financial consultant, author and CNBC TV personality Suze Orman recently told the press that gay couples should put their money where equality lives—so much so, that they should move to pro marriage equality states.

In March of this year, Orman voiced her opinions on the MSNBC program “Now With Alex Wagner.”She’s concerned about the livelihood of herself and partner Kathy Travis (Orman often affectionately calls her “KT”), and she wants to defend the rights of committed couples everywhere.

Sharing the platform with Congressman Sean Maloney (the first openly gay congressman from New York), Orman broached the topic earnestly, saying: “Here’s the thing…gay people understand very well that when they get married, that is a legal document. And when you get married, that means if you don’t want to stay together anymore, then you are going to have to go through a serious divorce.”

She continued, “I care about every single gay person out there. I care about every single straight person out there that knows somebody who’s gay.”

“Currently I am a resident of Florida … and I would be more than happy to go and move. I have substantial wealth.  I pay substantial taxes… I would be more than happy to move to New York or California if I could get married and be recognized on a federal level, because I want to live in a state that validates me, and I would validate them with my money.”

As a Fort Lauderdale, FL resident, Suze Orman made her comments before Section 3 of the  Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (thereby no longer preventing the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples). Her words continue to reverberate in the community.

Federal and state agencies still have to be about the business of enforcing the overturned law, trying to standardize what it means in terms of state-to-state protections, and engendering the transition throughout the US in terms of granting benefits and myriad other legal rights for couples.

Activists continue to encourage LGBTQ people to vote with their dollars and embody their feelings through proactively standing a stand. Though Florida has no state income tax, Orman told the press a move could still save her millions of dollars, so she continues to ponder moving to a state that’s more supportive for gay couples, such as California.

“KT is not for that, just so you know,” Orman recently told The Huffington Post. “I really think that it is…important that all of us support states that support us.”

So what’s next for LGBTQ legally married folks? Do we stay in less progressive states and fight for our own benefits where we live, or move to places where we are afforded more legal protections?

 

–Both?

I’m Not Sure…Am I Gay? – Coming Out Q & A

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.

– Harvey Milk

“I’m not sure…am I gay?”

Young men and boys commonly ask this question during the coming out process. They might say it differently, and they may not have begun the process yet. If the question “Am I gay?” is pressing on someone’s heart, he’s probably going through the process.

Shorthand for “coming out of the closet,” coming out could mean, more accurately, coming out of confusion.” This connotation removes possible stigma or blame.

 “Be fearless / be honest / be generous / be brave /

be poetic / be open / be free / be yourself / be in love /

be happy / be inspiration.”  –

– Beyonce, writing words for Frank Ocean

“So am I gay, or what?” If this question remains or someone asks you to “evaluate them” with this question, there’s no definitive, easy answer. Just breathe, take a step back, and think about—or pass along—some of these ideas:

1) Empower Him to Find His Own Answers. – Possible feedback: “I can’t answer that for you. This is a question only you can answer. I can support you in your stages of learning, discovery, research, and even play (try to refrain from saying things like ‘experimentation.’ He is not a science project.). But this is your hero’s journey.”

2) You Don’t Have to Lose your Religion. You aren’t coming out to God or your Higher Power. Spirit already knows you. There are several gay-inclusive churches and organizations happy to support and encourage you.

3) Discourage Binary Thinking. Free him up from binary thought. Kids grow up in an overpoweringly heterosexual-defined world, yet heterosexuality is as much of a social construct as the next idea. The best kept open secret in the world is that heterosexual-identified people are also fluid, as sexuality Is fluid (see: Kinsey Reports). Make sure he knows that.

4) Respect Boundaries. Keep it real: if you find yourself attracted to someone who’s newly queer or questioning, first consider his age. If there’s a huge imbalance and/or he’s a minor, please do both of yourselves a favor: don’t take advantage of his twice-vulnerable state (one due to age/inexperience, two due to his sexual uncertainty). The mentor / mentee sex narrative is a common coming of age story—that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. He needs friends and support, not just sex. If you find you have conflicted interests and he’s not of age, telling him you’re into him also further confuses matters. Even if the attraction is mutual, be smart and be fair.

5) “I’m A Trans Guy Who Likes Girls, Period.” Of especial note, questioning sexuality is often a second or third lap around questions that come up for transgender guys who may become fascinated by images of men as they’re creating the life they want to lead. They’re looking for affirming images, like-minded peers, role models and allies, and checking out pictures of men for medical [surgery, anatomy], social [presenting as “male”], empowering and of course arousal reasons [how to please self and others, for pleasure’s sake, curiosity]).

If he says he’s attracted to women, he thinks he is, or he flip-flop, that’s his prerogative and right. Keep snarky “Yeah right whatever, you’re gay” comments and feelings to yourself. You might encourage him to talk to or discover more about other trans guys (depending, some guys might fixate on cis-gender guys only during this time).  If you’re really a true friend or ally, don’t get into the eye-rolling. That helps no one.

6) He May Realize He’s Straight. You may crack jokes about straight folks. Try to tone those down around him, especially if he’s just a kid. What if it turns out he’s “coming out straight,” or he’s just not ready? There are many people who’ve never been in doubt about their sexuality, or heterosexuality. If he’s not in that “majority,” or he’s a bit more passive with girls or women, that doesn’t make him automatically gay. This could take him a while to realize.

7) “Have You Ever Thought About Getting Help?” Even if you’re helping him, guys can be notorious for refusing help, asking for it in a roundabout ways, or not seeking out support or counseling. Share resources and if necessary, walk with him as he researches, explores, visits LGBT centers, picks up “coming out newbie” brochures, etc.

8) For Teenagers, For Young Boys Puberty can really suck. Boys are still figuring out how hormones make them feel, bodies change, crushes unfold. Peer “pressure” and bullying is a minefield that’s so difficult to get through. His anti-gay friends, family or elders might see you as trying to “recruit or convert him” rather than as a sounding board. This makes finding professional allies, especially if he’s underage, extra important. You might need some backup.

9) Keeping Secrets You can keep his journey between the two of you without making him think coming out is a dirty little secret. Help him understand the difference between confidentiality or privacy and shame-filled secrecy.

10) “Are You Using?” He might feel insulted: however, if in the context of “because I really care,” check in to see if he’s using/abusing drugs, if he’s having risky or unsafe sex (with men and/or women), or if he’s acting out in other erratic ways. Help him find support around balancing out all aspects of his life, including but not limited to sexual and other gratification.

11) Gender Expression: “Is There Something Wrong With Me?” He doesn’t have to present as butch, or he might feel so in his heart. He doesn’t have to present as fem, he might be genderqueer, and so on. If he’s trans, there’s nothing wrong with the desire to be stealth (presenting in a certain gender-centric way without immediately telling people he’s trans). Remind him he’s free to explore these ideas. Ask him about preferred terms (he may prefer to call himself “same gender loving” rather than “queer or gay,” etc.).

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

“We have to show ’em there’s nothing to be afraid of. If we don’t get over our fears, they never will.”

– Lisi Harrison, from Monster High

12) Undeclared. This life can be like having an undeclared major in school: he never has to come to any conclusions about himself. Remove all expectations: love and accept him for the person he is. It will make such a positive difference in his life and in yours.

13) Re-frame “Normal.” Nature has always made room for gay and lesbian or variant gender expression in all species, of which we are but one.  We may not all understand why this way of being exists, but according to “Gaia,” nature considers a multiplicity of sexual and gender expressions to be normal.

To that end, watch out for so-called “normal” language like “That’s so gay, gaylord, butt-hurt, calling lesbians Klondikes, saying tranny or freak,” etc. Whatever side you’re on surrounding such humor, things are different when you’re learning how to walk before you run. This kind of language is common, but isn’t necessarily normal. He might not see reclaiming the word “fag” as empowering.

14) “How do I know for sure?” The answer “You just know” isn’t entirely correct. It would be more accurate to answer, “Whatever way of sexual expression and identity gives you the most pleasure (sexually and otherwise), whatever predominates,” these are good indicators. If comfortable enough, you can use your own experience as an example.

15) Pride In the Name of Love Share with him what “pride” means to you. Parades aren’t required for all gays to attend, or he may not be able to attend one for logistics reasons, but explain to him why we celebrate Pride, and how activism has influenced and affected gay culture over time.

16) Gay Role Models Help him learn about LGBTQIA role models—and gay role models in particular. If he’s also a person of color, help him to discover role models that mirror his nationality, ethnicity, background, etc. Share with him stories of people who’ve come out later in life (different age, same process!). Sexual orientation and gender haven’t stood in the way of well-known kings and queens, artists, designers, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers entertainers and others throughout history. It shouldn’t stand in the way of his progress either. Coming out and thriving-as-out stories are important—and these shouldn’t all be rich and famous people’s narratives. That adds the extra pressure of having to be famous or wealthy in order to get “special treatment,” which is a myth.

 “‘Faggot, faggot…’ Do you hate him ’cause he’s pieces of you?”

                                    – Jewel

17) Outing, Safety Issues Outing is not the same as coming out. Being outed in inopportune ways can cause safety, social or financial challenges. Best and worst case scenarios are important to discuss. Don’t push him out, as the most important person he needs to come out to is himself. Depending on where he lives and his age, coming out might be physically unsafe for him at present, but you can help him to prepare. Unfortunately, there is also the possibility of someone outing him without permission, or falsely accusing him of something he hasn’t even stated or realized yet. Help him to have plans and solutions prepared as much as you can, realistically.

18) “I’m Not the Right Person to Ask.” Sharing these words honestly is also helpful. You can still direct him to many other people or resources who can support him with his questions and concerns. Let him know you respect him and it’s got nothing to do with him (sharing helpful resources reinforces this truth for you.)

19) “How Long Have You Been Gay?” And Other Leading Questions. In short, don’t ask things like that. Don’t try not to lead the conversation. This is his deal, not yours.

 “Being gay is not living any type of lifestyle (at least not for me).

It simply pertains to my sexual orientation.

I am sexually attracted to guys. That’s it. It’s life, not a lifestyle!”

– Scott Penziner

20) “Things Are So Much Easier These Days.” No, they’re not. Don’t belittle his experience by equating your pain with his. Everyone needs a support net, almost everyone has a rejection and/or bullying story, and this life is his to live. Be present with him rather than disowning him or silencing his voice.

21) Celebrate! Debutantes have coming out parties, why can’t we? Remember to praise him for his courage and self-love. He’s brave enough to ask these questions and cares enough to make this his quest. You don’t have to whip out the glow sticks or anything (unless you want to?), but remember, this is all about finding joy and holding onto it.

You can find some starter resources below.

Book Recommendations

Now That You Know by Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton

Beyond Acceptance by Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth

Websites

LGBTQ Inclusive Religions http://gaylife.about.com/od/religion/a/gaychurch.htm

Coming Out As Intersex  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/06/12/op-ed-intersex-final-coming-out-frontier

Family of Choice Holiday Support http://www.yourholidaymom.com

Coming Out Bi http://www.biresource.net/comingoutasbi.shtml

Coming Out As A Straight Supporter  http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-americans

National Coming Out Day http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/national-coming-out-day

Safe Space Network List http://safespacenetwork.tumblr.com/post/23388828318/the-safe-space-network-tumblr-list

PFLAG Coming Out Help http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539

Resources for LGBT People of Color http://guides.ucsf.edu/content.php?pid=211162&sid=2009927

HRC / Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Coming Out Resources – http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

E. Lynn Harris wrote, “My heart knows who I am and who I’ll turn out to be!”  Isn’t following your heart rule number one in everything?

 

A San Diegan Phoenix Rises: The Obelisk Gay Bookstore Reopens

The Obelisk Shoppe Celebrates August 16th Grand Opening

Hillcrest, San Diego has long loved and supported The Obelisk, San Diego’s only gay-owned and operated bookstore.

And “Oh Hillcrest! How we’ve missed you” are the words emblazoned on The Obelisk Shoppe’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ObeliskShoppe) today.

As a longtime San Diego landmark in the heart of its gay metro area in Hillcrest, the business suffered a devastating loss just over two years ago, enduring forced closure due to a tragic three-alarm fire.

According to Rex Wockner, on July 6 2011 the Obelisk was instantaneously damaged and “closed when a workman’s torch caused a fire on the roof of an adjacent building, which spread to the Obelisk’s building.  The second and third floors of the structure were gutted, and the fire department has closed the building until it can be repaired.  The bookstore received water and smoke damage.”

Placed smack dab in the middle of the Pride Parade route, the renowned bookstore has always an integral shop-and-rest stop during San Diego Pride, and has hosted such LGBTQ luminaries as RuPaul and many local artists and authors for exclusive book signings, readings, showings and community events.

Nestled in the heart of Hillcrest, the bookseller has long been a location for group meetups, impromptu connections and kikis, and you could always find a mix of the most colorful customers in the store: folks who’d grab a chair and browse through fiction titles, LGBTQ teens checking out freebie magazines and newspapers, canoodling couples deciding on adult video rentals, film lovers perusing their curated collection of queer cinema, tourists eager to peek inside and buy random rainbow stickers and kitschy cards, kink-centric shoppers buying metal jewelry, local respected elders and queer business owners… (and the list goes on).

You’d never hear any stories of people being booted out of the shop if they didn’t buy magazines or books they were reading, or if they took too long to do so.

The feel of the store was homey and lived-in—what with the structure being over 100 years old, the atmosphere lent itself to such familiarity. The store’s proprietors were always on-site or close by, personable and patient.  Though the store ownership has since changed hands, the shop’s new owner aims to carry on the community spirit and launch new revenue models beyond “just books” to keep the store sustainable.

From the pictures on their Facebook page, the redesign is ultra-sleek, modern and inviting, promising to pick up where Obelisk 1.0 left off.

During the Grand Opening, The Obelisk Shoppe will be giving away assorted goodies (including high-priced luxury watches, you lucky San Diegans!) in events surrounding the reopening.

Cheers and congratulations to The Obelisk’s ownership, staff and surrounding community. Thankfully no one was hurt in the blaze, and things are finally back on track.

For more information, visit their official Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ObeliskShoppe

San Diego’s known as the ninth gayest city in the United States. What’s the local book nook like in your neck of the woods?

 

Queer Indie Comedy Revolution

Stand Out National Queer Comedy Search

Queeriously Funny: Let’s Start A Comedy Riot

There’s funny as in “funny…” and funny as in “Ha-ha!” Like Lady Gaga said, “Thank God and the Gays” we get to have both, Mary. Queers can “do funny” like (snaps fingers) nobody’s business. Making being “funny” funny is a straight-up Survival 101 tactic, and LGBTQ folks are living, breathing comedy maestros.

Stand Out: The National Queer Comedy Search is looking for the best of the best in “LGBT-owned and operated” jokes, routines, comedy skits, standups, funny performers and all-rounder smart-alecks of LGBTQ comedy.

Reviewing the submissions now, Stand Out just wrapped up its inaugural queer comedy search, and final contestants will each vie for a shot at winning over of $2,000 and a featured article in The Advocate magazine. Top-headlining performances will be hosted by Queer Comedy at Zanies in the heart of Chicago (thought by many to be the standup capital of the United States).

Laugh Queen, Laugh

From an OutLoud Chicago post:

“Presented by OutLoud Chicago, Absolut Vodka, Sidetrack The Video Bar and The Advocate Magazine, Stand Out strives to find the best in queer and queer-friendly comedy from all across the country, giving comedians national exposure and ending with a live competition for over $2,000 and a feature story in The Advocate.”

Though The Advocate’s always been a forerunner in covering queer comedy news, in the last few months, the leading gay publication has been promoting Gaysayer, their new LGBTQ-inclusive comedy Twitter stream, pumping out queer (and allies’) comedy tweets like clockwork. You don’t have to be queer to play @Gaysayer, but you’d better make it funny to get retweet-able attention.

Care for a sample and a chuckle? Check out a few of Gaysayer’s greatest RT’s.

Retweets (RT’s) shared via @Gaysayer:

RT ‏@michelleisawolf “Cool, yeah, keep calling yourself the LONE Ranger like I’m not right here” – Tonto.

RT  ‏@mkpaulsen I love wearing tight tshirts in dangerous areas, or as I call it “Anderson Coopering”. #StevieTV

RT ‏@LesbianLounge I am totally ready for the Lindsay Lohan/Amanda Bynes remake of “Thelma & Louise”.

RT @Zackblows Anderson Cooper’s nickname is “the silver fox” which is also what Betty White calls her vagina. #StevieTV

RT  ‏@jamismithcomic I just made decisions about my own vagina in honor of Wendy Davis.

RT  ‏@Jefflawrencenyc Anderson Cooper finally admitted he was gay. That’s the only thing he ever said that wasn’t news. @Gaysayer

RT ‏@HeyJeffreyJay I knew I had to lose weight when I grew out of my fat pants and had to start wearing my old skirts. #TransProblems

RT  @jamismithcomic I keep bumping into women at this crowded parade and calling it sex later on the phone with my friends.

RT  ‏@JasonBerlin The Greeks had a word for gay athletes. It was “athletes.”

RT @louisvirtel I imagine Britney Spears has perfect Comic Sans handwriting.

RT @RubinReport #PopeFrancis won’t judge gay people. I knew when he said, “Hey Jesus Heyyyy! at his first mass it was a good sign.

RT @kellyoxford Can I use Grindr to find a gay man to tell me if my outfit is okay?

Tee-hee! Visit here to tweet along with Gaysayer. (https://twitter.com/gaysayer) No guarantees, but they’re known to RT the sharpest barbs and wittiest quips they discover.

Are you a queer comedian, or do you want to be one? Psyche yourself up for next year’s contest by checking out the info here (http://www.advocate.com/comedy/2013/07/02/do-you-stand-out-were-searching-best-queer-comedy). Good luck…and stay gay!

Your move, funny people….

#DumpStoli: Russia’s Anti-Gay Bill Sparks Creative Boycott

When Keeping It Real Means Keeping Vigilant

Come on, let’s go
Back to Moscow
Irresolution doesn’t suit you or me or anybody…

– From “Moscow,” by Autoheart

Just as we celebrate progress with LGBT equal rights, another human rights breech rises up to spilling over, demanding more healing and attention in Russia.

Since 2006, a combination of anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ fervor has been gaining momentum there. Russia continues to punish outspoken LGBT supporters, driving the point home by dragging out the fate of LGBT-feminist activist-allies Pussy Riot, denying yet another member of the group parole for its activism.

Within the last year, Russia has activated harsher legislation, banning gay pride parades while continuing to detain, arrest and prosecute LGBTQ people and allies for both public or private actions and speech.

Persecution and Prosecution

More strident legislative punishments have emerged as Russian lawmakers fight what they call “homosexual propaganda” or “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” passing the “Don’t Say Gay” Anti-Gay Bill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also managed to sign a law banning all gay adoptions—signing three anti-gay bills into law total with no signs of stopping. Russian lawmakers now reinterpret LGBT outreach as “pornography,” intending to prosecute those who speak out against new laws, making them subject to the same detainment, arrest, prosecution or implied threats of violence as gay people experience.

It’s no surprise that hostility and vigilantism in Russia is becoming serious, with Russian skinheads among others attacking gay-identified persons including teens.

Separate and Not Equal

The upcoming Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

HRC (the U.S.’ largest gay rights organization) along with Dan Savage and others predict Russia’s new anti-gay activity will prove exacting for Olympic athletes, coaches, supporters, press and related attendees, whether or not they’re gay.

To illustrate the breadth of Russia’s definition, the HRC cited banned activities range from friends or couples holding hands, public displays of affection (kissing or hugging) to voicing solidarity in any form. The new laws equate LGBT activist outreach materials with pedophilia, forbidding by default any outreach to Russian gay or questioning teens struggling with coming out.

While the IOC says Olympic athletes, press and guests will be exempt from Russia’s anti-gay laws, how can this be guaranteed?

Johnny Weir told the press he’s unafraid, stating: “The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority…is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions, but I still will compete.”

Activists continue to demand that LGBT athletes boycott the upcoming games. Russian tourism earnings are expected to dwindle, and meanwhile, activists in-country (namely Nikolai Alekseev and peers) say financial boycotts won’t even make a difference, encouraging international supporters to push for governmental change only. This echoes Pussy Riot’s push-back in the face of international support, which they’ve eventually warmed up to, somewhat.

Creativity Continues As Protests Spread

Regardless of the latest headlines, international creative collaborators continue to show solidarity. Such artsy projects aren’t mere flights of fancy. Passing anti-gay laws sends a clear signal to those who would commit hate crimes they’ll be given a free pass to act out violently, beyond reproach.

Remember the inexcusable violence at St. Petersburg Pride?

In an extension of this anti-gay law, Russian authorities are already arresting gay tourists who aren’t even from Russia. That’s how quickly discrimination affects us worldwide.

In the face of this chaos, Russia is facing an immediate and expansive vodka boycott. Gay-owned bars, consumers and businesses are kicking Stoli vodka to the curb. At the prompting of Dan Savage, the hashtags #DumpStoli and #DumpRussianVodka were created to fuel efforts, with Canadian and U.S.-based establishments as first responding boycotters and British clubs following suit. Canada has since issued warnings in a travel alert for LGBTQ persons visiting Russia.

Unfortunately, this puts Stoli North America in a tricky situation: Stoli Vodka CEO Val Mendeleev has expressed disagreement with new Russian laws, to which activists from Queer Nation replied, “A single open letter that was discreetly placed…will not help LGBT Russians nor will it have an impact on the… anti-gay campaign…. Marketing is not enough.”

Enter the London-based band, Autoheart, who penned the timely single, “Moscow.”

The new single greets the listener with maudlin, layered nostalgia for a love the singer knows is there. In the tune, there’s a heart that needs reminding.

On their YouTube page, Autoheart wrote: “Moscow is a song about the daft optimism of being in love,” continuing: “We are lucky in Britain to have laws that mean whether we are gay, straight, bisexual or anything in between, our relationships are recognized and our rights protected by law.”

“In our video, two gay Russian soldiers kiss in front of the Kremlin — yet just last month a group of same-sex couples in Moscow were violently attacked and then arrested for doing just this.”

If Autoheart were Russian, their very words alone would make them instant candidates for prosecution.

The band went on to encourage visitors to sign this petition, a callout to world leaders for equal rights: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/russia-attacks

Other creative solidarity projects are:

The #Virtual Pride launch
http://gayagenda.com/worldwide-pride-parades-offer-solutions-for-targeted-lgbt-individuals/

Stop Homophobia In Russia, a 2-video series

The Gay Women Channel’s “Putin Airlines Safety” video

Autoheart’s lyrics to “Moscow” conclude:

When in Moscow I just want to fold you up
And keep you warm, keep you warm.

To find out more about LGBT Russia, visit here or here –

Spectrum Human Rights Alliance (Eastern Europe) www.spectrumhr.org/?pli=1

Russian LGBT Network http://www.facebook.com/LGBT.Russia

Let’s keep talking about this: what kind of vodka is your corner bar serving? Where’s it manufactured? Is this boycott inspiring you to take action?

Get Your Superpowers On: It’s Liverpool Pride’s Fab, New Superhero Theme

Superheroes, Represent: Liverpool Pride’s Workin’ It With A Fab, New Superhero Theme

Liverpool Pride is coming! (But doesn’t “Superheroes Ball” have an awesome ring to it?)

So tell us, superheroes: will you be flying to the Superheroes Ball in Liverpool, or teleporting?

As the second largest LGBTQI pride event in the UK (with London as the first), Liverpool Pride is happening on August 3 this year, and they’re calling all  “Family” and friends with magical rainbow powers (and those who love them)  to convene for this special superhero-themed queer fete.

Expecting record attendance numbers, the Liverpool Pride organization committee anticipates 50,000-plus caped crusaders and Super-Friends are expected to make their way to Liverpool this year to participate.

James Davies, Festival Manager for Liverpool Pride, told Liverpool Life:  “Every year brings new challenges and often it’s our community that comes up with the most creative ideas – that’s why we’ve always asked the public to choose their theme.”

He continued, “Last year’s Nautical But Nice theme was taken to heart by the community with thousands dressing up as sailors, pirates and all kinds of sea creatures and at least two boats. With Bonnie Tyler as this year’s UK Eurovision contender I’m delighted that our Pride community will bring her over 50,000 heroes this August.”

Time to get your super-gay superhero playlists ready—whether you can make it there or you’ll be there in spirit—here are a few sweet ideas. How about you plop these on over into your iPod?

We Don’t Need Another Hero – Tina Turner

Born This Way – Lady Gaga

I’m Not Your Superwoman – Karyn White

Holding Out for A Hero – Bonnie Tyler

Hero – Chad Kroeger

Spider Man – The Ramones

Flash Gordon Theme – Queen

Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

Young James Dean – Girlyman

Supermodel of the World – RuPaul

Batdance – Prince

Blade – KRS-One

Superhero – Ani Difranco

Singer Shine Your Light – Namoli Brennet –

Jimmy Olsen’s Blues (Pocketful of Kryptonite) – Spin Doctors

Any other suggestions? Well, we do have a couple…

If you can make it there, don’t take the superhero theme so literally. That way, we’ll see suited-up and costumed versions of folks like Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson and much, much more.

Every hero counts.

Kick all y’alls secret identities to the curb, get out there and save some lives with gear and glam, glitter and grease. Why? ‘Cause this is what Pride looks like: it takes a superhero to be live their life with pride.

Find out more about the event at the official website:  http://www.liverpoolpride.co.uk

If you can make your way there, what superhero will you arrive as? And avec cape, or au naturel?

 

 

Super Hot Superhero Lesbian Action: Batwoman Gay…and Engaged

“Girl, have you read the latest?”

Mm-hm…that’s right: Kate Kane loves women!

DC Comics has completely revamped Batwoman’s character arc—her original purpose was solely to be Batman’s (pre-Catwoman) love interest.  In a queer-centric sea change, Batwoman’s independent crime-fighter status has taken new twists and turns.

In brand new storylines pulled from current and relevant events, Batwoman, a.k.a. Kate Kane, has now been dishonorably discharged from the United States army during “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”  Her stunning, strong, intelligent detective girlfriend Maggie Sawyer didn’t yet know her secret identity in this new, modern narrative.

Surely you’d heard that news by now.

Back in 2009, “Lesbian Batwoman” was revealed as DC Comics’ first LGBT superhero.  Since DC comics poured new life into the graphic novel, gone is the safe, staid 1950s character that the world thought they knew.

While these lesbian-themed elements are old news, (just like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is!), this flame-redheaded lesbian superheroine continues to break new ground.  In a timely romantic gesture, Batwoman’s latest dish is that she’s proposed to her girlfriend, Captain Maggie Sawyer.

These new layers that have been woven into Batwoman’s character arc aren’t only a “win” for lesbian women and LGBT allies, but the new incarnations also bring about strong imagery and encouragement for women in general.  Feminist twists in gaming and comic book storylines are still considered to be edgy, underground, and rare.

Originally created by Sheldon Moldoff, Jack Shiff, Bob Kane and Edmond Hamilton, Batwoman’s more secretive birth narrative had to do with the minds of the writers (Moldoff, Shiff, Kane and Hamilton), who dreamed her up as—essentially—a beard, created to fend off rumors that Batman as depicted in comics was a latent homosexual (mind you, this was in 1956).

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

DC Comics contributing writer Greg Rucka announced to the Comic Book Resources web team, “We have been waiting to unlock her,” he said. “Yes, she’s a lesbian.  She’s also a redhead.  It is an element of her character.  It is not her character.”

With a dreamy desire to rescue you, two (count ‘em, two) power-dyke jobs, humongous guns, and a strong woman who loves her, Batwoman’s a lesbian fan girl fantasy no longer.

This s___ just got real.

C’mon, admit it: powerful women are hot.  You know you love Ms. Lesbian B. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

#ProudToLove: Rainbow-Hearted Reflections on YouTube’s First LGBT Pride Celebration

Loving Equality: Making Summer of Love More #ProudToLove

England’s marriage equality law becomes official in a matter of days.  Marriage Equality and DOMA decisions in the United States continue to send a positive beacon of hope to LGBTQ folks everywhere.

“Set those precedents,” the Litigating Angels seem to be telling us, blowing their glittery faery dust around the world.

Okay, sure…“faery dust” is a bit much—but c’mon: this is the queer “Interwebs” we’re talkin’ about!

With the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (lifting the same-sex marriage ban) and California following suit, the launch of YouTube’s official LGBTQ-themed #ProudToLove channel rides the waves of change that continue to ripple worldwide.

Continuing its yearly site-wide support of gay rights, parent company Google Inc. created YouTube’s #ProudToLove channel http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbpi6ZahtOH6Ep59vnHOZ0KBngOp-XiUP) and video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDm0zsw9vjY) on June 27.

In like fashion, Google relaunched its customary Rainbow Colored search results just in time for the summer of pride.  This yearly Easter Egg that revealed itself when visitors typed  LGBTQ-focused keywords like “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” “marriage equality,” LGBT” or “bisexual”  (Google’s rainbow search results have been a tradition since 2008—or eons, in Internet years).

Graced with the soundtrack of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” YouTube’s #ProudToLove video featured military “coming out” confessionals, Ellen DeGeneres, teenaged hero Jonah Mowry, Davey Wavey, Latrice Royale, Chaz Bono & Cher, Dan Savage, George Takei, Barack Obama at the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception, Willam Belli, and several uber-romantic LGBTQ-themed marriage proposals, all culminating in emphatic yeses.

Prominent and renowned LGBTQ advocacy organizations–if they weren’t already

partnered with the campaign–quickly posted #ProudToLove content in solidarity, chiming in with words, images, videos and sentiments of their own.

Other #ProudToLove ripple effects and highlights include:

Detractors have tried to troll this hashtag and idea, finding little success so far.  Such is the beauty of hashtags: creating instantaneous solidarity and community-building becomes easy-to-understand and propagate.

Pride Month’s really happening all summer long.  Isn’t that always the way?  Kudos to all for making Pride newsworthy every single day.

Being #ProudToLove is an international thing—how do you show your pride?  Who or what are you #ProudToLove? Share your thoughts, videos and tweets with us.  Make sure to include the hashtag, so your peeps can find you!

 

Straight Allies Spotlight: Why We Love Chris Kluwe

“Society’s trending towards more equality, and you see that in the locker room.”

– Chris Kluwe (to Larry King, on “Larry King Now” broadcast)

 

Oh, Chris: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, few people can bring themselves to hate him.

As the Oakland Raiders’ American NFL football punter, Chris Kluwe comes off as a fresh-faced, cheery, potty-mouthed and an unabashedly proud “gamer geek.” Kluwe’s spoken up—loudly—about everything from NFL labor disputes to honesty in the media. Now, he’s championing gay rights and marriage equality—and it’s not his first time rocking the mic for LGBTQ inclusivity.

The UCLA alum combines dashing good looks and dorky gamer references (he owns a fantasy gaming store for goodness’ sake), and let’s just say his wife Isabel isn’t the only one who finds him easy on the eyes.

Hm…male model? Athletic cover boy? What? Okay, losing track of the numbers here.

Still, there are so many reasons to adore him.

As articulate as he is awkward, Chris recently appeared on “Larry King Now”  to promote his  book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

On the show, he briefly mentioned his personal protest of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and his ever-expanding record of LGBT advocacy, which started hitting its stride last year.

Sharing a viewpoint with Larry King that’s rarely been shared by celebs publicly, Chris went on to express a bittersweet regret about the Prop 8 decision, saying  we could have pressed even harder to get more mileage from the opportunity to make permanent changes.

“I liked the DOMA decision,” said Kluwe, “Because obviously it extended federal benefits to married couples. Not a big fan of the Prop 8 decision, because while it allowed gays to be married in California as soon as they vacate the stay, the problem is, the Supreme Court had a chance to extend those rights across the entire country…whereas they could’ve made a statement.”

“They have a precedent,” he continued. “They have Loving v. Virginia—that says

marriage is a human right. They could’ve extended that out to say, ‘Same sex marriage, that is a human right, and you can’t discriminate against that.’”

Trying to keep realistic, he tied things up by saying, “So now we’ve just got to go to all the other states that—right now—gay marriage is illegal in, and get that passed.”

Earlier this month, in what could have been a media disaster, Kluwe shared a stinging truth (citing ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges) in the following exchange with Conan O’Brien on the “Conan” show:

“Now what about the NFL? Where’s the NFL in all of this?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“They pretty much just left me alone,” Kluwe answered, “As long as you’re not out shooting people…”

Here’s the deal: straight allies often put their foot in their mouths, no matter how good their intentions may be. Chris Kluwe’s using his “big-mouthed” persona to our advantage. You just can’t hate on somebody for that.

Chris Kluwe loves World of Warcraft, loves the game of football, loves to raise consciousness and awareness, and is all about a message of transparency, fairness and equality.

In his “Larry King Now” appearance and his Out of Bounds blog, Kluwe rants on with this through line: if we are not honest with ourselves and protecting our own, our civilization is doomed. He simply won’t back down from the idea, and his new book likely puts that sentiment on full blast.

Well-played Chris Kluwe—and play on.

What’s your take on Chris’ mouthy antics? Do you think he’s trying to co-opt Gay Rights to get attention? Does that matter, either way? Wait…you’re too busy looking at his “Out” magazine cover spread, aren’t you?

Don’t leave us hanging, y’all—what’s the T? Let us know what’s on your mind, and you can holler at your boy Chris Kluwe @ChrisWarcraft on Twitter.