#IndieGoGo Love: All Of Us Project Making Schools Safer for LGBT Students

#IndieGoGo Love: All Of Us Project Making Schools Safer for LGBT Students

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“Sadly today in Australia, school is the place where young people report the most homophobic abuse. Since 1998 levels of homophobic abuse reported by students, experienced in schools has risen from 69% in 1998 to 80% in 2010.”

- All of Us Read more

All Purple Everything: #SpiritDay and Purple Prose Reflections

It seemed like the world turned purple on October 17th. So…did you wear or share purple on Spirit Day?

An unprecedented amount of celebrities (http://www.glaad.org/blog/celebs-showing-support-lgbt-youth-spiritday) and participants took part in celebrating Spirit Day’s anti-bullying mindset and campaign for peace.

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Most notably, the #SpiritDay thought stream on Twitter, experienced a flurry of activity with somewhat minimal and hardly noticeable newsjacking and hashtag jumping occurring between the many supportive updates and social shares. Unfortunately anti-gay and anti-trans* push back was still somewhat present, but the signal-to-noise ratio tipped in favor of the celebrations at hand.

 

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#LGBTHM Q and A with Angela Gardner – Editor, TGForum.com

Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by the acceptance you weren’t expecting.”

                                     – Angela Gardner, Transgender Forum (TGForum.com)

TGForum.com is a weekly online magazine with news and features for the trans* community featuring a resource library, regularly published articles, and a safe space for connection, creativity and raising trans* consciousness.

Editor Angela Gardner took some time to connect with us via email to answer some questions about the one-of-a-kind online forum.

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Jaye: Hi, Angela: your business is so robust. TGForum.com is extremely comprehensive–equal parts community website, news website, secure/private shopping stop, and much more. There’s a lot of introductory/Trans* 101 available too. That’s alongside resources for trans* persons of experience and the community.

So from 1996 to now, can you share with us how the site’s evolved over time?

Angela: The site was founded by JoAnn Roberts, Cindy Martin and Jamie Fenton. In 1996, there was no pre-built social networking site software like there is today, so Jamie Fenton built it from scratch. The first iteration of TGF was all HTML code done by the writers who contributed. Cindy Martin was the editor and she would get everyone’s HTML file by email and put the new content together for publication every Monday.

Content wise, the site was always meant as a forum where people could discuss and learn about all transgender issues. There was input from the significant others of TGs, humor in the form of cartoons, TG history in the form of articles and photos of drag through history and medical info; the list goes on.

At the time it was started,TGF was a subscription based site. You had to pay a yearly fee and when you became a subscriber, you could see all the content and use all the features such as the bulletin board, the chat room and create your own profile and post your photos. Non-subscribers could read the articles but couldn’t see the photos or graphics. That was the Free TGForum version.

As the Web got more and more free spots where TGs could interact, TGF subscription began to go down. The two other partners left and JoAnn Roberts hired me to be the editor. At my urging, she went to a free publication plan and solicited more ads to support the site, as well as asking for donations from users. The loyal users did step up with contributions and the site made it through the first decade of this century. Software for Web publication had caught up and surpassed TGF, so JoAnn changed over to a WordPress based site.

That was tweaked and modified into the TGF you see today. Two things occurred when we moved to the WP format: we started accumulating more registered users (registering unlocks certain features) and our page views began to increase. The old TGF archives going back to 1996 were taken down. So there is a wealth of information that is now not available, but I try to add back the more important and still relevant things every year. 

Jaye: Ever-expansive. That’s so great. I know your your publication and forum addresses drag entertainers as well–do you think we’re coming to a place where trans* persons and drag performers are more mutually welcoming and inclusive?

Angela: I’ve always felt, and TGF’s stance has been, that drag artists are attracted to the whole idea in the first place because there’s some bit of “transness” in the personality. Most gay queens just think it’s because they’re gay but how many gay men take the time, effort and expense to dress flawlessly in drag? Some may do it for Halloween now and then but most have no more interest in wearing women’s clothing and makeup than the majority of straight men. So we feel that drag queens and female impersonators are our sisters on the transgender spectrum. There is still a lot of education to be done, but you’re going to see content about RuPaul’s Drag Race and other prominent queens on TGF.

Jaye: Fighting for the right to exist/fit in/have a “normal life…” it feels like such an irony. Societally, it feels like trans* living is still very much a battlefield. Achieving normalcy seems to be a right so many aggressively seek to deny. Have you seen a shift in-culture in terms of trans* persons around the idea of being stealth?

Angela: Stealth still goes on. It takes courage to declare openly that you were born a different sex than the one you’re presenting to the world. In some places that can still get you killed or beaten up. Not just in rural areas, but areas of some of our big cities TGs are often in danger. Stealth may actually increase that danger as a transwoman interacts with people in her sphere as a woman. Men are a threat since she doesn’t know how they will react if they learn that her genitals are not matched to her presentation or have been reshaped by surgery. Transphobia is homophobia and again, the world needs more education.

Jaye: What about feeling pressured to declare a gender (and opting out of doing so)?

Angela: Pick a gender! Start playing! Seriously, people should just be who they are. If a person doesn’t feel particularly one gender or another they should be free to experiment with any spot on the gender spectrum. Gender identity should be left up to the individual and once chosen should be honored by everyone. But being different will always be a challenge to some people. Again — education!

Jaye: On that note, do you hold any official TGForum events, or is your website more of a conduit and connection space?

Angela: No events other than our new content addition on Monday. It had been discussed from time to time, but we decided that our place was to bring information and a safe space to transgendered people on the Web. So no conventions or rave parties.

Jaye: Curious to hear your thoughts on this. Mister Cee’s public revelation about his connections with trans* persons has opened up some great discussions about love–why cis men and others are shamed for loving trans* women and what this says about our culture.

Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and others continue to address the idea and open the floor to a more inclusive and affirming discussion. Do you have any thoughts to share with our readers in light of these latest events?

Angela: I think this is part of the education that needs to be done. Mister Cee by coming out and being supported, even though he was outed against his wishes, lets other men who enjoy sex with transwomen know that their life might not be totally ruined if they stopped living on the down low and let their circle of friends and family know that TG ladies turned them on. Every TG admirer isn’t going to suddenly declare himself right away but it will get them thinking and maybe the hiding and skulking around TG nightspots to have brief encounters will diminish and they can start having honest relationships. That would be better for everyone.

From a personal perspective, I have a boyfriend and we go out to dinner a couple times a week. Often we are in the suburbs and now and then we do fine dining in Philadelphia. The number of times we have been treated with disrespect (presumably because I am TG) can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Or less. Most of the places we go, from diners to fine restaurants, people all treat us with the same degree of respect that they give the other patrons. So I think, at least around Philadelphia, the idea that TGs and their partners are as normal as any other couple is beginning to sink in. Again, with the caveat that there are some places it’s best not to go just because they may not be that enlightened. But sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by the acceptance you weren’t expecting.

Jaye: What is your opinion on the CIS cookies/CIS tears meme, and similar? [e.g. http://chaseross.tumblr.com/post/30953527685/recipe-for-cis-cookies]

Angela: I was unaware of the page. It seems an attempt at ironic humor but seems a bit bitter. TGs need to be aware that “CIS” people have never stopped to think about what gender they are. They may have experienced attractions to same sex people and had to wrestle with “am I gay” but the majority of them wake up in the morning and don’t even think “it’s great to be a man” or “I love being a woman.” That’s just the way they have felt all their lives. It’s only TGs who feel like a gender that doesn’t match their genitals, whether they feel that way all the time or part of the time.

So TGs might just want to give the other people a break. Go ahead and answer their stupid questions. Point them at websites where they  can learn more. Yes, it’s annoying but if you bite their nose off they’re going to just spread the word that “boy those TGs are cranky.”

Jaye: TGForum proactively shares triumphs and successes that trans* people experience along with breaking news and calls to action. Is the LGBTQ community trending more towards this focus? Can you recommend similar sites, art or media that articulates the entire spectrum?

Angela: It’s hard to say. I am so focused on making TGForum the best source for information that I haven’t spent much time looking around. I suppose I should but….

Jaye: I understand you’re an artist as well, and expert at graphic design along with your editorial work. Do you have your own consultancy as well, and is that affiliated with TGForum?

Angela: I wouldn’t call myself an expert and I haven’t marketed myself as such. I look at TGF and see something that needs done (like the new content slider graphics each week) and I just do them. I learn the technique I need and apply it. Shortly thereafter, I may forget how I did it. So I don’t feel I’m an expert, just a person with some of the tools needed and a search engine to find out how I make this or that appear on the screen. If people want some graphics I’d give it a shot, but other than my weekly TGF deadline I don’t work well with deadlines.

Jaye: How can folks get involved with TGForum.com (article submissions, joining the site, advertising, volunteering—are subscriptions required for membership)?

Angela: There’s a link right on the home page under my picture that lets people submit an article or article idea. I’m happy to hear from anyone who wants to contribute and recently, we have added some folks who used the link. As I said, you don’t have to subscribe anymore, but if you become a registered user I can give you contributor or author status and your posts will be credited to you and your profile info will appear at the bottom of the post.

Jaye: Do you accept financial donations?

Angela: We stopped soliciting donations when JoAnn Roberts sold the site to a new publisher. What people in the community can do to add their support is to tell vendors who have products the community wants/needs to contact us about advertising.  

Jaye: Excellent—thanks again for connecting with us and our readers, Angela.

Angela: Thanks Jaye! Let me know if you need clarification or have more questions.

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As you can see, Angela is very accessible—if you want more information, you’re seeking resources or would like to contribute to TGForum in any way, she welcomes you to connect with her at www.TGForum.com.

 

 

Despite Human Rights Issues, Prestigious Manifesta Art Foundation Will Not Boycott Russia

In 2012 the Manifesta Foundation selected the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation as host of Manifesta 10. Since announcing the State Hermitage Museum as host institution, the Russian parliament has adopted a federal law banning the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ accessible by minors. The legislation has received extensive exposure around the world and subsequently there have been calls to boycott, cancel or relocate international cultural and social events planned within Russia. In response to those who have expressed deep concerns regarding the situation of LGBT people in Russia and any violations of their human rights, we share your concerns….

On principle Manifesta cannot and should not only perform in the ‘safe haven’ of the West or former West. This inevitably involves dialogue with those with whom we may disagree.”

                                                                                 – A statement of the International Foundation Manifesta

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The renowned Netherlands-based, Pan European international arts foundation Manifesta will not boycott Russia, nor will it change its biannual roving arts tour.

Though the foundation is well-versed in international events management and travel, they will not change their location or plans, no matter how much they’re pressured to do so. Scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg in 2014, (the arts exhibition and program will take place from 28 June to 31 October), Manifesta refuses to choose another gay-friendly host city for its upcoming events in spite of Russia’s controversial anti-gay LGBTQ legislation and practices.

The Manifesta Foundation has released official statements to address the matter with feedback from its official leadership and stakeholders.

Proactively releasing a statement well over a month ago (“To withdraw Manifesta 10 would mean to ignore contemporary voices and emerging generations of Russia“), the official word from the arts collective voices more concern for pushing the creative field forward, and less for Russia’s suppression of freedom of expression and choice.

Select excerpts from the official statement can be found below.

Viktor Misiano, Chair of the Manifesta Foundation:

“Within Russia Manifesta 10 has been welcomed by many individuals who recognise that cancelling or postponing it will be a loss, not only for communities seeking change, but also for developing a progressive contemporary culture as a whole. We are conscious of the political climate and the significant conservative shift taking place in Russia, of which this issue is but one example. It is also helpful to know that the leading LGBT organizations in Russia do not support a boycott of the Olympics or other events. They know engagement is important.”

St Petersburg-based LGBT organization Coming Out:

“….We understand the call for a boycott of the Olympics. But we truly believe it is important to keep all channels open and enable all possible communications to challenge human rights violations at every opportunity, whether they are cultural or sporting events, business opportunities or political campaigns.”

Sjeng Scheijen, Artistic Director of Manifesta’s Russian/Dutch bi-lateral year:

“….Manifesta 10 is supported in Russia by a spirited forefront of independent, critical, internationally oriented artists and intellectuals. They have a great need for a platform for meeting and exchange, and seek international models for their own cultural events. They eagerly look forward to the arrival of Manifesta.”

Manifesta Founder and Director, Hedwig Fijen:

“Manifesta is an advocate of having mutual respect for any person regardless of their sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, disability, age or sexual orientation. Manifesta Foundation endorses the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for Human Rights, Council of Europe Recommendations and other decrees by international organizations, of which Russia is a member….We do not believe isolating Russia is the right direction to take, especially as it deprives younger people of access to a broader scope of voices and points of view.”

Please visit this link to read the entire statement:

http://manifesta.org/2013/08/to-withdraw-manifesta-10-would-mean-to-ignore-contemporary-voices-and-emerging-generations-of-russia

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The closer we get to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the more formal statements and opinions make their way to the fore, and the more public figures and organizations are being forced to take a stand on these human rights violations. Meanwhile, Russia continues to obfuscate issues, courting both commercial engagement and revenue opportunities while ignoring the civil rights of its LGBTQ/allied population.

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When will Russia make formal, unwavering statements of its own—or can the Russian government really entertain the best of both worlds (hiding behind rhetoric while somehow monetizing both international travel and anti-gay sentiments)…?

 

A Fight Over Same Love and What It Means

Author: Eugene Riordan, Jr.

With some success comes controversy, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Same Love” has been the recent target, but not for reasons you’d expect.

 

Winning Awards

 

On August 25 this year, the rapper duo won “Best Hip-Hop Video” and “Best Video With a Social Message,” along with giving a fantastic performance of the song (even though everyone else couldn’t keep their eyes off of the wrecking ball of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke). The video had been getting a lot of attention online and the song received (and continues to receive) a lot of air time, almost reaching the top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 this summer. Though the song was released as a single over a year ago, Macklemore’s success with “Thrift Shop” along with lgbt news domestically and internationally (think DOMA and Russia) elevated the song’s popularity.

 

The Controversy

 

The song’s awards garnered criticism from out gay New York rapper Le1f, who lashed out on Twitter that night, like all important disputes in our digital age. While the tweets were later deleted, screenshots have preserved the precious tweets, which started with “that time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars” and goes on from there. Le1f asks if any money from the video went to lgbtq causes, talks about how the song doesn’t help kids come out, and talks about how he couldn’t capitalize on some another minority group: “I’m gonna write a song about disabled people, or about the aboriginal struggle. cuz mama needs a new fur coat. oh wait, that’s evil.”

 

In case you were wondering as well, Macklemore did donate some profits from “Same Love” to the group Washington United for Marriage to support the same-sex legalization in Washington state in 2012.

 

Le1f hasn’t been the only one who questioned “Same Love,” why it became so popular, and who the real audience is. In an interview with Chelsea Lately after the awards show, Macklemore said that his decision to write the song how it came out was because that was his story to tell as an ally with personal ties to the queer community without being queer himself. Mary Lambert, who the song features and who recently came out with her own song titled from her refrain, “She Keeps Me Warm,” said that she thinks the song is truly “an anthem for allies.” “A straight white man can’t change his demographic, but he can choose what he does with his privilege, and he can choose his awareness of sense of self and what privilege is,” she said in an interview with Policymic.

 

I would have to agree with Lambert’s assessment of the song. Personally, like Gaga’s “Born This Way,” after a while the song sounds pandering, and isn’t necessarily a song meant for queer people. The people it most affects it seems are straight allies, and those who know and care about lgbtq people so much. If you listen to the song, Lambert’s refrain, the queer voice, comes after Macklemore’s verses, not as the focal point, but as an endorsement or a reminder, that queer people are involved. As unfortunate as it may be that queer issues get brought to the forefront of American consciousness by straight allies and not queer artists alone, I would agree that it is a sort of progress for our country as a whole, even if it is more “feel good” than anything else.

 

Same Song? and Hip-Hop’s Reception

 

Le1f’s criticism of ripping off of his music isn’t actually directed at “Same Love,” but rather the number one single “Thrift Shop. Le1f released his song “Wut” early in 2012, before Macklemore’s hit, and both sound pretty similar. Le1f might have a point. You can listen to “Wut” here, and can compare it to “Thrift Shop” over here. What do you think?

 

One of the last issues that Le1f brings up, which a lot of commentators think is important as per Macklemore’s intentions with the song, is about changing the genre for which the song is intended. Shocker: the hip hop community is pretty homophobic. Those voices aren’t from upper-class white men like him, but come primarily from black men who end up dismissing Macklemore’s song as atypical of the genre. The culture of those rappers, and historically for African-Americans, has been rooted in Christianity and a desire for a masculinity to overcome a history of slavery, poverty, and discrimination. Macklemore’s desire to change the way hip-hop approaches queerness isn’t a bad one, it just might not be as effective as he would like it to be.

 

If you want to help change music genres to be more inclusive of lgbtq issues and individuals, support out queer artists and their music. The music industry responds to changing opinions and desires of its listeners (making popular songs is a business after all), so what you listen to matters. Whether you support “Same Love” or don’t care for it, it’s still pretty amazing a song like that has gotten so much attention.

 

If you’re still feeling all activisty for queer music, watch the video for Autoheart’s “Moscow,” which offends Russia’s new anti-lgbt-propaganda rules in a creative and artistic way.

A Good Mama Is A Great Ally: Russia Might Listen When Cher Tells Them “No.”

 

“You don’t know what your beliefs are until you’re tested and have to really stand behind them.”

                                                                                                                                                  – Cher

Remembering Your Spirit – Chaz Comes Out, Part 1

“I wanted [my then-daughter] to grow up, get married, have a child, get divorced and live happily ever after.”

-Cher (to Oprah’s audience, half-jokingly)

Cher has had a Top 10 Hit every decade for the past 40 years. She could phone in whatever she wants to at this point—from her recordings to her performances, to her chat show guest spots. But she refuses to: she shows up and she remains present.

Aside from the fact that Cher is your Gay Icon’s favorite Icon and your Diva’s favorite Diva, queer fans who’ve loved Cher over time have realized that loving Cher is a full-time job.

If you’ve loved her during any era of her megawatt super-stardom, you’ve got to give it to her, she’s an incredible talent. If you’ve discovered her or followed her family’s story since the mid 90s, you’ve realized that you’ve had to give her some space while she caught up with all the parts of being an ally. You’ve had to watch and wait for her to continue to catch up as she enlightens herself all along her LGBT ally’s path. All the while, she’d lost the love of her life (though long since divorced, Cher’s love for the late Sonny Bono was complicated and made very public).

Loving and learning from Cher and her journey is an interesting study in what it means to be an ally, and ways in which we can even support our allies (should we choose to).

Though Cher was one of the first people to introduce drag artists to mainstream culture at the level we see today (professional, showgirls, on television), gender expression and LGBTQ culture was still something of abstraction to her—not related to her own immediate family, per se.

When Chaz Bono first came out to Cher as a “lesbian,” well before Chaz himself was aware of being trans* (by his own account), Cher had an exceedingly hard time accepting the fact that Chaz was (at that time self-identified as) a woman who loved women. In a joint interview with Oprah (video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CupvzhC8_4), Chaz and Cher confirmed that Cher really saw Chaz her the only child. A child made and raised in her own image (dressing alike with the same andro/tomboy vibe that Cher rocked, someday growing up to meet and marry a man). Cher said she “always knew, way before [Chaz] did,” that Chaz was [at that time] a lesbian.

Holding on to the dream of “living in your parents’ image was an idea that took so long for Cher to let go of, while Chaz’s dad Sonny warmed up to the fact that Chaz is a trans* man much more quickly.

Cher, in her own words, went “ballistic” when she realized what she “always knew” Chaz was not going to change.

Meanwhile, Chaz wanted to grow up to be just like his dad, Sonny.

And God/dess bless both Chaz and Cher for outing Chaz’s many realizations with Oprah, many other journalists and the world not once, but twice.

Cher, as we know, did eventually came around (though she still made little jokes from the side of her mouth about having a gay child, reliving that frustration repeatedly).

The fact that Cher has so embraced the LGBTQ community as a whole (rather than just gay folks in her fan base), includes her own child in her appreciation and does so publicly is to be commended. She and Chaz both saw Chaz’s truth an “elephant in the room,” yet they continued to work through things together (enlisting the assistance of gay-affirming therapists also helped), leading by example to all onlookers.

Chaz, composed, articulate and helpful with the press and his mom all along the way, cited statistics about queer youth who need help alongside his own personal story. Such selflessness…it’s why we love Chaz all the more.

 

Remembering Your Spirit – Chaz Comes Out: Part 2

“How can we persecute people for being who they are?”

- Cher

Around mid-2008, Chaz Bono began to make his gender transition, and has made so much progress all along the way in terms of the peace of mind he says he feels and in terms of his relationship with his mother.

While Cher admits she still has problems using the appropriate pronoun to this day, at least she’s trying. She knows that each time she uses the wrong pronoun, she’s more the butt of the joke than anyone else. It seems like she does so to cope, and then quickly corrects herself. In a way, she’s modeling the process for parents with each new mistake she makes (oops, fumble, quick sincere correction). And as Cher stumbles along through her journey to continued enlightenment (as we all do), there’s a grace in the fumbling for truth and comfort. It’s a pleasure to see the both of them working together amicably for LGBTQ advocacy when Chaz had once been—however temporarily—kicked out of the house for revealing his truth to his mom.

Remembering your Spirit – You’ve Come A Long Way, Mommy.

“Your job as a parent is to support your children.”

- Cher (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CupvzhC8_4)

Cher went from Mama Scared to Mama Bear, as she’s come to call out Chaz’s opponents, haters and trolls on Twitter and in the media without hesitation.

The evolution of Cher’s journey continues as the word “No” falls from her lips most effortlessly when Russian Olympic officials ask her to perform in Sochi, Russia for the upcoming Olympic Games. There’s no way that will happen until Russia’s anti-gay legislation and environment changes. As Russia’s embroiled in the debate regarding the IOC’s degrees of homophobia and Russia’s governmental clarity around the issue, Cher doesn’t care about the so-called degrees and semantics involved.

Cher recently told Maclean’s:

I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show. I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does….

[But] people hated Sonny and I in the early days because we looked and acted so different. Sonny was always getting into fights—people would called him ‘fag’ and he’d get his nose broken—only because we were dressing different. And these were our street clothes! You can’t forget that.”

Coming out isn’t always safe (family-wise, financially, etc.,) and some of us don’t have parents, families or friends who will take us back and come to understand us. However, when we can and as we can come out and share our experiences, we need substantive support. When people can’t admit their shortcomings or lack of understanding, that’s one thing. But when they lash out violently or destructively in light of their confusion or lack of understanding, everything escalates, and everything’s dangerous.

Kudos to Cher for realizing how dire the situation in Russia is and for boycotting the Olympics and being a “heart-core” ally, in theory, in practice and in love.

 

Related Links and Resources

Websites

Chaz Bono Official Homepage: http://chazbono.net

PFLAG: Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays: http://www.pflag.org/‎

 

Books

Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming-Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, & Their Families – by Chaz Bono http://www.amazon.com/Family-Outing-Coming-Out-Lesbians-Families/dp/0316115967

Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be – by Chaz Bono http://www.amazon.com/Transition-Becoming-Always-Meant/dp/B004XFYIBU

 

Film

Becoming Chaz Documentary: http://chazbono.net/becomingchaz.html

 

It’s In our Hands: On #Russia4Love, Lesbiru.com and Our LGBTQIA Activist Family In Russia

 

Use Your Words: On Activists Inside Russia

“It’s also no surprise that Russian deputies continue to reintroduce the question of recriminalizing LGBT people, since society still widely regards homosexuals as mentally ill, perverted pedophiles. Any homophobe trying to isolate them can always count on the support of the Russian people. Even the legislation that outlaws the stirring of national or religious hatreds is silent about us. The young generation will need a lot of time to begin speaking openly about their rights and finding the courage to come out.”

- Vdova, Co-Founder of Lesbiru.com

Founded in 2001, Lesbiru.com is a lifeline for lesbians and LGBTQIA folks in Russia and worldwide, advocating for human rights from within Russia and speaking for lesbians in-country. They also create content for–and host a myriad of–sister sites and social media pages. On perusing its latest English language updates, you can’t help but to reflect on the perilous fate of Russian activists at this time.

As Vdova’s words indicate above, LGBTQIA persons of experience in Post-Perestroika Russia were at least somewhat tolerated. Now, with Putin’s anti-gay about face instituted by the government, the fate of LGBTQIA activists and allies in Russia is under serious question. Many activists are being fined, jailed (see Pussy Riot and others), pressured to disassociate from the community and work for the government, and otherwise penalized. This is taking place in addition to the festering climate advocating anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence.

We’ve recently lost Nikolay Alexeyev from our ranks, a prominent Russian gay activist, journalist and filmmaker, as Russian authorities raided his home and confiscated his effects. Shortly thereafter, he publicly denounced the LGBTQIA civil rights movement. It isn’t hard to guess why he too has had to make a sudden about face and “change” his philosophies and decades-long solid track record of human rights activism in a matter of days.

The hobbling of Pussy Riot and other Russian queer activists, celebrities, journalists, people and groups in addition to the Sochi controversy makes the fate of in-country activists seemingly uncertain. However, the endgame, according to Russian officials, is certain. The aim is to silence anything or anyone LGBTQ or affiliated—this includes people or organizations who seem queer or who advocate LGBTQ persons, period.

 

Use Your Outside Voice: How We Can Help

These laws aim to force LGBT people into lives of secrecy. They will especially have a devastating impact on young LGBT people who will be left unable to be open about themselves and unable to access relevant services, with all the potential physical and mental health issues which may arise from this. In addition, it sends a green light to extremists that LGBT people are legitimate targets. This is reflected in the rising violence against LGBT people in recent times in Russia. These new laws represent a serious attack on human rights in Europe. They send out the clear message from the Russian government and parliament that intolerance of others is acceptable and that human rights are not inviolable but rather are political notions which can be rowed back when it is politically advantageous to do so.”

- GLEN

With its official event launch on Red Tuesday (9/3/13), The Speak Out for Russia campaign includes performances, artistic and activist projects, and public speaking and forums all around the globe, expressing solidarity with the Russian LGBTQ community. We’re still speaking out.

We can help our Russian allies by joining this campaign or starting our own. Too, the GLEN recently published a few suggestions of ways you can help:

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What Can People Do As Individuals?

Let the LGBT communities in Russia know you are standing in solidarity.

Use the Internet and social media to let them know that they are not alone. Ireland is an amazing example of a country which has come a long way in quite a short period of time. The Irish story is a profound message of hope and of what is possible, even at times when it appears progress is impossible.

Be a political/ethical consumer. Buy products from companies that have come out in support of LGBT equality, regardless of what country they are made in.

If you plan to travel to Russia then make sure you check with [your] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for safety updates.

Finally and most importantly, be committed for the long haul. The sad truth is that these laws will probably not be rescinded in the short term. This is the beginning of a long campaign to change laws, hearts and minds.

Source

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Real-Time Support, Moving Forward

The more we make our quest for human rights known, the more the world responds. Don’t believe it? You can believe it: per the prodding of GLEN, their sister organizations in Ireland and many activists worldwide, the Irish government has now publicly condemned the anti-gay actions of the Russian government. Governments are imperfect to be sure–but when they set precedents like this, it indicts them to advocate for its own citizens’ human rights that much more, and to advocate for human rights worldwide that much more.

We simply must keep hope alive.

There’s so much more that you can do: support independent thinkers and bloggers around the world. Make your voice heard. Perform at, attend or donate money to benefits supporting LGBTQ culture and causes.

Follow the #Russia4Love hashtag on Twitter or visit AllOut to find events near you, and please connect with us or comment to share more ideas and support.

Peacefully,

Gay Agenda

 

Marilyn the Gender-Transcender: Catching Up With the Legendary Peter Robinson

 

Pray for That Sunshine: An Artist’s Life In Bloom

Peter Robinson, also known as world-renowned performing artist Marilyn, is a British pop performer and fashion icon with punk rock roots who influenced countless indie glam artists and celebs of the 80s and 90s all around the globe. Making his name as a club star in the vein of Warhol’s Factory crew (coming up, Marilyn was one of the New Romantics / Blitz Kids in the UK), Robinson came to be Boy George’s BFF, eventually recording songs in the same multi-culti vein as Boy George and touring around the world to gain a fan base of his own.

As for fashion, the Jamaican-born Marilyn is at once the painter and the palette. Breathtakingly beautiful, Robinson moved from being a Marilyn Monroe doppelganger to fearless “gender bending” photo spreads and gear. Along with Boy George, Marilyn helped renew fascination with androgyny in music and fashion.

For the Love of Marilyn

Marilyn earnestly, artistically channels and embodies soulfulness and strength. Fluidity and style. Androgyny and power. Charisma and grace. Ever the consummate singer, songwriter and performer.

In the 80s, his emotive dance tracks like “Calling Your Name,” “You Don’t Love Me” and “Give It Up” have earned him critical and audience acclaim. He enjoyed moderate success in the UK charts  with tracks such as “Calling Your Name,” “You Don’t Love Me,” and others.

More than just a protege, Marilyn truly came into his own developing himself beyond the club kid persona into a prolific, successful artist. The camera adores him: his exquisite, gender-transcending beauty then, now and always, is undeniably magnetic. So much so, the British pop duo Eurythmics cast him as a featured cameo “girl” in their video for “Who’s That Girl:” he rocked gorgeous dreads while striking a pose and enchanting viewers.

Coming up in the UK with peers like Boy George and many others, Marilyn contributed his honeyed, soulful vocals as one of a select group of prominent artists participating in Bob Geldof’s “Band Aid” charity project. His life’s path speaks to an artistic longevity that’s rare in the entertainment business.

He’s still doing his thing—when you visit his Twitter and Facebook pages, he’s ki-ki’ing with Boy George and other pals, occasionally traveling from spa to spa, though apparently the well runs dry sometimes: times are tougher than they used to be, by his own admission (in a recent Twitter share, he told his fans buying a simple cold drink was something he couldn’t afford when he was out and about).

Apparently, he’s recording new studio tracks and has weathered the storm of the Gavin Rossdale tabloid drama with grace, even lightly rekindling his friendship with Gavin, as well as building new bridges with Boy George.

Homophobic Media Outs Itself Yet Again

A backgrounder: Hollywood handled Marilyn’s relationship history with Rossdale altogether horribly: the “scandal” of the story didn’t last all too long, but what most reporters focused on were phrases like “gay lover,” “scandal,” “cross-dressing,” “gay affair,” and “gay fling” (WTH is a ‘gay fling?’ Their relationship or romance lasted more than a weekend, and they collaborated artistically). Other short-sighted, outmoded and pejorative terms prevailed. No cheating was involved, and their connection was in the past: this was simply a dirt-digging mission that more than anything highlighted mainstream media’s antiquated homophobic and transphobic tendencies.

When you clock the images from their time together, they’re clearly quite close at the very least, and though Marilyn agreed to keep Rossdale’s past quiet at one time, Boy George’s tell-all book reopened old wounds. From all reports, fans feel vindicated (Rossdale spent many years denying his relationship with Marilyn, finally revealing the truth of it, however dismissively).

Truth Heals All: We’re Waiting for You, Maz

At the end of the day, Marilyn’s fans are happy all parties have moved on and are eager to hear about and support Robinson’s latest shiny new project.

You can’t help but to root for him as he inspires, rallies and returns.

You only need to hear his achingly brilliant track “Third Eye” to experience the complexity and majesty that is Marilyn. He’s as fragile as a flower unfolding, and as strong as a soul diva.

Marilyn’s got that High Loveability Factor: you just want him to keep on winning.

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To check out some of Marilyn’s delightful, delicious and delovely then and now photographs, please visit the links below.

Marilyn’s Facebook Fan Page

Will The Real Marilyn Monroe Please Stand Up: Marilyn & the Blitz Kids

WOW: The Blitz Kids Documentary Page

 

Taking Children From Their Homes: Russia Introduces Bill To Remove Gay Parenting Rights

“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.

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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?

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