Showing posts with label lgbt stuff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lgbt stuff. Show all posts

10.14.2017

update: the gay cop on barney miller comes out, plus an adorable child sex worker

About a month ago, I wrote about an episode from the late 1970s-early 1980s sitcom "Barney Miller", in which the squad discovers that an officer from their precinct is gay. To my surprise, Officer Zatelli returned to Barney Miller -- and he came out, right there in the squad room.

That's Zatelli (Dino Natali)
on the right, blurting out: "I'm gay!"
In this follow-up episode, gay couple Marty and Mr. Driscoll return to the squad room after a long absence. Driscoll's ex-wife is trying to prevent him from seeing his son, and the couple comes to the 12th Precinct for help. When they find none, Driscoll collects his son anyway, and the ex-wife is pressing charges; Officer Zatelli happens to be there.

While the plot device bringing these characters together was a bit clunky and obvious, the episode, which aired one year after the first gay-cop episode, demonstrates a bit of social progress. When the mincing Marty makes a sarcastic comment about the squad room decor, his partner Driscoll says, "Can we stop perpetuating the stereotype for a moment and get on with this?" Wojo's homophobia is on display again, but this time it is even more isolated, as no one else has a problem. Even the plot line is progressive, acknowledging Driscoll as a loving and positive influence in his son's life.

And then it happens. When the ex-wife goes on bigoted rant about "those people" and their "degrading, unnatural lifestyle," Zatelli tries to ignore it, then suddenly blurts out, "I'm gay!" It was a funny and poignant episode. It marks Marty and Driscoll's final appearance on the show.

* * * *

In my earlier Barney Miller post, I mentioned that the show re-used actors for multiple characters. In Seasons 6, 7, and 8 (the final season), this became completely ridiculous. The same actors show up repeatedly, playing different complaining citizens and arrestees. A criminal from one episode even turns up as a new detective in the 12th, which -- with the "retirement" of Fish (Abe Vigoda), the disappearance of any female detective, and the death of actor Jack Soo -- had gotten a bit empty.

If you go to the "full cast" link on the Barney Miller imdb page, beginning with John Dullaghan, look how many times those actors were all used! In that entire list from Dullaghan down, all but a few recurring roles have multiple character names listed for each actor -- many as many as 5, 6, or 7 roles!

In a show that sometimes had recurring characters, this became downright confusing. I can't imagine a TV show doing this now.

* * * *

The Barney Miller marital rape episode was puzzling, but, as it turns out, not uniquely strange: how about an episode featuring a child prostitute, played for laughs?

In "Call Girl," from Season 6, young Tasha Zemrus plays Rhonda Haleck, a sex worker so young and innocent that when asked for her age, replies "Fifteen and a half." She is a bit tough and wise-cracking, but appears squeaky-clean, well dressed, and well fed, in a way that a teenage street-walker would not.

Young Rhonda, sex worker, getting schooled by
Sassy Black Prostitute, sitcom edition.
Rhonda lives at a group home, and Detective Dorsey (played by Paul Lieber, the above-mentioned sometimes criminal, sometimes detective) uncovers the odd "coincidence" that numerous underage residents of the home have been arrested on similar charges. He accuses the avuncular adult who runs the home of pimping, and vows to watch him closely. (You can watch the episode here.)

Yet despite this suspicious revelation, Rhonda is sent home with the older man, and everyone has a good laugh at her cute little jokes.

Can you imagine a sitcom today playing child prostitution for laughs? Sex workers are a regular part of Barney Miller. They are always clean, well-dressed, and sassy. Some readers may remember Mary Tyler Moore's character Mary Richards getting arrested with a bunch of sex workers. They were also clean, well-dressed, and sassy. I guess that was the 1970s sitcom version of prostitution, more Neil Simon than Charles Dickens.

9.17.2017

ancient tv history: a gay cop on barney miller

Watching my comedy-before-bed daily dose of Barney Miller last night, I was surprised and pleased to see an episode about a gay cop. This reminded me of this post -- turns out it was 10 years ago! -- about a gay character on Dallas. Both episodes aired in 1979.

Officer Zatelli, played by Dino Natali
At the time I blogged about the Dallas episode, I thought this might have been pretty cutting-edge. Now that I see a similar theme on a show from the same year, I wonder if it might have been more mainstream than I realize?

In the Barney Miller ep, Lieutenant Scanlon -- a sleazeball from Internal Affairs* -- receives an anonymous letter from an officer saying he is gay, and no one on the force knows, demonstrating that being gay is not incompatible with being a good cop. The letter writer identifies himself as being assigned to the 12th Precinct.

The detectives are all surprised, but shrug it off as not their business. Wojo, who earlier in the series was the most homophobic of the group, is the most uncomfortable, but in the end declares that it wouldn't matter to him if he learned that anyone on the team is gay. Wojciehowicz, played by Max Gail, is the character who grows and changes the most in the course of the show, starting out as a lughead ex-Marine, and ending up just south of Hawkeye Pierce.

Captain Barney Miller himself insists that a cop's sexual preference -- as it was called then -- is nobody's business, and his contempt for Scanlon grows even deeper, which is saying something.

Recurring gay character Marty,
played by Jack DeLeon (centre). 
The gay cop makes himself known to Miller: it's Zatelli, a "uniform" who has an occasional walk-on part, taking over mail delivery when the diminutive Levitt (Ron Carey) finally gets promoted to plainclothes.

Barney's principal reaction to Zatelli is one of burden: now the Captain is obligated to let his superiors know, and Zatelli will be made to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Barney challenges Zatelli to come out, but acknowledges that is untenable. In the end, Miller respects Zatelli's privacy, and tells Scanlon to go to hell.

This may have been a very good lesson for the 1979 sitcom audience, but I'm sure the widespread acceptance of a gay colleague in the NYPD is a tad unrealistic. According to "Brooklyn 9-9" backstory, Captain Holt -- most awesome gay sitcom character ever -- became the first openly gay police officer on the NYPD in 1987.

As I mentioned in a previous post about Barney Miller, there is a gay character on the early seasons of the show. He was played quite mincing and flouncy -- although out and proud. Officer Zatelli is closeted, of course, and does not "act gay".

* * * *

Repeat offender -- the actor, not the character.
Another funny observation about this show. The minor characters, who are usually either the victim of a crime, someone who committed a crime, or lawyers, are played by actors that make multiple appearances -- as different characters! So the same actor appears, but he's not a repeat offender. His character has a new name and has committed an entirely different crime. Because I'm watching one or two episodes every night, I remember the bit parts more than real-time audiences might have. But I wonder if audiences found this strange at the time?

The earliest sitcoms, like "The Honeymooners" and "The Burns & Allen Show"** always used a stable of actors to play a rotation of bit parts. But I would have thought that by the late 1970s, this was no longer done. Talk about breaking the fourth wall. Imagine if dentist Tim Whatley, Steve from Long Island, and the Lucy-obsessed TV Guide guy had all been played by the same actor!


* Internal Affairs is portrayed as devious, dishonest, and out to bust decent, hardworking cops.

** A pioneer of television comedy, and one of my all-time favourite shows. It's the godfather of Seinfeld.

4.22.2017

what i'm reading: giovanni's room by james baldwin

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, a landmark in LGBT literature, is one of our library's current "Raves & Faves". The 1956 novel takes place in Paris, narrated by a young American man who is trying to come to terms with his sexuality.

In the past, this was said to be a "gay novel;" now it is seen as "bisexual novel". Leaving aside the obvious fact that novels don't possess sexuality, those labels are interpretation. The narrator himself doesn't have a name for his orientation; for him, neutral, descriptive language doesn't exist.

The story takes place in 1950s Paris, alive with expatriates, in a male subculture that is an open secret. The men who frequent Guillaume's bar are more open than they can be in their hometowns and original cultures, but their lives are still lived largely underground.

Our narrator -- his name is David, but the name is seldom used -- tells the story during a momentous night, one of pain and shame, looking back on the events that led to that night. David is engaged to an American woman, and he desperately wants to fully embrace a conventional life with her. When he falls in love with an Italian bartender named Giovanni, he cannot simply turn away. They have a relationship, and it ends in tragedy.

More than anything, Giovanni's Room is about shame -- what happens to people when their identity, their entire concept of themselves, is considered wrong, dirty, and shameful. What happens to their relationships, what happens, if you will, to their souls.

An older man -- a "queen" and a pathetic person in David's eyes -- gives David this advice, and for me it sums up the meaning of the book.
I looked over at Giovanni, who now had one arm around the ruined-looking girl, who could have once been very beautiful but who never would be now.

Jacques followed my look. 'He is very fond of you,' he said, 'already. But this doesn't make you happy or proud, as it should. It makes you frightened and ashamed. Why?'

'I don't understand him,' I said at last. I don't know what his friendship means; I don't know what he means by friendship.'

Jacques laughed. 'You don't know what he means by friendship but you have the feeling it may not be safe. You are afraid it may change you. What kind of friendship have you had?'

I said nothing.

'Or for that matter,' he continued, 'what kind of love affairs?'

I was silent for so long that he teased me, saying, 'Come out, come out, wherever you are.'

And I grinned, feeling chilled.

'Love him,' said Jacques, with vehemence, 'love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? And how long, at the best, can it last? Since you are both men and still have everywhere to go? Only five minutes, I assure you, only five minutes, and most of that, hélas! in the dark. And if you think of them as dirty, then they will be dirty — they will be dirty because you will be giving nothing, you will be despising your flesh and his. But you can make your time together anything but dirty; you can give each other something which will make both of you better — forever — if you will not be ashamed, if you will only not play it safe.' He paused, watching me, and then looked down to his cognac. 'You play it safe long enough,' he said, in a different tone, 'and you'll end up trapped in your own dirty body, forever and forever and forever — like me.'
David is tormented by an almost existential inner conflict. Giovanni, on the other hand, feels that David is exaggerating, almost fabricating his troubles. He feels David should be able to love and marry his fiancee, and love men at the same time.
'Well. You are a very charming and good-looking and civilized boy and, unless you are impotent, I do not see what she has to complain about, or what you have to worry about. To arrange, mon cher, la vie pratique, is very simple — it only has to be done.' He reflected. 'Sometimes things go wrong, I agree; then you have to arrange it another way. But it is certainly not the English melodrama you make it. Why, that way, life would simply be unbearable.'
David cannot conceive of this. He can only love Giovanni, and hate him for what he represents, and hate himself for loving this man that he both loves and hates.
Giovanni had awakened an itch, had released a gnaw in me. I realized it one afternoon, when I was taking him to work via the Boulevard Montparnasse. We had bought a kilo of cherries and we were eating them as we walked along. We were both insufferably childish and high-spirited that afternoon and the spectacle we presented, two grown men jostling each other on the wide sidewalk and aiming the cherry pits, as though they were spitballs, into each other's faces, must have been outrageous. And I realized that such childishness was fantastic at my age and the happiness out of which it sprang yet more so; for that moment I really loved Giovanni, who had never seemed more beautiful than he was that afternoon. And, watching his face, I realized that it meant much to me that I could make his face so bright. I saw that I might be willing to give a great deal not to lose that power. And I felt myself flow toward him, as a river rushes when the ice breaks up. Yet, at that very moment, there passed between us on the pavement another boy, a stranger, and I invested him at once with Giovanni's beauty and what I felt for Giovanni I also felt for him. Giovanni saw this and saw my face and it made him laugh the more. I blushed and he kept laughing and then the boulevard, the light, the sound of his laughter turned into a scene from a nightmare. I kept looking at the trees, the light falling through the leaves. I felt sorrow and shame and panic and great bitterness. At the same time — it was part of my turmoil and also outside it — I felt the muscles in my neck tighten with the effort I was making not to turn my head and watch that boy diminish down the bright avenue. The beast which Giovanni had awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni anymore. And would I then, like all the others, find myself turning and following all kinds of boys down God knows what dark avenues, into what dark places?

With this fearful intimation there opened in me a hatred for Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots.
Interestingly, this is Baldwin's only novel where all the characters are white. In the 1950s, writing about men loving men was already wildly controversial and taboo. Adding colour to the equation was impossible. In those days, any novel featuring African-Americans was by definition "about" being black in America -- "the Negro question," as it was then known. The only way to make this book "about" being gay or bisexual, was to keep all the characters white, so colour could not be read as a factor.

Baldwin's writing is elegant and beautiful. The action of the story is very simple, which helps frame David's tumultuous inner life. The book is short, and it reads quickly -- but it is memorable and haunting.

4.18.2017

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #23

Girl: Do you have this book, something like, "keeping a secret about you"?

Me: Let's take a look in the catalogue. [Stalling for time while scrolling through titles in my mind.] Hmm, do you mean Keeping You a Secret?

Girl: Yes! I took a bus all the way from the South Common branch to here to get this book so I hope you have it.

I recognize it as a good title by Julie Peters, excellent writer of LGBT-themed girl books.

Me: Let's go over to the youth section to look for it.

Girl: Do you know any other good books? Anything LGBT! I want to read lots of LGBT stuff.

Me: You've come to the right place, we have a lot of it. I'm making a list now for our upcoming Pride display. [Technically speaking this is not true -- but I will be updating our list in about a month or so.]

Girl, pumping fist: Yes!

We get to the shelf... and it's there! Yay! We're both happy.

Girl: Is there any place I can charge my phone?

I point out some places she can hang out, she thanks me and leaves -- and I'm immediately sorry I didn't find another title for her.

I remember another good LGBT book, but my mind goes blank when I try to remember the title or the author's name. But I know around where it is on the shelf, so I walk quickly through the youth collection and spot it: The Vast Fields of Ordinary.

I grab it off the shelf and quickly walk around looking for the girl, hoping she is charging her phone. I spot her from across the floor and double-time it over to her.

Me: So glad you're still here! I have another book for you.

She takes it from me.

Girl: Great, I'll take this one, too. Thanks!

I'm totally casual on the outside, but inside I am almost crying from joy. This happens now. Easily, daily, in a perfectly no-big-deal way. Perhaps it should be unremarkable to me -- after all, I do live in Canada in the 21st Century. But this is a sea change I have seen in my lifetime and it fills me with such pride and joy.

I know it isn't like this everywhere, but because it is like this somewhere, it means it can be like this, one day, everywhere.

1.08.2017

what i'm reading: four realistic youth novels

Young-adult publishers' mania for series, with the emphasis on fantasy, has finally ebbed. There are still plenty of fantasy series to go around, but the new crop of youth novels is chock full of individual titles in the realistic mode. (In YA land, "realistic" means the opposite of fantasy: set in the existing world with real humans only.)

I've recently read four such novels. I chose three of them because the titles and covers intrigued me, and one based on the author's previous novel. Here are my impressions.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
On the ever-expanding LGBTQ youth bookshelf, Girl Mans Up appears to be the first book to feature a butch lesbian, and I must say it's a welcome addition. All the other female gay protagonists I'm aware of are written in the "just like everyone else, but gay" vein, people whose orientation would not be guessed if not already known. Not so for Pen.

Pen is butch and a little bit genderqueer. Her old-world European parents don't understand her. Her guy friends accept her -- as long as she conforms to their expectations. Her brother is her rock of strength and unconditional love. But in order to be fully herself, she'll have to "man up".

The best thing about Pen is that she's comfortable in her own skin. She has no doubts about her identity or gender. Her problems arise from other people's expectations or intolerance. Her problems also stem from her best friend -- who is a jerk, if only Pen can see him clearly.

One could say this is a book where nothing much happens. Life happens. Regular, ordinary, everyday life, as lived by a teen in the process of finding her place in the world. For some readers, this is enough. For me, it's a welcome change from the conveniently placed life-tragedy that yields wisdom, a staple of youth fiction. For many readers, though, it will not be enough, especially clocking in at 384 pages. One thing is certain, you will love Pen.

The Great American Whatever, by Tim Federle
Quinn, the main character of Tim Federle's first youth novel, is coping with the aftermath of his sister's death, and his mother's subsequent depression. He's also gay, and that's not a problem.

Up to now, Quinn has been hiding in his room, wrapped in his love of old movies. When his best friend Geoff convinces him to take a step forward, Quinn meets a hot guy and falls for him.

Quinn is a fun narrator, and his friendship with Geoff is more important to the story than his new crush. Not a lot happens, but enough happens to make it interesting. Things play out realistically, which I appreciate.

If you're well-versed in contemporary youth fiction, the plot, the themes, and even the voice of The Great American Whatever may seem cliched and derivative. The dead older sibling. The parent with serious depression. The parent who walked out. The wise-cracking male narrator. We know them all. But if you're new to realistic youth novels, or just can't get enough of this type of book, TGAW may seem fresh, breezy, fun, and meaningful.

What Light by Jay Asher
Jay Asher is the author of the 2007 blockbuster youth novel 13 Reasons Why, which explores a teen suicide -- its causes and its aftermath. The book, widely promoted and popular at the time of publication, is now seeing a second life with the current interest in bullying. The publisher has released a 10th anniversary edition, a rare honour in the YA world.

It would be a lot to expect Asher to live up to the promise of this earlier, but I did expect a book with some weight and significance. I was very disappointed. What Light is a sweet, fluffy Christmas romance. The characters are flat and lifeless. Thoughts, feelings, and actions are described in excruciating detail. Girls think about boys, shopping, and who gets to own the title of Best Friend.

Of course, many readers love Christmas romances, and there's no harm in that. But there is harm hiding in this snowflake of a book. Sierra falls for Caleb; Caleb has a big secret, something shocking from his past that he is afraid to share with Sierra. The secret turns out to be a violent episode, in which Caleb was completely out of control. Only because of someone else's quick thinking, the episode did not end in tragedy.

The reader is repeatedly told that this incident was a one-time event, that Caleb is a good person who only needs a second chance. I thought Caleb might be dangerous. But apparently with the love and understanding of a nice girl, the past can be left behind and everything can be forgiven.

The audience for this book is almost exclusively female, and I am concerned about what messages they will take away. No matter what's in a guy's past, if he's charming enough and really sorry, you can overlook it. Warnings from parents and friends can be ignored. And if a guy has a problem, a smart girl can fix it. Sierra is a bland, blank character brought to life by her desire to fix Caleb, throwing herself into the project almost immediately after meeting him. It disturbs me that anyone writing for youth in the 21st century thinks this is appropriate.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
I've saved the best for last. The Female of the Species is searingly honest, powerfully frank, disturbing in all the right ways, yet ultimately hopeful in a realistic way.

Alex Craft's older sister was abducted, raped, and murdered. (Dead sister, absent father, depressed mother.) In response, Alex has locked herself in mental and emotional armour. Also in response -- this will sound like a spoiler, but isn't -- she has murdered her sister's assailant.

In addition to Alex, trying not to feel, there is Peekay, trying not to be perfect, and trying to get over a broken heart. Good-looking and gifted Jack is trying to create a life with more meaning. Jack simultaneously pursues sex with the classically beautiful Branley and is ashamed of his shallowness. He craves something more lasting and authentic, and finds himself drawn to Alex. The gorgeous Branley, envy of all girls and object of desire of all boys, is collapsing under a self-worth based entirely on beauty and sexual availability. Adam, Peekay's ex, is sleeping with Branley. All are haunted by the memory of Anna, Alex's sister, but rape is not only a memory. Rape is an ever-present possibility.

The Female of the Species is about violence -- the violence and the threat of violence that hangs over every female in our society -- and the coping strategies we employ to deal with it. The violence runs the gamut from washroom graffiti and street harassment to roofies, rape, and murder. Many reviewers have noted that the book is about rape culture, which is true. But Alex and Peekay's volunteer work in an animal shelter show that the violence is not limited to women and girls. It is perpetrated, every day, on the powerless, the very creatures it is our responsibility to protect.

I had two problems with this book, but I'm guessing teen readers won't be bothered by either of them. First, the story is told from three different perspectives -- Alex, Peekay, and Jack -- but they all sound exactly the same. It's a challenge to write in different voices, but as an author, if you're giving three different first-person perspectives, you've accepted that challenge.

My second, more significant problem was that I found Alex's abilities hard to believe. As a revenge fantasy, it totally works. But as reality -- a teenage girl who literally gets away with murder, in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else's business -- it strains credulity. None of the reviewers on Goodreads mention this, so I might be the odd reader for whom Alex's revenge didn't seem real.

Despite this reservation, I can say this is an excellent, hard-hitting, honest and gripping story. It's one of the few youth novels to bring an unflinching eye to violence and the society that has more than enough of it to go around.

9.28.2015

bernie sanders, the pope, and the politics of amnesia

I see a lot of excitement online, in places like Common Dreams and The Nation, and in my Facebook feed, about Bernie Sanders, supposedly remaking US politics, and Pope Francis, supposedly remaking the Roman Catholic Church.

About Sanders, I shake my head and wonder why long-time Democrat voters do not see him and his candidacy for what it is. About the Pope, I wonder why progressive people allow themselves to care.

Sanders is the new Dean

Bernie Sanders has been praised as a maverick, an independent, and a socialist. All of which may have been true at various points in his political career.

Right now Sanders is running for President as a Democrat. He is not spearheading a movement to build a new alternative. He is not refusing corporate funding and appealing to the grassroots. He is not "challenging politics as usual," as headlines in progressive news sites often say. He is seeking the Democratic nomination, which means he will play within the boundaries of that game.

And that game demands that Bernie Sanders not run for president. I suspect it's already a done deal: that in return for firing up progressive voters and helping them to believe that their cause is the Democrats' cause, he has already been offered a cabinet position, should Hillary become POTUS. I'd be shocked to learn that this is not the case.

However, whether or not there is already a backroom deal in place, we can be assured that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic presidential nominee. No matter the size of the crowds at his appearances, no matter the polls. The nominee is not chosen based on crowds, nor on polls.

Just as we have always been at war with Eastasia, there has always been a Bernie Sanders. His name has been Dennis Kucinich, and Howard Dean. His name has been Jesse Jackson, and Paul Wellstone. He exists to reassure and corral the liberal vote. He does his part, then fades away, as the "electable" candidate is tapped for the big show.

I recently saw this headline: Sanders and Trump Offer Two Roads Out of Establishment Politics—Which Will We Follow?. In what way does Sanders offer a "road out of establishment politics"? During his tenure in Congress, he has voted with the Democrats 98% of the time. Sanders is seeking the Democratic candidacy and Trump is seeking the Republican candidacy. What is anti-establishment about that?

Francis is not the new anything

And then there's the "radical pope". If ever there was a time for the "you keep on using that word" meme, surely it is when the word radical is applied to the leader of the largest hierarchy on the planet.

In what way is this pope radical? He has said some things. He has made some statements.

Pope Francis has declared that Catholic priests will temporarily be allowed to absolve the sin of abortion without obtaining special permission from a bishop. And media hailed this as the Church softening its stance on abortion!

Absolution? The Pope should be begging our forgiveness for the untold number of women who have died from illegal abortions, the orphans and desperately poor children whose mothers were denied contraception, the families forced into poverty by the Church's own policies. The Church offers a brief amnesty for women who exercised their human rights? Fuck you.

Pope Francis has made some statements against unchecked capitalism and in sympathy with the world's poor. Has the Church renounced its immense, tax-exempt wealth in order to feed the hungry world?

"God weeps," said this Pope, at child sexual abuse, and similar statements of contrition that survivors have heard from two popes before him. Pope Francis praised his bishops' handling of the sex abuse crisis, only to back down after an outcry from survivors and advocates. One more "carefully choreographed" statement. One more nothing. If survivors themselves had not risen up and demanded the world hear them, the Church would still be playing whack-a-mole with pedophile priests.

Pope Francis has acknowledged that LGBT people are human beings, and perhaps will not suffer eternal damnation for leading their own lives. Gee thanks, Pope.

There is no doubt that Pope Francis has changed the tone of a tone-deaf institution that is decades, if not centuries, behind the times. Because liberation movements - of women, LGBT people, indigenous people, sexual abuse survivors - have changed our very world, the Church was finally forced to acknowledge modernity.

But he has altered nothing of substance, and certainly has not moved one iota towards radical change.

This pope name-dropped the great radical leader Dorothy Day, much as every US politician quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. But besides his speeches in the US, what did Pope Francis actually do? He canonized Father Junípero Serra, a Spanish priest who was actively complicit in the genocide of indigenous peoples of North and South America.

Yet this change of tone and some heartfelt conciliatory speeches are enough for the media - including much alternative media - to hail Pope Francis as a Great Bringer of Change.

Mass amnesia

I watched in wonder as liberal USians hailed Obama as the Great Bringer of Change, then had their hearts broken, as per usual. Yet now, less than a decade later, they appear to be hypnotized again.

Bernie Sanders will not save us. Pope Francis will not save us. We are the people we have been waiting for. If we want radical change, we have to band together and create it ourselves. Idle No More. Occupy Wall Street. Fight for 15. The member organizations of 350.org. Food Inc. No One Is Illegal. Marinaleda. Los Indignados. And a million other groups - groups without names, groups without media coverage - groups of people, acting collectively. This is the way forward.

Vote for Sanders in the primaries. Then dutifully vote for Hillary for president. And wonder why nothing ever changes.

6.28.2015

some thoughts on the u.s. moving a bit closer to equality (#lovewins)

At last, it has happened. With Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage has been declared legal and constitutional in the United States. Same-sex couples can legally marry, just as opposite-sex couples have always had the right to do. Most importantly, laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are now unconstitutional.*

For some years on this blog, I used to note every country that joined the equal marriage club, but about two years ago, I stopped counting. More than 20 countries now recognize same-sex marriage as a right, and that number continues to climb.

This issue has always been, is, and always should be a complete no-brainer. Equality is equality. Rights are rights. We can't have rights for some and not others. That couldn't be more obvious. The debate in the US, especially the displays of extreme homophobia and bigotry from the other side, has helped the vast middle of the road to adjust to the idea.


That's why yesterday's SCOTUS decision, although incredibly wonderful, is tinged with a sad after-taste. I fully expected this ruling, but I imagined something more like 7-2 or 6-3. The 5-4 majority, and the small-minded bigotry embedded in the dissenting opinions, are disturbing evidence of the deep and frightening divisions that exist at every level of US society.

Right now it's Pride, and we're all celebrating, and we're not fretting over this close call. That's as it should be. But reading quotes from Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion makes my flesh crawl. This is a Supreme Court Justice, one of the most powerful positions in a country that claims to be a modern democracy. Say no more.

Shortly after the Harper Government was elected, the new Prime Minister brought a motion before Parliament to re-open the issue of same-sex marriage. Equal marriage had been the law in Ontario since 2003, then became legal in eight provinces and one territory, and finally was enshrined nationally on July 20, 2005. But Harper had promised his socially conservative backers this one re-visit. This would be a "free vote," where all Members of Parliament could vote according to their individual consciences, rather than voting as a party, the way the Parliamentary system normally works. The motion to re-open the issue was defeated 175 to 123.


Allan and I had moved to Canada only a few months before this, and were still getting up to speed on how the system works. We expressed surprise and dismay at the closeness of the vote... and learned that the previous votes, the second and third readings of the Civil Marriage Act, were carried by 164-137 and 158-133, respectively. That 175-123, the last stand of the backwards thinkers, was actually an improvement.

This is so hard to get my mind around. More than 100 elected representatives to the Canadian House of Commons believed it should be legal to deny a same-sex couple the same rights afforded an opposite-sex couple. I think this is what the over-used word mind-boggling refers to.

Mind you, I could care less about legal marriage personally. To me it's an antiquated and meaningless institution. Not love. Love is The Most Important Force in the World. Not commitment, and partnership, and dedication, and chosen family. But legal marriage. That choice has been my privilege as a woman partnered with a man. If I was partnered with a woman, the choice would have been made for me. I would be a second-class citizen, with fewer options, protections, rights, and privileges than if I had a male partner. So duh. No-brainer.

Yet four out of nine Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States disagree.

Thank you to Justices Kennedy, Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Thank you to every lower-court judge, every lawyer, every state legislator and mayor, who made this possible.

Thank you especially to every same-sex couple who didn't take no for an answer.

* * * * *

Vanity Fair: The Bitchiest Quotes from Scalia’s Gay Marriage Dissent

ThinkProgress: 19 Hysterical Passages From Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Dissenters

Gawker: The Craziest Lines in Every Dissenting Gay Marriage Opinion


* Many states continue to enforce anti-abortion laws that have been ruled unconstitutional, so there are still battles ahead.

6.21.2015

my feminism includes trans people. all women need to listen to each other.

The continuing liberation of transgender people is a marvel to behold. We are witnessing history, as trans people and their issues become part of the mainstream. From Chelsea Manning to "Transparent" to Laverne Cox, and of course Caitlyn Jenner, transgender people and issues have never been so front and centre. I don't do celebrity gossip so I don't know anything about the lurid lead-up to Jenner's coming out, but when the woman who cuts my hair asks me what I think about transgender people, I know something big is going on. There is more than one out trans person in the larger circle of my own life, something most of us never could have said throughout human history.

Of course the Vanity Fair cover reflects the reality of most transgender lives the way the Cosby Show reflected most African American lives. This New York Times article is a good wrap-up of where things stand - and where they don't - in the mainstream.

Naturally I consider myself an ally of trans people, as I would for any people asserting their own humanity and equality. For a feminist, a socialist, and someone who identifies as LGBT, this defines "no-brainer". So I find the current clash between different schools of feminist thought and the trans movement very sad - although predictable, and I think, temporary.

Apparently there are people who call themselves feminists who actually believe that trans women are not "real women" and should be excluded from the movement. That attitude is bigoted, offensive, and dangerous. As a general rule, anytime you agree with the anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-gay crowd, you might want to re-assess.

There are also feminists who feel that some of the language - and the policing of that language - around trans issues denies the reality of their own lives, and denies the struggle of women's own liberation. When they have stated this publicly, they've been accused of transphobia.

Abortion access organizations - small grassroots networks that help low-income women who want abortions - have changed their language to be inclusive to trans people. Instead of referring to "women who need abortions", they now say "people who need abortions". A transgender person in any stage of transition might become pregnant. If that person identifies as a man, he may also be a rape survivor. He deserves care that treats him with dignity and respect.

In the abortion-rights movement, not everyone is comfortable with this. I know from personal conversations that some felt pressured - even bullied - into making this change, rather than educated and supported. That's not the road to inclusion, either.

Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation, asks "Who Has Abortions?".
I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong—it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” . . .

From the perspective of providing care, I understand it. “The focus should be on access,” NYAAF board member Rye Young told me over the phone. The primary purpose of abortion funds is to provide immediate financial and other help to individuals in crisis, whom funders usually know only as voices on the phone. If wording on a website makes people feel they can’t make that phone call, that’s not good. We women have had enough experience with being disrespected by healthcare and social-service providers not to wish that on anyone else. Does presenting abortion as gender-neutral need to be part of that welcoming procedure, though? The primary sources of abortion data in the US—the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute—don’t collect information on the gender identity of those who seek abortion, but conversations with abortion providers and others suggest the number of transgender men who want to end a pregnancy is very low. I don’t see how it denies “the existence and humanity of trans people” to use language that describes the vast majority of those who seek to end a pregnancy. Why can’t references to people who don’t identify as women simply be added to references to women? After all, every year over 2,000 men get breast cancer and over 400 die, and no one is calling for “women” to be cut out of breast-cancer language so that men will feel more comfortable seeking treatment. If there was such a call, though, I wonder what would happen. Women have such a long history of minimizing themselves in order not to hurt feelings or seem self-promoting or attention-demanding. We are raised to put ourselves second, and too often, still, we do.
The column was vilified as transphobic and hateful. Pollitt was attacked on the internet as if she were Fred Phelps. Did most of the people tweeting and re-tweeting read the column in question? Were they seeing the full context?

This response was more helpful. In "Cisgender Women Aren’t the Only People Who Seek Abortions, and Activists’ Language Should Reflect That", Dr. Cheryl Chastine points out that the claim "99.999 percent of those who get pregnant" are cisgender women is not unlike an era that thought gay people were extremely rare - or, I would add, a culture that claims there are no gay people within it.
Feminists like Pollitt who argue against inclusive language assert that because “99.999 percent of the population” seeking abortions are cis women, it is inaccurate and inappropriate to use gender-inclusive language. So how many trans people are we really talking about? It’s more than 0.001 percent. Suppose you time-traveled back to the 1950s and asked the average physician how many of his or her patients were gay. They would probably respond, “None” or, “Maybe one or two.” It’d be easy to conclude, therefore, that 99.999 percent of all people were straight, so there’d be no need to include any forms of non-heterosexual orientation in language or activism. Assuming the proportion of non-heterosexual people has stayed roughly constant, though, our 1950s physician likely did have a number of gay, lesbian, or bisexual patients. The doctor simply took them to be heterosexual. They may have even presented themselves as such, out of a legitimate fear that the physician would behave prejudicially toward them.
Excellent article. Helpful. Calling Katha Pollitt a bigot on Twitter, not helpful. (No need to point out that uninformed bashing on Twitter is the norm. I'm aware.)

Another piece that was trashed as transphobic was Elinor Burkett's essay, "What Makes a Woman" in the New York Times. I can understand that. I was uncomfortable with some of it, too. At the same time, much of that essay resonates with me.
Do women and men have different brains?

Back when Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard and suggested that they did, the reaction was swift and merciless. Pundits branded him sexist. Faculty members deemed him a troglodyte. Alumni withheld donations.

But when Bruce Jenner said much the same thing in an April interview with Diane Sawyer, he was lionized for his bravery, even for his progressivism.

“My brain is much more female than it is male,” he told her, explaining how he knew that he was transgender.

This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup. Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause. ESPN announced it would give Ms. Jenner an award for courage. President Obama also praised her. Not to be outdone, Chelsea Manning hopped on Ms. Jenner’s gender train on Twitter, gushing, “I am so much more aware of my emotions; much more sensitive emotionally (and physically).”

A part of me winced.

I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.
I, too, feel that much of the discourse around trans issues reinforces gender stereotypes. We've struggled against these stereotypes, and we've spent a lifetime asserting our right to be women and to be people, even as we reject them. So it can hurt to hear women, whether cis or trans, embrace these stereotypes and define their womanhood and their personhood through them. This is what I took from Burkett's article.

Burkett also asserted that Caitlyn Jenner has benefited from male privilege most of her life, and that privilege comes into play now. I agree with that, too.

The fact that some of Burkett's essay resonated with me doesn't make me transphobic. My observations come from my own reality. I've had my own struggles to define myself and accept myself in a sexist world. My journey is different than that of a trans woman, and I'm sure in many ways it has been infinitely easier, but it is still my reality. Any cis woman finds herself agreeing with this essay needs space to assert this, without being accused of a bigotry that isn't (necessarily) there.

Trans people have every right to demand inclusion. But inclusion gained through silencing discussion is not really inclusion at all: it's separatism. At a certain stage in a movement, separatism may be what's needed. But for the road ahead, I hope to see us aim for understanding and solidarity - among all feminists, all LGBT people, and all allies.

These types of conflicts within and among social movements have a long and rich history. The second-wave feminists clashed with the pioneers of gay liberation. Going back further to the earliest days of the women's movement, in the 19th Century when women were fighting for basic civil rights, there were conflicts between feminism and the abolitionist and temperance movements. All movements have growing pains, early conflicts, and questions that can only be settled over time, through people's own lived experiences.

Experiencing these growing pains in the internet era amplifies and escalates the conflict. When someone publishes an essay, and one sentence of that essay ignites a Twitter storm - and it's reasonable to assume that many (most?) people retweeting have not read the essay, merely the offending sentence and the claim of bigotry - then there is no education. There is only noise.

I'm not equating Twitter attacks on Pollitt or Burkett with the struggles of transgender people for full acceptance and equality. I'm not suggesting cis feminists who are uncomfortable replacing the word "women" with "people" are victims.

I am merely suggesting that true inclusion is not about who can generate the most tweets - that is, who can yell the loudest. Feminists of all ages and eras have a lot to learn from this exciting wave of trans liberation. Trans women and their allies may have something to learn from previous waves of feminism. We'll only find out if we listen to each other.

* * * * *

Some good reading on this topic:

คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019It's Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women, Tina Vasquez, Bitch Media

On Trans Issues with Feminism and Strengthening the Movement's Gender Analysis, Jos Truitt, Feministing

Trans Women Are Women. Why Do We Have to Keep Saying This?, Leela Ginelle, Bitch Media, an analysis of Burkitt's essay

Who Has Abortions?, Katha Pollitt, The Nation

Cisgender Women Aren’t the Only People Who Seek Abortions, and Activists’ Language Should Reflect That, Cheryl Chastine, RH Reality Check

What Makes A Woman, Elinor Burkett, New York Times

Responses to Burkett's piece published in the Times. I'm using this because it represents multiple points of view.

5.17.2014

today is the international day against homophobia and transphobia

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, sometimes called IDAHO or IDAHOT.

This day is the perfect example of how I view all social progress: we have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go.

Come a long way: yesterday at the library, I put up a IDAHO display in the youth area. I found more gay- and lesbian-themed youth fiction than I could fit on the display. This filled me with such joy, knowing that gay and lesbian teens in my area can see their authentic selves reflected in the world around them, the way LGBT people in their parents' and grandparents' generations never could.

Still have a long way to go: where to begin? Most LGBT people do not live in a world that accepts and affirms their lives. And millions live in a world that criminalizes their basic humanity.

Please visit this page for 17 reasons we need May 17: #May17Because.

2.13.2014

read dave kopay's open letter to michael sam

Did I celebrate Michael Sam's coming out on Facebook and Twitter, and forget to mention it on wmtc?? Ack! Social media run amok!

The news that a top NFL prospect has come out as gay in advance of the draft is electrifying. The support for Sam among NFL players is awesome. At first, there was a conspicuous silence among NFL owners, but Giants owner Steve Tisch and Dolphins owner Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have stepped up. Perhaps more will follow.

Here's an excerpt from an open letter to Michael Sam from Dave Kopay, a former NFL player who came out as gay after he retired.
Not only am I excited for you, I am excited for the NFL. I know the SEC is thanking its lucky stars that a player like you has succeeded and developed, and it would be a significant thing for the entire sports world and for you to continue on your path in the National Football League. But know that now that you are "publicly out" as a gay man you must focus on doing your job and don't let any naysayers bring you down. You are no wallflower and you can handle whatever crap comes your way. You will bring it like you never have before. For a moment, let's just remember how far we have all come.

When I first attended college in 1960, the University of Missouri was only three years into having its first black football player. It was a school where the Confederate flag was still flown for touchdowns. Many SEC schools were still years behind accepting black players. "No Negroes allowed," they said. This got my blood boiling and I can only imagine how so many of my teammates -- both black and white -- at the University of Washington reacted on seeing those words.

I entered college as a high school three-sport letterman, somewhat of a gifted athlete compared to most high school players, and got by on my natural athletic ability. Unlike you, I was not a naturally "tough" guy. I certainly had no idea the toughness it would take to really play on a team that had just won two Rose Bowls. I started my sophomore year and, as I had pledged a fraternity, got the attention of a particular pledge brother, Ray, who would become the love of my life. But in those days I was part of the invisible world. We could never talk about our love for each other let alone how we made love. As a junior, after I had not played to the standards of toughness my coaches required, I got benched. I pledged that I would rise back to the top and I did, by playing 48 minutes a game, making some league honors and getting elected co-captain of our Rose Bowl team as a senior. Ray became a Marine Captain and was killed in Vietnam. We could never talk about anything dealing with our love for each other, but at least for a moment I was to know love and what a wondrous thing it is.

I tell you this to alert to the fact that there are those out there that will get in your way to succeed or to love as you see fit. I was in Green Bay in 1972 when I got the news of Ray's death. I told coach Dan Devine that I had a friend killed in Vietnam and that I wanted to go to his funeral in Seattle. He strongly objected. We normally had Mondays off, with a light practice on Tuesday and I told him I must go, and I would be back for practice from Seattle either Tuesday or Wednesday. I couldn't believe he would object me going to honor a dear friend who had just given his life for his country. I went to Ray's funeral and I was back for practice. I was cut from the squad the next year.

2.07.2014

an olympics for every protestor, and rainbow flags from canada... but not from rob ford

I started compiling my usual "why I can't watch the Olympics" post, when I read Dave Zirin... and stopped writing.
At every Olympics, you can cue the complaints, getting in the way when all we’re trying to do is enjoy a good luge.

Yet it took a visionary like Vladimir Putin, a man with the pecs to match his steely will, to finally figure out a way to unite the world and make the Olympics something for everybody. Everyone, thanks to Putin, has something to care about during the 2014 Sochi Games.

If you are a person with even the mildest concern for anything outside the five feet in front of your face, then this Olympiad is for you. No matter your cause, no matter your passion, Vladimir Putin has given you something to perk up about.
Something for everyone: LGBT rights, labour, the environment, genocide, cruelty to animals, free speech. Read "The 2014 Sochi Olympics: Something For Everyone!" on Edge of Sports, or at The Nation. It's truly priceless.

I was happy to hear that many Canadian cities have raised the Pride flag over their City Halls, to protest the homophobia and persecution of LGBT people around the Sochi Games. Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, went a few steps further.
Of course, Mayor Crack continues to embarrass himself and Toronto. Seriously, does anyone actually say "sexual preference" anymore?

In The Globe and Mail, Brenda Cossman reminds us that the Olympics have always been political, and has some suggestions on how we can push the issue.

And from the wmtc archives, my Olympics disgust: Beijing, Vancouver, and generally, London.


8.22.2013

her name is chelsea and she is a hero - and a scapegoat

A while back, I saw a blog post angrily asking why everyone referred to Bradley Manning as a man when it is "known" that he is trans. The answer is simple: out of respect. That's how Manning was identifying. Period. Anything else was rumour.

Now that Manning's court martial (fake trial) is over, she has come out as a transwoman. So now we can refer to Chelsea Manning with the same respect.

From Chase Madar, in The Nation:
Update, 8/22/2013: Yesterday, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Today, Chelsea Elizabeth Manning announced through her lawyer that she will live the rest of her life as a woman, and we have amended our comment from yesterday in conformity with who she is. Chelsea Manning will most likely be imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, which like all other US military prisons and many civilian ones, does not provide hormone therapy or gender transition surgery to transgender prisoners. These policies should be reversed immediately.

The best way to cope with humiliating military disaster is to find a scapegoat. For the Germans after World War I, it was leftists and Jews who “stabbed the nation in the back”—the Dolchsto?legende that set the global standard. In the resentful folklore that grows like kudzu around our Vietnam War, American defeat is blamed on the hippies and anti-American journalists who sabotaged a military effort that was on the verge of total victory. (More sophisticated revanchists season this pottage with imprecations against General Westmoreland’s leadership.)

The horrible problem with our Iraq and Afghan wars is that policy elites can’t find anyone to blame for their failure. Widespread fatigue with both wars never translated into an effective antiwar movement with any kind of mass base or high public profile. As for journalists, even liberal media platforms like The New Yorker and MSNBC dutifully mouthed administration propaganda in favor of both wars. (The liability of thoroughly embedded media is that they can’t be blamed for military failure.)

In other words, the usual suspects for stabbing-in-back whodunits all have ironclad alibis. Who will save us from this thoroughly unsatisfying anticlimax?

Enter Pfc. Chelsea Manning. In the young Oklahoman we finally have a scapegoat for two failed wars against whom Republicans and the deeply compromised Democrats can unite in vindictive harmony. Her release of 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks is well under 1 percent of what Washington classified last year, but the moral panic it has generated among American media and policy elites has scratched a certain punitive itch. Her thirty-five-year sentence is a sign that she must have done something seriously wrong. Finally, we have held someone responsible.

One almost has to admire the deft disingenuousness of our foreign policy mandarins. Though the real (and ongoing) carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan has elicited only their sulky silence, how they gush with brave humanitarian concern over the purely speculative damage they attribute to Manning and WikiLeaks! Some variation of “She has blood on her hands!” has been shrieked with joy by top civilian and military officials in the Obama administration.

The double-subjunctive mood of “may have put lives at risk of harm” is of course two degrees of reality removed from the actual slaughter that continues in our Afghan War (some 1,600 soldiers dead since Obama took office, and thousands more civilians, without any military or humanitarian gains to show), but no matter. Retired Brigadier General Robert Carr testified in the court-martial that there was no firm evidence of any Afghan civilian harmed by the release of the Afghan War logs. Military judge Denise Lind did not allow most of the State Department’s vaporous speculations of harm to US interests to be admitted as evidence against the young private.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t blame Chelsea Manning. After all, she is the only player in the saga of our Iraq War to be prosecuted—or to make a public apology. “I am sorry that my actions hurt people,” said the private, facing a possible ninety years in prison, in an effort to throw herself on the mercy of the judge. After all, no mea culpas have sprung from the lips of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Condi Rice; not from Bill or Hillary Clinton, both of whom supported the Iraq invasion; not from David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, which editorialized in favor of the war after publishing spurious reports on the links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Nor has New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who told a bemused Charlie Rose that the United States needed to invade Iraq and tell its troublesome inhabitants to “Suck. On. This.” The Bush/Cheney administration’s torture lawyer Jay Bybee has not apologized, and the feckless Democrats have not apologized for failing to impeach Bybee off the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he now wields immense power, just one judicial layer beneath the Supreme Court of the United States. This long and distinguished list of non-apologies could go on, and on, and on—but fortunately we have found a private to blame.

So thank God for Chelsea Manning. Not only did she provide us with hundreds of front-page news stories to enjoy with our morning coffee, she fulfills the sacred role of national scapegoat. All the good people who blame the teachers unions for child poverty and bicycle lanes for bad traffic can now hold Chelsea Manning responsible for the military and humanitarian failures of the past decade, for the hundreds of thousands dead, for the trillions of dollars spent, for the long-term public health damage that will give parts of Iraq astronomical rates of birth defects for generations.

As Dolchsto?legenden go, it’s pretty pathetic. But then our national standards have been slipping and it’s the best we can do. Manning’s thirty-five-year sentence could mean eight or nine more years in prison before release, at which point she will be able to live free, just like George W. Bush and Frank Wuterich, commander of the Marine unit that killed twenty-four civilians in Haditha, Iraq, many of them women and children slaughtered execution style. Manning’s sentence is shameful, cruel and stupid, like our Iraq War itself, to which the prosecution of this patriotic truth-teller is a bitterly appropriate finale.

8.14.2013

dimanno: let's make sochi the gay games

When I read Stephen Fry's open letter to the IOC, and the continued calls to boycott or move the Sochi Games because of the horrendous and institutionalized homophobic violence within Russia, I couldn't help but think of the Beijing Games. I absolutely understand the uproar over Russia's anti-gay laws, and I agree, of course. But did the same people make so much as a peep when the Olympics were in Beijing? China is one of the worst human rights offenders on the planet, but all I heard during the Beijing Olympics was "Go Canada".

I personally boycotted the Beijing Games (here's why), then soon discovered that I was done with the Olympics altogether. And certainly everyone who feels disgusted and offended at the homphobia emanating from Russia should personall boycott the games if that's what feels right to them. But Sochi is hosting, and that's not going to change. What can the people who'll be there do?

Rosie DiManno has the right idea. DiManno and I disagree on many things, especially on One Big Thing. But DiManno has been relentless on Toronto's Mayor Crack, as she is about police violence and abuse. And I think she's on the money on what needs to happen in Sochi.
American figure skater Johnny Weir intends to be his flamboyant gay self at the Sochi Olympics.

New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, homosexual and activist, will wear the Rainbow Pin created by the London 2012 Olympic Organizing Committee to promote diversity.

BBC presenter Clare Balding, best in show for sports commentary at those Games, will anchor 100 hours of Olympic coverage — undoubtedly as knowledgeable and frank as ever.

I defy any Russian government authority to drag an athlete off the medal podium or a lesbian personality out of the broadcast booth for the crime of making a pro-gay gesture or statement.

It won’t happen. The imbecilic legislation passed in June will be not merely ignored but exposed for all its ridiculous, draconian ambition. The athletes, primarily, will see to that. Throughout the history of the modern Games, they have always been the ones who’ve rescued the Olympics from politics, ideology and craven greed.

The most iconic image of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — the Nazi Games — is Jesse Owens accepting his gold medal, on four occasions, even while German rivals gave their “Heil Hitler” salutes. A black man put the boots to Aryan racial superiority, with a sour-faced Hitler looking on.

While too much of a burden is routinely placed on athletes to exemplify something other than their sporting pre-eminence, in Sochi they will once again transcend the rhetoric and ranting on all sides with memorable performances. That’s as it should be. There will be no boycott, no moving of the Games to another city, as some have promoted. Logistically, it’s impossible. Morally, it’s on slippery turf.

. . . . .

Only once has the IOC cleaved to a moral compass — banning apartheid South Africa from the Games from 1964 to 1992. Meanwhile, African-American 200-metre medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Mexico Games for raising their fists on the podium in the Black Power salute.

If respecting human rights was a criterion for the IOC, they wouldn’t have awarded the Games to Sochi in the first place, or to Beijing in 2008. But it’s done and political protests that primarily punish athletes are intolerable.

The futility of this gambit repeatedly: President Jimmy Carter pulled the U.S. out of the Moscow Summer Games in 1980 over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, with Canada and more than 60 other countries following suit. (Twenty-one years later, it was America’s turn to invade Afghanistan.)

In Montreal, 1976, 24 countries boycotted the Games, objecting to the inclusion of New Zealand because their rugby team had played a match in apartheid South Africa. In 1984, it was the Soviet Union and its allies passing on Los Angeles in retaliation for 1980.

Many athletes only had that single shot at an Olympics. Who remembers now the sacrifices forced upon them, because politicians were gaming the Games?

So go, gays. Be proud, raise the rainbow flag, kiss your same-sex partners in the stands, scorn the stupid law. If any athlete is persecuted or prosecuted, the media will have your back.

For 17 days in February, let’s all be citizens of Queer Nation.

8.10.2013

what i'm watching: a kiss on the wrist: the absence of same-sex love on star trek as a measure of how far we've come

Earlier this year, I re-watched the original "Star Trek" series end-to-end on Netflix - a thoroughly entertaining experience - then decided to watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for the first time. It wasn't long before I was completely hooked.

The show has a lot to recommend it: compelling story lines, mostly good writing, progressive politics, and the brilliant acting of Patrick Stewart meshed with the commanding character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I especially appreciate how Star Trek TNG improved on the worldview of Star Trek TOS. I remember reading about this when the show premiered in the late 1980s, especially how the role and status of women had been updated, but I didn't realize how far it went. The show is actually anti-sexist.

That's why the absence of any gay or lesbian characters, or any same-sex relationships whatsoever, is such a glaring omission.

A quick search online revealed that this topic has been well-discussed. (No surprise there.) On TrekMovie.com, a Star Trek writer and producer explains that same-sex relationships were excluded because Star Trek was "a family show", which I find more offensive than the het-only love itself. The best response I found was from Autostraddle, "Gay Me Up, Scotty: How Star Trek Failed To Boldly Go There".
Berman was afraid that parents would freak out about their kids watching gays on afternoon reruns and so, under his direction, TNG began what would be a long and illustrious tradition of awkwardly bumbling around gay issues but NEVER DIRECTLY MENTIONING GAY PEOPLE AT ANY COST.
So far, I've seen three episodes that "bumble around" and miss grand opportunities.

In "The Host," Dr. Beverly Crusher falls in love with a Trill, a life form that lives in a symbiotic relationship with a humanoid body.* When Crusher and the Trill Odan fall in love, the host body is an attractive male. Later, after all the drama has died away, the Trill lives in a female host body. Does Beverly Crusher realize that she can love this person no matter what its gender? Does she even consider it? She does not. Indeed, the emotion and passion of the earlier scenes has completely disappeared. Crusher says she can't "keep up," continually adjusting as the Odan inhabits different bodies, but seriously, she doesn't even try. Once her lover has become female, she can barely eke out a polite goodbye.

At the end of the episode, female Odan lifts Crusher's hand and kisses her wrist. Crusher is shocked. Really, Dr. Crusher? It's the 24th century, and a kiss on the hand from another woman shocks you? Crusher may not be bisexual; fine, whatever. But the straightest women I know wouldn't look so astounded.
"Prepare to be shocked! My lips will touch your wrist!"
(Image from Autostraddle)

The episode "The Outcast" is an obvious metaphor for the repression and criminalization of gay and trans people. (Obvious metaphor, a redundancy in science fiction.) But the norm on the planet J'naii is androgyny, and Commander William T. Riker falls in love with a "misfit" who identifies as female. So Riker loves a woman, as he usually does, and the potential for something different and expansive is lost.

On the episode "The Masterpiece Society," a genetically engineered society defends its planned perfection against the chaos of outsiders. The denizens of this society are thoroughly multicultural, just so we're clear that this is not Nazi-style perfection. But as the black, white, and Asian families drift happily by, not one same-sex couple or family is seen. Another lost opportunity.

Why is this noteworthy? Because Star Trek TNG is a show that aggressively embraced an all-inclusive ethic - as Wired put it, "infinite diversity in infinite combinations". In this vision of our future, war is a last resort, imperialism is the greatest evil, women and men live and work as equals. Monogamy is not especially valued. Even animals have been liberated; as Riker explains, "We no longer enslave animals for food purposes". The concept of my favourite Star Trek TOS episode, "The Devil in the Dark" - life in completely foreign forms, all deserving of respect and compassion - is creatively pursued in nearly every episode.

In this context, the absence of normalized same-sex relationships is one gigantic elephant in the room.

The show I'm watching aired from 1987 to 1994, but apparently this LGBT void still has not been filled. In 2010, Autostraddle wrote, "Star Trek has yet to acknowledge the existence of LGBT people and, in my opinion, has slowly died because of it." An excellent Wired story from only a few months ago, "Star Trek’s History of Progressive Values - And Why It Faltered on LGBT Crew Members," explains why it matters.
The invisibility of gay characters isn’t neutral; it’s negative, and represents a glaring double standard. After all, many a heterosexual romance has played out on the Star Trek screen, often involving notorious ladies’ men like Kirk and The Next Generation‘s Commander William Riker. The omission of a simple homosexual storyline, regardless of how many interspecies or interracial or almost-homosexual romances have been featured, is still very much a point of concern. We are, after all, still living in the 21st century, not the 24th, and it would still be significant to see an LGBT officer serving on the bridge today, much as it was to see a black woman in the ’60s when civil rights battles were being waged.
Thinking about this conspicuous omission has made me (once again) realize the sea-change gay liberation has achieved in my lifetime. Few of us would fault Star Trek TOS (1966-1969) for not including a gay character. If Star Trek TNG (1987-1994) had done so, it might have been daring. It certainly would have been noteworthy. By now, the absence of any gay character or theme seems bizarre, even homophobic.



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* The internet tells me that this life form, Trills, becomes an important feature in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". No spoilers, please!

4.29.2013

thank you, jason collins!

It has finally happened. A professional male athlete in one of the big US team sports has come out as gay. Someone had to be first, and that person is Jason Collins of the NBA. Thank you, Mr. Collins, for your courage and your honesty!

From the Sports Illustrated cover story:

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

. . . .

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."

The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8.

No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time.
Jason Collins will never know all the people he has reached, the lives he has touched, with his courage and his honesty. I look forward to the time when a professional athlete being out is completely unremarkable.

2.10.2013

dyke duo dupes fox news

The wingnut media continues to redefine irony. Yesterday Fox News ran a piece called "To be happy, we must admit women and men aren't 'equal'". (Sorry, no link. Linking to bigots is a violation of wmtc policy.) To illustrate their homophobic, anti-woman twaddle, they used a picture of a wedding atop the Empire State Building, apparently not realizing it was... the wedding of two women! What a riot.

Read the story: you'll come for the laughs, and stay for the wisdom. From Feministing.
Yesterday the feminist internet collectively lol’d at Fox News when Jessica Valenti realized that the “wedding kiss” picture they’re using to accompany a piece about traditional gender roles is actually of a same sex couple.

Turns out, the two women whose love was mistakenly highlighted by the tirelessly homophobic news outlet are no strangers to the spotlight. Lela Mc Arthur and Stephanie Figarelle of Anchorage, Alaska won a contest last year to have their dream wedding in New York at the Empire State building, becoming the first same-sex couple to be married at the historic site (here’s a kickass video of them reciting their vows and defending their right to do so). They are currently on their honeymoon (!) but Stephanie Fiagrelle gave us permission to publish her pitch perfect Facebook post about the recent, hilarious kerfluffle with Fox News...
Go to Feministing to read what Fiagrelle said - simple, wise, powerful.

11.01.2012

first they came for pride: city of toronto vs free speech

Last week, I blogged about the ongoing pattern of harassment and discrimination against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people. This isn't in the same universe as the oppression endured by Palestine every day; nonetheless, it's a violation of our own civil liberties and rights, and raises a huge obstacle to disseminating accurate information about the situation in Gaza and elsewhere.

When powerful institutional forces are heavily invested in repressing information, for much of the public, that information will remain invisible or be seen as suspect and dangerous. In other words, when someone like Immigration Minister Jason Kenney constantly associates Palestine solidarity and humanitarian aid with terrorism, and the compliant media echoes that characterization, large segments of the public will accept that link without question.

Currently, the City of Toronto is poised to revise its anti-discrimination policy to reflect this kind of repression. As many of you know, there was a battle between the City of Toronto and the official Pride Toronto organization on one side, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid on the other. Pride eventually reversed its ill-conceived attempt to refuse to allow QUAIA to march under its own banner, but the City has not given up the fight.

As part of changes to the City's anti-discrimination policy, Pride Toronto would be required to prohibit the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" during Pride as a condition of funding, as certain city councillors claim the term constitutes hate speech. Get your head around that one. An anti-discrimination policy would discriminate against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people, who believe that Israel's policies towards Palestinians constitute an apartheid regime, and who express that belief publicly.

To my knowledge, no other festival and no other movement has been similarly targeted. This seems to be a clear violation of Charter rights and possibly the Ontario Human Rights Code. And, as far as I can tell, the only media reports about this appeared in the LGBT newspaper Xtra: "A new battle over Pride funding - City executive committee wants 'Israeli Apartheid' banned". No other newspaper saw fit to report on this. (If I'm wrong and you see something I missed, please do post it in comments.)

Xtra also published an Open Letter to Toronto's major cultural institutions, calling for solidarity against this attack on freedom of expression. Leaders of those groups responded positively.

Lost in the City's grandstanding against QUAIA is the irrefutable fact that the words "Israeli apartheid" have nothing to do with hating Jews. If you have trouble distinguishing between the two, please refer to this simple lesson to refresh your memory.

QUAIA organizers tell me that it's not too late to write to Toronto city councillors about this - and they believe it's worthwhile for people who don't live in Toronto to apply pressure as well. Here's a sample letter from QUAIA, and a list of Toronto city councillors is below.
Dear Councillor,

On September 10th, the revised City Anti-Discrimination Policy was once again blocked at the Executive Committee and sent back to city staff for further revision (EX22.4). The motions for revision included vague proposals to “go beyond provincial and federal statutes and legislation,” and to include “anything which shows a lack of respect for all persons.” They further instruct staff to single out Pride Toronto for special treatment; “the imposition of a condition of the funding for the 2013 Pride event, that the term “Israeli Apartheid” not be permitted to be used as part of the event.”

I am concerned that these motions trivialize the real discrimination faced by designated groups in Toronto. They open the door to frivolous complaints that will waste city and community resources. They threaten to violate Charter rights of freedom of expression. They single out a group defined by its sexual orientation for special scrutiny in apparent violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy must be clear and fair, not subject to the whims of lobbying and political manipulation, or used to muzzle “challenging” viewpoints in all arenas – from Pride to our city’s arts and culture.

I urge you to ensure that any changes proposed to the City of Toronto’s Anti-Discrimination policy be opened to a full and accessible public consultation process. The Policy must reflect the input of all citizens, and the traditions of Human Rights legislation in Canada.
Sincerely,

councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca
councillor_augimeri@toronto.ca
councillor_bailao@toronto.ca
councillor_berardinetti@toronto.ca
councillor_carroll@toronto.ca
councillor_cho@toronto.ca
councillor_colle@toronto.ca
councillor_crawford@toronto.ca
councillor_crisanti@toronto.ca
councillor_davis@toronto.ca
councillor_debaeremaeker@toronto.ca
councillor_delgrande@toronto.ca
councillor_digiorgio@toronto.ca
councillor_doucette@toronto.ca
councillor_filion@toronto.ca
councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca
councillor_dford@toronto.ca
councillor_fragedakis@toronto.ca
councillor_grimes@toronto.ca
councillor_holyday@toronto.ca
councillor_kelly@toronto.ca
councillor_layton@toronto.ca
councillor_lee@toronto.ca
councillor_lindsay_luby@toronto.ca
councillor_mammoliti@toronto.ca
councillor_matlow@toronto.ca
councillor_mcconnell@toronto.ca
councillor_mcmahon@toronto.ca
councillor_mihevc@toronto.ca
councillor_milczyn@toronto.ca
councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca
councillor_moeser@toronto.ca
councillor_nunziata@toronto.ca
councillor_palacio@toronto.ca
councillor_parker@toronto.ca
councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca
councillor_perks@toronto.ca
councillor_perruzza@toronto.ca
councillor_robinson@toronto.ca
councillor_shiner@toronto.ca
councillor_stintz@toronto.ca
councillor_thompson@toronto.ca
councillor_vaughan@toronto.ca
councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca
and
mayor_ford@toronto.ca