Archive for the ‘Spot / International News Wire’ Category

No dating app has more engagement than Grindr

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Yahoo Finance

Grindr

Smartphone app stores are chock-full of dating apps, all vying for screen time. But gay dating app Grindr actually trumps them all when it comes to sheer user engagement.

According to a new study from New York City-based research firm 7Park Data, Grindr users spend an average of 165 minutes, or 2.75 hours, a week inside the app, far surpassing dating apps Badoo and Tinder, with users on average spending 68 minutes and 55 minutes a week using those apps, respectively.

7Park Data based its findings on anonymized mobile user data from millions of Android smartphone devices during the last two years from across 16 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Taiwan, the UK, and the US.

The findings may be something of a surprise, particularly to the Grindr uninitiated. But ever since CEO and founder Joel Simkhai launched Grindr in 2009, the smartphone dating app has effectively transformed the way millions of smartphone-toting bisexual and gay men interact with one another.

Although Simkhai initially positioned his app as a location-based social network — and indeed, some actually use the app for dating, even making new friends — many more of its 5 million-plus monthly active users rely on the app for convenient hook-ups and still do. After all, why go through the hassle of going to a bar in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, when Grindr can tell you exactly who’s a few feet, yards or blocks away?

App engagement ranked

Still, Tinder remains the overall winner when it comes to user base. The four-year-old app, which helped simplify online dating into finger swipes — swipe right to like, swipe left to pass — had 50 million users when the company last reported user base statistics back in 2014.

“While Grindr leads in terms of app engagement (time spent and frequency of sessions), the app doesn’t have as big of a mass appeal as the top five dating apps do,” the report reads. “One of the reasons could be because Grindr was created for, and used by, a niche market — gay and bisexual men.”

WA One Nation candidate claims gay community uses Nazi-style mind control

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

WAtoday

Another WA One Nation candidate has come under the spotlight after her extraordinary claims the gay community uses Nazi-style mind control to get people to support same sex marriage.

Michelle Myers has been nominated for the newly-created seat of Bateman and will take on former Transport Minister Dean Nalder.

According to Perth’s only gay and lesbian newspaper Out in Perth, Ms Meyers took to Facebook last year to claim Christians were being swayed to accept the push for gay marriage through mind control employed by the LGBTI community that was previously used by the Soviets then the Nazis.

“Are you wondering why even some Christians are being swayed by the gender industry’s pitch and push 4 same sex ‘marriage’ and acceptance of fake families?”, the One Nation candidate asked.One Nation candidate for the PIlbara David Archibald called single mums 'too lazy to attract and hold a mate'

“It’s not by accident; it’s by a carefully contrived but disingenuous mind control program, melded together by two Norwegian homosexuals who graduated from Harvard – one of whom has since prematurely passed away.

“It’s by a design convert to the general public but fully practised and promoted by the LGBTIQQMA/P community.

“Utilising many of the strategies developed by the Soviets and then the Nazis, they have gone on to apply and perfect theses principles so as to make them universal in their application – but with devastating results considering the counter productive nature of such “unions”.”

Ms Myers then goes on to say Christians needed to stand up and stop being duped by “those whose interests are self-serving but unnatural, unproductive and unhealthy”.

In her post she continually calls people with children in gay or lesbian relationships as “fake families”.

Greens spokesperson for sexuality and gender identity Lynn MacLaren was stunned by the One Nation candidates comments.

“There is a very real danger despite their obvious extremism that One Nation will win seats in the Upper House,” she told WAtoday.

“That is why having Greens in the Upper House is more important than ever. The Greens are not doing any deals with One Nation – in fact we are putting One Nation last and recommending that our voters put One Nation last.

“The Greens always have and always will stand in solidarity with the LGBTIQA+ community.”

Only this week, the Liberals announced it would preference One Nation above the Nationals in the upper house country regions in exchange for the far-right party’s support in all lower house seats at the upcoming March 11 state election.

Premier Colin Barnett has justified the deal with One Nation as “sensible and pragmatic” but that comment might come back to haunt him with another PHON candidate bound to court controversy over her comments.

Since One Nation launched its push into WA politics last month, a number of candidates have come under fire despite party leader and founder Pauline Hanson saying she was personally involved in vetting the candidates.

Two week ago, Cameron Bartkowski who is running for One Nation in the Upper House in the South West region, was found to be fond of a number of sexually explicit pages and lewd groups on Facebook.

Radio 6PR uncovered some of his Facebook likes which show pages such as ‘hot booty ebony’, ‘world class babes’, ‘hot girls worldwide’, ‘I cuckhold all my boyfriends and ‘f**k my ex’.

He has liked dozens of bawdy and lewd Facebook pages.

Just two days before Mr Bartkowski’s fondness for flirty Facebook pages, One Nation said it was standing by its candidate for the seat of Pilbara, David Archibald, despite his offensive and bizarre comments towards single women labelling them too “lazy to attract and hold a mate”.

Writing an article for the prestigious literary online magazine Quadrant in 2015, Mr Archibald claimed there were a number of welfare programs that should be slashed because they support “lifestyle choices that could be defunded”.

“The first that springs to mind is single motherhood,” he writes.

“These are women too lazy to attract and hold a mate, undoing the work of possibly three million years of evolutionary pressure.”

“This will result in a rapid rise in the portion of the population that is lazy and ugly. We know what causes pregnancy these days, so everyone who gets pregnant outside of marriage is a volunteer.”

One Nation candidate for the seat of Dawesville, Lawrence Shave, had plans to open a “bikini baristas” drive-through coffee shop, where staff donned only scantily-clad swim wear.

And party leader Pauline Hanson dumped Brian Brighton, who nominated for the seat of Joondalup because of his past criminal conviction.

Mr Brighton was fined $5000 back in 1993 for stealing departure tax stamps and selling them for $1000 while working as a customs officer.

He later told WAtoday he was planning to run as an independent in the March election and wanted wants all drug addicts to be dumped on an island to fend for themselves.

Despite the controversial candidates One Nation is expected to be the wild card in the upcoming WA election with political pundits expecting the party to poll as high as 11 per cent

But One Nation isn’t the only party whose candidates have got themselves in hot water in the past week – highlighting questionable practices in the vetting process for candidates.

Robert Kirkman Confirms That Jesus Is Gay – Both Of Him

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Bleeding Cool News

pauljesusrovia

The charismatic Walking Dead comic book character Paul Monroe, otherwise known as Jesus, was defined as a gay character a long time ago, but the television version of the character didn’t have quite as clear a definition.

The actor who plays Jesus, now known as Paul Rovia, in the TV series was asked to comment. Thomas Payne told the Huffington Post that bringing that aspect to the TV version of the character.

When asked about the possibility of seeing that element of Jesus on screen, Payne didn’t confirm it no much as ask “why wouldn’t he be?”

Well, in the back of today’s Walking Dead #164 comic book, Robert Kirkman says “if I was coy before… I’ll be less so know. Jesus is gay on the TV show as well.”

So, there you go, from the creator of The Walking Dead. If you were in any doubt. Oh and while we’re looking at today’s Walking Dead…

image-10

…heeeeeeeere’s Negan!

Washington court rules against florist who denied service to gay couple

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Toronto Star

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled against a florist who denied service to a gay couple in 2013, upholding a previous ruling by a lower court that she broke the state's anti-discrimination law.
The Washington Supreme Court has ruled against a florist who denied service to a gay couple in 2013, upholding a previous ruling by a lower court that she broke the state’s anti-discrimination law.  

OLYMPIA, WASH.—The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a gay couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights.

But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

“As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism,” the opinion said.

Stutzman’s lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will,” Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, wrote in a statement issued after the ruling. “Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”

Gov. Jay Inslee lauded the ruling, saying it was “in favour of equality for all Washingtonians.”

“By ruling that intolerance based on sexual orientation is unlawful, the Court affirmed that Washington state will remain a place where no one can be discriminated against because of who they love,” Inslee said in a written statement.

Stutzman had previously sold the couple flowers and knew they were gay. However, Stutzman told them that she couldn’t provide flowers for their wedding because same-sex marriage was incompatible with her Christian beliefs.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the couple sued her, saying she broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, and the lower court agreed. The state’s nine high court justices upheld that verdict.

The court rejected several arguments put forth by Stutzman, including the assertion that since other florists were willing to serve the couple, no harm occurred.

“As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace,” the court wrote. “Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

The case thrust the great-grandmother into the national spotlight and she testified before state lawmakers in Indiana and Kansas.

Michael Scott, a Seattle attorney who worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed — the couple denied the flowers — had previously told justices he didn’t believe Stutzman’s floral creations constituted speech. By providing flowers for a same-sex marriage, he argued, “she’s not endorsing same-sex marriage. She’s selling what she sells.”

Ferguson had said the state’s argument rested on long-standing principle, and uprooting it would weaken antidiscrimination law.

After the arguments in the Supreme Court case last November, at a packed theatre at Bellevue College, a large crowd of Stutzman’s supporters greeted her outside, chanting her name and waving signs with pictures of roses that said “Justice For Barronelle.”

In a February 2016 ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman’s refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She has been fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees.

Stutzman entered the florist business 30 years ago, when her mother bought a flower shop and she started as a delivery person.

After fighting for 30 years, Taiwan’s gay rights crusader senses victory for marriage equality

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Quartz

Taipei, Taiwan

In 1986, in the twilight of Taiwan’s four decades of martial law known as the White Terror, 28-year-old Chi Chia-wei did what for many was unthinkable: he came out publicly as gay. He spent 162 days in prison, released only after a lenient and ashamed judge pardoned him, with tears in his eyes.

During the 30-plus years since Chi challenged Taiwan’s then-authoritarian government, he has been a constant force pushing for societal—and legal—acceptance of his LGBTQ comrades. Now Taiwan’s constitutional court is preparing to review a lawsuit filed by Chi nearly two years ago, setting the stage for what could be a tipping point in the the push for marriage equality here.

Chi said he learned the court would review his case earlier this month when a journalist contacted him with the news.

“The court doesn’t want me to appear,” the energetic Chi, 59, said with a smile. “Once I show up, they’re in for a real headache.”

This is not the first time Taiwan’s courts have had to deal with Chi’s persistence. 16 years ago it ruled against Chi, who sought a constitutional review of Taiwan’s marriage laws so that he could marry his partner. The couple have been together since 1988. In 2015, Taiwan’s Supreme Court ruled against Chi once more.

This time around he is confident of victory, not in small part to the fact that the Taipei City government is also requesting a constitutional interpretation of Taiwan’s marriage laws, which he said was the impetus for the court taking up the case.

On December 26, Taipei’s Bureau of Civil Affairs began issuing non-legally binding same-sex partnership certificates, which resemble ID cards. These cards permit couples to sign medical consent forms for each other or apply for family leave. As of the end of November 272 couples had registered under the scheme.

“Look, Taiwan is a democracy, it has rule of law,” he said. “We’re on the same path as the US, France, and the UK.”

The hearing for Chi’s newest case will be held on March 24. Supporters and opponents of marriage equality will be allowed to make their case to the Council of Grand Justices, as the court is officially known. Additional oral arguments may take place afterward, if the court sees fit, after which it will have a month to reach a decision.

Before same-sex marriages can be legally recognized, a decision by the court’s 15 justices in favor of the constitutionality of same-sex unions would need to be followed by new laws passed by Taiwan’s legislature, the Legislative Yuan. Chi said that if the court rules in favor of marriage equality, new laws would be a foregone conclusion.

“The Legislative Yuan can’t negate the court’s ruling,” he said. “They’d only be able to delay legislation.”

Concurrent to the judicial review, proposed same-sex marriage legislation is currently working its way through the Legislative Yuan.

Unlike previous hearings of Chi’s cases, the court has decided this time to make the same-sex marriage debate a very public event bybroadcasting court proceedings live online.

Participants in the hearing who oppose marriage equality in Taiwan, a movement that has been spearheaded by a small group of highly organized conservative churches, are likely to be out in full force. Taiwanese same-sex marriage opponents have recently acquired new allies in their fight: the right-wing American group MassResistance.

But Taiwan’s LGBTQ community is more organized—and more mainstream—than ever before.

Last October Chi was honored with the Pioneer Award at the first annual Queermosa Awards. “Chi is a pioneer in Taiwan’s gay rights movement,” said Jay Lin, the founder of the awards who is himself a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights in Taiwan. “To this day, you can see him at rallies and parades waving his large rainbow flag—his presence alone inspires the new generation.”

Legal same-sex marriage in Taiwan is not a matter of if, but when, Chi said. Once it happens, however, he said he will still have plenty to fight for. He worries that same-sex marriage legislation, should it arrive, might not cover the rights of same-sex couples to raise or adopt children.

“I never tire,” Chi said. “Every morning when I wake up, it’s like my first day of doing this 30 years ago.”

The Tragic Lessons of Cinema’s First Gay Love Story

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

The New Yorker

There is only one hopeful scene in “Different from the Others,” a silent picture from 1919 that is widely considered the first feature film about gay love. In it, a gaunt, handsome man plays the piano in his Berlin drawing room. He is Paul Körner, a violin virtuoso, and, in his silk housecoat, surrounded by heavy drapery and Grecian statuettes, he appears to live a life that is resplendent but lonely. Then an unlikely event sets him on a new course: a young music student has come calling. Kurt Sivers, round-faced, excitable, has seen all of Paul’s concerts, and he approaches the master nervously, hands clutched to his chest. “My deepest wish would come true if you were willing to be my teacher!” an intertitle reads. Paul responds by offering Kurt his great open palm. Their alliance, a perfect meeting of passion and pedagogy, seems indivisibly strong—but, by the end of the film, we have learned that it is otherwise, owing to the self-hatred and cruelty that homosexual love can inspire, even in Weimar Berlin.

“Different from the Others,” which was written by the gay sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and the Austrian director Richard Oswald, tells the story of one who “suffers not from his condition, but rather from the false judgment of it,” as another intertitle reads. By 1933, when the Nazis stormed Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexual Research, also in Berlin, every known copy of the film had been destroyed. Luckily, the good doctor had included some forty minutes of the footage in a long scientific film called “Laws of Love,” which was shown in Russia in the late twenties or early thirties and remained for decades in the Krasnogorsk archives. In the eighties, film restorers began trying to piece together the original, but it wasn’t until this winter—six years after the U.C.L.A. Film & Television Archive bought a 35-mm. print of “Laws of Love”—that a reliable version of “Different from the Others” was completed, using detailed Nazi censorship records as a narrative guide, and with images substituted for the missing scenes. “Years before Alfred Kinsey, Hirschfeld was arguing that homosexuality exists on a continuum,” Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of the U.C.L.A. archive, told me. “It’s not abnormal, because there is no abnormality.”

The film makes another argument: that hatred can fester even in the interstices of liberal democracies. On the surface, tolerance prevailed in Weimar Germany. If you were careful enough, you could evade the shadow of Paragraph 175, an infamous law that forbade “unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts.” And it was relaxed censorship laws that allowed “Different from the Others” to be made in the first place, along with later gay-themed films such as “Pandora’s Box” (1929), whose seductive countess was one of the first onscreen lesbians, and “Mädchen in Uniform” (1931), which takes place in a brutal, erotically charged all-girls boarding school. Weimar night life was infamously decadent: men dressed as women flocked to the Silhouette; women dressed as men favored the Mikado; and the Eldorado drew gender-benders of all types. When Anita Loos, who wrote the novel “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” visited the city in the twenties, she observed that “any Berlin lady of the evening might turn out to be a man; the prettiest girl on the street was Conrad Veidt”—the silent-screen leading man who played none other than Paul Körner in “Different from the Others.”

Yet there is a special kind of shame and suffering that comes from living life half-openly, from knowing what it is you’re not really allowed to have. In “Different from the Others,” we watch as Paul loses his faith in the power of companionship. In a flashback to his years as a boarding-school teen-ager, he looks over a text with his roommate, Max, and drapes his arm around the younger boy. Then a teacher walks in and bursts into outrage: Max is supposed to be doing his assignment alone—the standard punishment, it would seem, for untoward tendencies. “As a university student, Körner led a lonely and reclusive life, devoted only to his studies,” an intertitle then tells us. We see him reading as five classmates sneak up behind him, raising their hands in unison and clapping them down on his shoulders—a threat of future violence delivered in the guise of friendship. “The girls are making fun of you because no one ever sees you,” they say, inviting him to a bordello, where two women in lace gowns try to kiss him. “If that boy’s completely normal, then I’m a virgin,” the madam says—the kind of comment that moves Paul to seek a cure from a hypnotist, the conversion therapist of the day.

It is not the state that is responsible for Körner’s downfall, at least not directly: in keeping with the subterranean hatred of Weimar Berlin, convictions under the anti-sodomy law often began with extortionists who operated within the demimonde itself. The villain of “Different from the Others” is the smirking Franz Bollek, played by the well-known film star Reinhold Schünzel, who passes Kurt and Paul on a wooded path in a city park. “Handsome lad,” Bollek says, glaring at Kurt, as Paul starts with recognition: years before, Paul had been blackmailed by Bollek after meeting him at a masquerade. (A scene from that party, showing an androgynous conga line, was considered one of the film’s controversial images.)

Now Bollek decides to resume his crime. On the very day Kurt performs in a concert alongside Paul, they find Bollek prowling around in Paul’s living room. “Don’t get so excited,” Bollek tells Kurt, when he tries to brawl. “You’re getting paid by him, too!” Kurt is not a whore, of course, but the mere suggestion, and Paul’s familiarity with Bollek, is enough to send him running: “I am determined to make my way alone,” Kurt writes to his sister. Paul, meanwhile, refuses another demand for payment; Bollek turns him in to the police, and he is sentenced to a week in prison. He does not need to serve his term to be publicly shamed and professionally ruined: we watch him swallow a few capsules of cyanide and sink into his chair. His eyes narrow and widen; his face tightens and slackens; his head lolls back and he dies.

Bad laws can destroy good relationships—perhaps especially when they’re poorly enforced, leaving just enough space for human bonds to form. At the end of “Different from the Others,” we’re told of a missing sequence in which a great hand descends over a German law book to cross out the entry for Paragraph 175. It is fitting that the scene was lost, because the law prevailed for many decades to come. The Nazis used it to send some forty-six thousand men to prison and perhaps ten thousand of those to concentration camps. Upon liberation, most of the survivors were promptly locked up again, whether by East or West Germany, both of which continued to enforce Paragraph 175 through about 1970. It was not until 1994 that the law was formally repealed, and it was not until last year that reparations were paid to the few thousand victims who were still living.

Today we continue to live in the slipstream of provisions like Paragraph 175. Similar laws are still in force in dozens of countries; in the United States, anti-sodomy statutes were ruled unconstitutional in 2003, but they remain on the books in upward of ten mostly deep-red states, and activists have been stymied in their push for formal repeal. Love trumps hate, the signs tell us, or, as Magnus Hirschfield said in 1919, at the Berlin première of “Different from the Others,” “Soon the day will come when science will win a victory over error, justice a victory over injustice, and human love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.” That day is still ahead of us.

14 TV Shows That Broke Ground With Gay and Transgender Characters

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

New York Times

From left, Hal Holbrook, Scott Jacoby and Martin Sheen in “That Certain Summer” (1972). CreditBravo

Last year was a remarkable time when it came to the representation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer regular characters on television, according to the latest Glaad report monitoring diversity on the small screen. But that milestone, along with more accurate story lines and fewer stereotypes, has been a long time coming — a turbulent 45-year trajectory from television movies to single episodes involving secondary players to fully fleshed-out characters central to a show’s story line. “All of these moments are very important in one way or another, either in progressing our lives as L.G.B.T.Q. people, or being able to help people understand who we are, especially in those times when so many people lived hidden and invisible,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of Glaad (formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). The following are some of the most momentous.

1972 — THAT CERTAIN SUMMER’ A divorced father (Hal Holbrook) hides his lover (Martin Sheen) from his teenage son in Lamont Johnson’s movie for ABC, considered the first sympathetic depiction of gay people on television. (In 2015, Mr. Sheen partnered with Sam Waterston on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”)

1977 — ‘THE JEFFERSONS’ Norman Lear, who had already shaken up the staid sitcom with shows like “All in The Family” and “Maude,” did so again on this CBS sitcom. In the episode “Once a Friend,” George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) learns that his old Army buddy Eddie is now a transgender woman named Edie (Veronica Redd). (In 1975, Mr. Lear had introduced one of the first gay couples on network television in the short-lived ABC series “Hot l Baltimore.”)

1977 — ‘SOAP’ In this ABC sitcom, Billy Crystal plays Jodie Dallas — a gay man having an affair with a famous quarterback and contemplating gender-reassignment surgery — who becomes one of the first gay dads on television.

1985 — ‘AN EARLY FROST’ A Chicago lawyer (Aidan Quinn) returns home to reveal to his parents that he’s gay and has AIDS in this NBC movieby John Erman, setting the stage for feature films like Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia.”

1994 — ‘THE REAL WORLD’ Pedro Zamora, the MTV reality show’sfirst HIV-positive cast member, brings awareness to the illness and commits to his boyfriend, Sean Sasser, in the first same-sex ceremony on television.

1994 — ‘MY SO-CALLED LIFE’ In the episode “Life of Brian,” this ABC drama about high school angst deals with young gay love when Rickie (Wilson Cruz) develops a crush on his new classmate, Corey (Adam Biesk).

1994 — ‘ROSEANNE’ Mariel Hemingway locks lips with Roseanne Barr in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — an early same-sex kiss that 30 million viewers tuned in to watch.

1996 — ‘FRIENDS’ In “The One With the Lesbian Wedding,” the marriage of Ross’s ex-wife, Carol (Jane Sibbett), to her partner, Susan (Jessica Hecht), draws 31.6 million viewers to this NBC sitcom — even though the women don’t seal their vows with a kiss.

Photo

Ellen DeGeneres, left, and Laura Dern during a taping of “The Puppy Episode” in 1997.CreditMike Ansell/Touchstone Television

1997 — ‘ELLEN’ Ellen DeGeneres comes out on “The Puppy Episode” on her ABC sitcom — the first lead character to do so on television — and draws a staggering 42 million viewers. The episode also earns Ms. DeGeneres a Peabody.

1998 — ‘WILL & GRACE’ Two gay men plus two straight women equals 83 Emmy nominations and 16 wins for the show that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in 2012 on “Meet the Press,” said “probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”

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Randy Harrison, left, and Gale Harold in “Queer as Folk.” CreditShowtime

2000 — ‘QUEER AS FOLK’ Showtime breaks new ground with the first hourlong drama in the United States about gay men and women, including a character who is H.I.V. positive. The cable channel does it again in 2004 with “The L Word,” giving lesbians visibility they hadn’t previously had.

2009 — ‘MODERN FAMILY’ This ABC sitcom — featuring a gay couple, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), and their adopted daughter, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), as part of a larger family — “is genius in the way it integrates comedy and inclusion, and is able to educate and open people’s hearts and minds,” Ms. Ellis said.

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Taylor Schilling, left, and Uzo Aduba in “Orange Is the New Black.” CreditNetflix

2013 — ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’ This Netflix series tells the story of a women’s correctional facility and its diverse cast of inmates, including the transgender Sophia (Laverne Cox) and the lesbian Poussey (Samira Wiley), who is killed off in Season 4 — the latest fatality in a 40-year string of lesbian deaths on television, beginning with Julie (Geraldine Brooks) in “Executive Suite” in 1976.

2014 — ‘TRANSPARENT’ This Amazon show stars Jeffrey Tambor as the patriarch of a California family who is transitioning late in life to the woman he has always identified as. Inspired by her own transgender parent, the show’s creator, Jill Soloway, makes a point of putting transgender people both in front of and behind the camera.

Gay Journalist Leaves The Left Behind And Embraces A ‘Brand New Conservative’

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

NPR

Until September, journalist Chadwick Moore says his life had been lived in a liberal bubble — one that burst after he wrote a profile Milo Yiannopoulosfor Out Magazine.

Yiannopoulos is a gay blogger for Breitbart and provocateur who so favors Donald Trump he calls him “daddy.” Yiannopolous has inspired such ferocious online attacks on others that he was banned from Twitter.

Moore’s article was critical, but also let Yiannopolous be heard, and included a professional photo shoot. As soon as it was published, Moore was attacked — so severely he says it pushed him to rethink his political allegiance.

He became the subject of a New York Post story earlier this month headlined “I’m a gay New Yorker and I’m coming out as conservative.”

Moore tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep that the personal attacks — including being shunned by his liberal friends — caused him to lose respect for the left.

He says people like him are “part of a brand new conservative.”

“We were born in the Democratic party, somebody set our house on fire, we went running out, and the right has been so welcoming to people like me and there’s so many of us,” he says.


Interview Highlights

On the response to his Yiannopoulos profile

There was a petition [circulated] online signed by like 60 people in gay media condemning it, condemning the article, calling it dangerous, how dare you give this person a platform — and then of course personal attacks against me, calling me a Nazi, white supremacist, completely insane and ridiculous.

On how his friends reacted

Friends, immediately after the story ran — people I knew in places where I hang out would turn around and walk away from me and not talk to me. As I sort of starting seeing this behavior amongst my peers, I began to then challenge them more and say “How can you not at least listen to this person’s argument?” And by the way, if you really are intent on destroying people like Milo Yiannapolous, then isn’t it beneficial to learn about him, to know what he’s about – his weaknesses and to beat him by being smarter and have better arguments? But nobody is interested in that. They just name call.

On whether he’s a moderate or a conservative, as was the headline of the NY Post story

To come out as a moderate is to be more aligned with the conservative. I said in the story, which was an “as told to” piece, so I was interviewed by Michael Kaplan at the New York Post, and he wrote a story in my words. [Conservative] was in the headline.

What I say in it is that I’m more aligned with the right than the left and I sympathize with the right more. And I feel more welcomed on the right now that it’s happened.

To be moderate — to come out as a moderate today, being in the left as I was, is to be more aligned with the right and conservative. If you value things like free speech, if you value free thought, if you value individualism over collectivism, then you’re on the right now.

On how the media covers the right

Many in the media, they seek out the craziests on the right: the very overly racist, overtly anti-immigrant people who are a very, very tiny percentage — just like I believe on the left the worst elements are a tiny percentage.

On his positions — like whether he favors Vice President Mike Pence’s stance on gay rights

I don’t support Pence’s views because I don’t think that religion has any place in government, but I support religious freedom. For example, I support an evangelical Christian florist who doesn’t want to do the flowers for a gay wedding. You can go to another florist to do your flowers. Don’t unleash the ACLU on granny and her bucket of dyed carnations.

Church of England gay marriage vote thrown into chaos after members ‘get confused and press wrong button’

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Telegraph

Members of St Ansells a christian youth organisation out of Lambeth Palace pass the African LGBTI Christians who have joined the protest
Members of St Ansells a christian youth organisation out of Lambeth Palace pass the African LGBTI Christians who have joined the protest CREDIT: ALAMY

The Church of England’s crucial vote on gay marriage has been thrown into doubt after the Bishop of Coventry admitted he accidentally voted against the report and several others may have made the same mistake.

The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth apologised for the mistake last night, which he said was because of “a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process”.

The bishop insisted that he did in fact support the report written by his colleagues and was “embarrassed” to have accidentally rejected it.

The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry at Coventry Cathedral
The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry at Coventry CathedralCREDIT: ANDREW FOX

It has since emerged that some members have suggested that clergy had made the same mistake.

Rev Peter Ould, of Canterbury, said he had heard from other synod members who had also voted “no” incorrectly.

He added: “I’ve spoken to two members of the house of laity who were confused, one of whom was very clear that he voted the wrong way. It would need four members of the house of clergy to say that they made a mistake for the result to change.

Church leaders gathered at Church Hall in Westminster
Church leaders gathered at Church Hall in Westminster CREDIT: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

“They voted the wrong way because they weren’t sure of what they voted on. One I spoke to thought they were still voting on procedure aspects rather than the actual substantive motion.”

Other members said that they had voted the wrong way because they thought they were voting on a point of procedure, and not the actual debate.

Prominent Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer tweeted: “If a bishop can do it, so can four members of clergy. How precarious is digital democracy.”

Rev Peter Ould speaking on Facebook
Rev Peter Ould speaking on Facebook CREDIT: FACEBOOK

One lay synod member, who accidentally voted against the report but did not want to be named, told magazine Christian Today about the chaos in the chamber, saying a lot of people were unsure what they were voting for.

“Other people around me were talking about their own misunderstandings,” he said.

“The voting wasn’t clear. I have concerns, someone got shouted over, it was very confusing.”

He added: “It was more of a colluding with people rather than an orderly debate.”

In response to the confusion the Church of England reminded members to be more careful with their voting machines.

Voting electronically at the Synod on February 15 
Voting electronically at the Synod on February 15 

A spokesman said: “We are aware that the Bishop of Coventry and a member of the House of Laity have reported pressing the wrong button in the vote following the take note debate on the House of Bishops’ Report on marriage and Same-Sex Relationships

“As the results in both the House of Bishops and House of Laity were strongly in favour of the report there is no material difference to the outcome of the vote.

“It is the responsibility of Synod members to follow debates and the business of Synod carefully and to cast their votes accordingly.”

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury listens during a session of the General Synod
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury listens during a session of the General Synod CREDIT: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP / GETTY 

The technical problems raise questions about whether the vote, which was only lost by seven votes in the house of clergy, can stand.

The report, which was rejected last night after the House of Clergy voted against it by 100 votes to 93, said that the Church should preserve current teaching on gay marriage, which says that marriage is between one man and one woman and gay couples cannot marry in church.

Members of the general synod, which is the Church of England’s general assembly, take votes using a hand-held device which has three buttons – one which means approval, one which means rejection and a third which means abstention.

The other two houses of the Synod, bishops and laity, both voted to “take note” of the report.  But there was surprise when it was revealed that one bishop had voted against it.

Sources said they believed the rejection came from the more liberal members of the clergy who thought the Church should ultimately drop its opposition to gay marriage.

Members said it was “grudging and condescending”, “divorced from reality” and made the Church look “unkind” and homophobic.

A delegate walks past activists from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement outside the General Synod at Church House in London
A delegate walks past activists from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement outside the General Synod at Church House in London CREDIT: PA

In a statement, Bishop Christopher admitted to being the dissenter and said: “Much to my embarrassment, I have managed to give the impression that there was not complete agreement in the House of Bishops that the Report provided us with the best way forward.

“Due to a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process, I pressed the wrong button on my handset, thus registering a vote against taking note rather than a vote for taking note of the Report!

“I have apologised to my colleagues in the House of Bishops and to the Archbishops for my mistake.”

Gay clubs, weeds and the European Union: politics mixes with the personal in Wolfgang Tillmans’s Tate Modern survey

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Art Newspaper

Gay clubs, weeds and the European Union: politics mixes with the personal in Wolfgang Tillmans's Tate Modern survey

Wolfgang Tillmans’s Juan Pablo & Karl, Chingaza (2012) (© Wolfgang Tillmans)
The German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans turns the spotlight once more on social and political concerns, such as fake news and the “post-truth” era, in a vast survey of his recent works opening this week at Tate Modern in London (Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017; 15 February-11 June). The Turner Prize-winner is developing a new series of pro-EU posters after producing several passionate pro-Remain posters before the vote for Brexit in June last year.

“In France, in Slovenia, and across Europe, I am developing the posters further, and translating them…. The EU is not a faceless machine but a democratic representation of 508 million people,” he tells The Art Newspaper. “Nobody voted for a hard Brexit on 23 June. I strongly believe that dissolving the EU at this time, in this place, in this global situation is the worst thing one can do. I want to continue spreading the message that the EU is not our enemy.”

Wolfgang Tillmans's Collum (2011) (© the artist)

Wolfgang Tillmans’s Collum (2011) (© the artist)

The Tate show—encompassing photographs, video, digital slide projections and publications—focuses on works produced in a variety of media since 2003, “an important year when he felt the world changed with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations”, a press statement says.

But Brexit does not feature in the latest iteration of the artist’s “truth study centre”, a mix of printed matter from pamphlets to newspapers centred on seismic world events that he has worked on since 2005.  “I didn’t want to highlight the obvious, the shit storm of lies that surround us, and instead have created an installation that focuses on the physiological and psychological processes of truth and opinion-making in the brain.”

Tillmans, a former Tate trustee, also looks to nightlife in his imagery. “Clubs are an affirmation of life. There has to be a space for freedom of expression. In cities like London, there is a fear of the energy of youth, and the life is being squeezed out of both London and New York.” An image in the exhibition called The Spectrum/Dagger (2014) shows clubbers at the eponymous gay club in Brooklyn.

The artist adds however: “I am an artist and this exhibition is about art…. There is a four-metre tall picture of a weed [Weed, 2014]. That is an experience you cannot have anywhere, not online, not in a book. The main experience is for me to be in the pure presence of works of art.”

A section dedicated to portraiture includes images of Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum, and the musician Frank Ocean. Meanwhile, Playback Room is a space where visitors can listen to recorded music by Colourbox, a UK band who were active between 1982 and 1987. “Tillmans has chosen to include it here to encourage others to think about how recorded music can be given prominence within the museum setting,” the organisers say.

‘There is no door open, no hope.’ The gay Iranian refugee that Canada abandoned

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Daily Xtra

Amirhossein Zolghadri is stuck in Turkey after Canada suspended his application, in order to prioritize Syrian refugees. After applying for resettlement in the US, his application was suspended just before his final interview due to President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” Courtesy Amirhossein Zolghadri

Amirhossein Zolghadri regrets not trusting his smuggler.

The gay Iranian man, who also identifies as queer, was supposed to be trafficked out of Turkey to Britain or Norway. But the shifty, burly man left Zolghadri with a bad feeling. He instead filed a refugee claim with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Canada selected him for resettlement.

“I got very scared of that smuggler. But now when I look back, I feel I made the most terrible mistake of my life,” Zolghadri says. “Now I feel this smuggler was much more trustworthy than the UNHCR and Canada, because they both have let me down.”

Zolghadri is among a handful of LGBT Iranians who have told Xtra that Canada had selected them for resettlement, before abandoning them to make space for Syrians.

The two main Toronto advocacy groups for LGBT Iranians — the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and the Iranian Queer Organization — say they’re in touch with dozens in the same situation, and that most had been referred to the United States before President Donald Trump suspended refugee resettlement from seven predominantly-Muslim countries.

It’s the latest blow to Zolghadri, whose most terrifying hours were spent on Nov 18, 2014, inside Tehran’s international airport.

After causing a scandal by sleeping with a preacher in his hometown of Karaj, 17-year-old Zolghadri was trying to flee to Turkey, leaving behind a broken life and a prestigious family that wanted to save face.

“As a gay person in Iran, whether you remain silent or decide to scream in protest, every day you are condemned to death,” Amirhossein Zolghadri says.

Courtesy Amirhossein Zolghadri

Passing through security checks manned by Iran’s revolutionary guards, Zolghadri worried they’d look through documentary tapes he’d filmed about gay Muslims. They’d see the clerics in the religious city of Qom, who had beat Zolghadri for asking about homosexuality. They’d hear about the time the preacher’s father almost sideswiped Zolghadri with his car.

“As a gay person in Iran, whether you remain silent or decide to scream in protest, every day you are condemned to death,” Zolghadri says in one of the tapes, now posted online. “I preferred to scream, than to die everyday in my community, at school and at home.”

If the guards searched Zolghadri’s name online, they’d see him recounting childhood bullying, which escalated into him running away from home, narrowly avoiding shock therapy and dropping from academic studies to shop classes.

“I think that was a miracle, that I somehow made it out of Iran,” Zolghadri, now 20, told Xtra in a video chat, his dark eyes peering through long, black locks of hair. After breaking off contact with the smuggler, he slept in dodgy hostels. He’s struggled to find under-the-table work, and scrapes by on cash transfers from friends and activists.

According Zolghadri’s UNHCR documents, which he provided to Xtra, he registered as a refugee on July 30, 2015. Canada started a third-country resettlement application on Nov 20, 2015.

But almost a year later, in mid-November 2016, the UNHCR told Zolghadri that Canada had suspended his application, because it is only resettling Syrian refugees through the UN system.

Zolghadri provided Xtra with his UNHCR documents which show his case was moving forward in Canada and the US before being suspended in both countries.

Courtesy Amirhossein Zolghadri

The UN put his case back into its system, before the US started its own resettlement application on Dec 2, 2016. US officials interviewed Zolghadri on Dec 26, and planned a final interview before suspending his application after Trump’s executive order.

Zolghadri believes he’d be in the US already if his Canadian application hadn’t languished for 11 months. “Why did Canada give me this false hope?” he says.

He passes the time painting, seldom leaving the vacation flat in Eskişehir, Turkey, that was offered to him by a stranger he met online, an Iranian living in the US who fled persecution because of his Baha’i faith.

While living in Turkey, both Zolghadri’s grandmother and estranged father have died.

Zolghadri dreams of coming to Canada and taking legal studies because almost everyone in his family is a lawyer.

But for now, death is close to mind. He follows closely as Canadian parliamentarians raise the issue, but he’s worried about Turkey’s uptick of anti-LGBT violence.

“The options to me right now are either suicide or a hunger strike. Because they’re ignoring Iranian LGBT people in this situation,” he says. “There is no door open, no hope.”

AIDS Is A Gay Disease

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Daily Caller

AIDS Is A Gay Disease

  Like other Jewish historians and community members, I was bothered by the Trump Administration’s universalist Holocaust statement papering over the fact that, by and large, the Holocaust was about Jews. As a gay man who has writtenextensively about LGBT history, the episode reminded me of a similar bit of amnesia gay people have fostered about ourselves: that “AIDS is not a gay disease.”

The slogan was originally an understandable retort to haters who blamed us for our own suffering. But gays aren’t downtrodden anymore. For the sake of clear thinking about policy, respect for victims, and well-earned pride in gay history, it’s time we just say it: much as the Holocaust was a Jewish event, AIDS in the United States is a gay disease.

Of course straight people suffer and die from HIV-related illness, just as about 200,000 Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis. But “AIDS is not a gay disease” was a situational political strategy, not a scholarly consensus. It was an epidemiological and historical obfuscation designed to gain sympathy and funding for the illness in an era when gays were outsiders. Yet it remains in 2017, repeated almost as a mantra anytime someone “outrageously” links AIDS with homosexuality.

But of course AIDS is linked with homosexuality. Even today, gay men receive more than two-thirds of HIV diagnoses, and earlier in the epidemic that number was even higher. Gay men are maybe 2 percent of the American population, but 55 percent of Americans living with HIV. Men who have sex with men are more than 60 times more likely to contract HIV than those who don’t.

Like calling Tay-Sachs a Jewish disease, or sickle-cell anemia a black disease, calling AIDS a gay disease is a rhetorical shortcut, not finger-pointing.

Nonetheless, in the mid-to-late 1980s, AIDS activists began to highlight the minority of victims who contracted the illness through infected needles and heterosexual sex. Everyone was at risk for contracting HIV, they argued, and if the nation didn’t act, the epidemic would be soon spread rapidly within the “general population.”

That was epidemiological nonsense, we now know. HIV had spread so quickly among gay men because we had so many more sexual partners, and because anal sex facilitates transmission particularly effectively. A single instance ofheterosexual intercourse with an infected person transmits the virus less than one time in a thousand. So straight people – whose unprotected sexual encounters are much more sporadic, and among whom monogamy is a more central value – are simply never going to see the disease spread exponentially as it did among gay men in the early 1980s.

But proclaiming “AIDS is not a gay disease” worked. Fundraising and government spending on research, prevention and care skyrocketed, and the illness was increasingly seen as an American problem, not a gay problem.

That progress came at a cost. Tens of millions of prevention and education dollars that could have helped teach vulnerable gay men how to play safe were diverted to educate Americans with much lower risk. And the disease began to slip off the LGBT radar screen

With falling transmission rates and rising life expectancy among its rich white male funders, Big Gay has for more than a decade diverted limited resources toward issues with wholesome connotations – think lesbians in wedding dresses.

HIV is a downer of an issue, involving weakness, sickness, and death; and concerning the poor, minorities, and (horrors!) sex. Even among LGBT health concerns, HIV has been shunted aside. Only a third of the articles at one major gay organization’s “Health & HIV/AIDS” Web page deals with HIV. Preposterously, several relate to abortion, which – while a liberal sacrament – isn’t all that urgent for men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women.

The gay community cannot be permanently enfeebled by those who blame our pain on our “perversion.” When gay leader Matt Foreman called AIDS a gay disease in 2008, narrow-minded groups seized the opportunity to renew their tired argument that homosexuality is a “dangerous lifestyle” (an odd analysis given the rarity of HIV transmission through lesbian sex). But in 2017, Americans are more likely to find comments like Foreman’s refreshing and those about diseased homosexuals off-putting.

Denying the gayness of AIDS has been doubly damaging, as it has diverted attention from today’s victims, who are largely people of color but just as gay; and rejected any discussion of gay white male victims to avoid a supposedly pernicious stereotype.

Thus the early history of the epidemic gets obscured, because most of that story’s heroes are gay white men. And those heroes are pretty fuckin’ awesome. In coalition with lesbians, people of color, and concerned heterosexuals those gay white men revolutionized the way Americans deal with illness.

Gays already faced constant discrimination, vilification, and scapegoating when news of a fatal illness in their midst led even well-meaning Americans to shun them. They were rejected by neighbors, co-workers, even their own doctors and parents. Some Americans blamed homosexuality for making their loved ones sick, locking same-sex partners out of health care decisions and even denying them a chance to say goodbye.

And yet.

Those gay white men and their allies organized political pressure on government officials to devote funds to research and care. They created a broad spectrum of community organizations to succor the afflicted. They became experts at epidemiology and pharmacology so they could advocate on their own behalf, shaking up a stodgy drug-approval system to give dying men hope. They pioneered a style of in-your-face activism that demanded Americans end their deadly silence. And they devoted their already abundant talents in arts as diverse as musical theater, graffiti and quilt-making to express agony, perseverance, and hope in the face of an unprecedented plague.

The gay community’s bravery and endurance in a time of monumental stress is unsurpassed in the 20th century. It is a largely untold tale that deserves a place of honor right alongside the African-American freedom struggle, showing the best of what Americans can be.

AIDS is not a gay disease?

Please.

 

HIV rates continue to soar among young gay and bisexual men

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

 

PinkNews

HIV blood test

New data has revealed that HIV infections in young gay and bisexual men has soared, as rates drop overall.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the number of people contracting HIV fell from 45,700 in 1998 to 37,600 in 2014 – an 18 percent drop.

Among straight people, this decline is around 36 percent (56 percent in drug users) but in gay and bisexual men aged 25 to 34 diagnoses are up from 7,200 to 9,700 – about 35 percent.

In gay and bisexual men overall figures remained about the same with only a one percent increase reported.

Experts have said greater public education, testing, needle exchange programmes and PrEP have accounted for the overall drop.

However, they added that the figures among young gay and bisexual men were worrying.

In a breakdown of the stats, half of new infections were in Southern States.

African American men who had sex with men (MSM) witnessed infection rates climb 22 percent in six years.

The rate in Latino MSM was up by 20 percent.

The CDC has said that if trends don’t improve then one in two black gay or bisexual men will be infected at some point in their life, Latino men one in four and white men one in 11.

In contrast, HIV rates in the UK among the same group have plummeted.

New infections fell by a third over the last two years in England alone.

No gay conservatives, I won’t accept your ‘coming out’ as Trump supporters

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

The Independent

The day after the American election, my ex-boyfriend messaged me to confess that he had voted for Trump. Hillary Clinton, he thought, just wasn’t trustworthy enough, so instead he opted for a compulsive liar and megalomaniac. As a gay man, I was repulsed by the idea that someone I’d once shared a bed with could now be in bed with our oppressors.

Now, another gay man has decided to “come out” (his words) as a conservative, this time in a piece for the New York Post. Chadwick Moore is a 33-year-old journalist who wrote a fawning profile of the out alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos for Out, one of America’s premier gay men’s magazines.

Yiannopoulos’ Islamophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism are well documented, and that an LGBT publication would give him “neutral” (as Moore claims) coverage rightfully angered many in the community. It was met with swift condemnation from within the community, with dozens of prominent LGBT journalists signing an open letter condemning the article and Out’s decision to publish.

Bernie Sanders: Trump is a pathological liar

Moore himself took a lot of flack for writing such a flattering piece of someone who has campaigned against gay marriage and is otherwise an equally deplorable human being. He was attacked on Twitter, but to his surprise, it did not end there. “Personal friends of mine — men in their 60s who had been my long time mentors — were coming at me. They wrote on Facebook that the story was ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’. A dozen or so people unfriended me,” he whinges.  He lost his best friend. People in gay bars wouldn’t talk to him. A guy he chatted up called him a Nazi.

Delicate little snowflake can’t take the heat, it seems.

All of this has led Moore to realise he’s not a liberal after all, but is actually a conservative. Anyone who read his piece on Yiannopoulos could’ve told you that, but apparently it took being criticised for fawning over fascists for Moore to realise his own political predilections. Now he’s standing for far-right gadfly Ann Coulter and hoping that “New Yorkers can be as open-minded and accepting of my new status as a conservative man as they’ve been about my sexual orientation.”

Girl, goodnight.

Conservatism in America has literally killed gay people. Thousands lost their lives because of Reagan’s homophobic inaction on Aids. The Vice President of the United States only two years ago signed a license-to-discriminate as governor of Indiana. The right uses religion to deny marriage equality, housing protections, job protections, and even trans peoples’ right to use a public toilet. Conservative Americans are so homophobic and transphobic that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had to issue a travel alert to LGBT Britons going to North Carolina. And unlike the British Conservative Party, the Republican Party has made no overtures towards LGBT people, no apologies for past injustices, and no attempt at including us in their vision for the country.

Donald Trump did say LGBT like he was trying to sound out a Welsh place name though, so these Aunt Marys (a term used to describe gay people who side with the oppressor) suddenly want all of this forgiven.

Gay conservatives aren’t welcome in gay spaces because the people they support are an existential threat to our rights and our community. After all, queer spaces (such as bars, bathhouses, community centres, and even bookstores) were founded and instrumental in radical sexual politics and political engagement. You can’t divorce that from the social aspect, because doing so would deny the history of our community and the present reality of so many vulnerable LGBT people.

Asking that the gay community embrace you and your politics is like one turkey asking another to be okay that he voted for the farmer and Thanksgiving. I don’t care if this hurts someone’s feelings; I’m more concerned with the harm their vote causes. So until American conservatism welcomes queer people, queer people shouldn’t welcome American conservatives. Even if they’re queer themselves.

Sorry, Chad. Maybe Milo will buy you a drink.

Will the AFLW herald changing times for gay players in the men’s game?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

theguardian

Moana Hope of the Magpies and Mia-Rae Clifford of the Demons shake hands
Moana Hope of Collingwood and Mia-Rae Clifford of the Demons after their AFLW match at Ikon Park. Rae-Clifford’s partner, Penny Cula-Reid, plays for the Pies. Photograph: Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images 

The year is 2002. I am packed onto an Adelaide hotel couch with 15 other teenage girls. We are not just any teenage girls, we are state cricketers, here to represent Victoria in the national championship carnival.

We are waiting for the team bus to arrive, watching the Saturday morning music video countdown on Rage. This week’s number one is surprise hit All The Things She Said, the lesbian “anthem” by Russian duo tATu (later exposed as “fake” lesbians). A deep, awkward silence falls over the group as we sit through three minutes of girls making out in school uniforms. The group stays eerily quiet until we walk to the newly-arrived bus. My team-mate and friend, a larrikin by the name of Penny Cula-Reid, elbows me and says: “I bet you enjoyed that.”

At 30, I wonder if I missed an opportunity to reach out to a fellow queer. This weekend, Cula-Reid is featured in the Age as one part of the AFL’s “first openly gay AFL player couple” alongside partner and fiancee Mia-Rae Clifford. The pair teed off in Saturday night’s thrilling contest between Melbourne and Collingwood, the Dees overturning a 19-point deficit at half-time to come out 19-point winners. Both players were subdued; Cula-Reid had three kicks while Clifford had one. Perhaps they were nervous, after the article lauded them as the face of the “brave new AFL”. In the piece, journalist Samantha Lane describes the arrival of the AFLW as heralding an “infinitely more progressive reality” for the AFL.

Certainly critics can point to the lack of any openly gay, elite, male player as a sign that the AFL has a way to go when it comes to progressive politics on sexuality. In 2013, when I covered the first ever women’s exhibition game for the Age, the number of openly gay women’s players ensured sexuality was a persistent topic of conversation among the AFL executive. Attending the official launch at AFL house, I was seated next to two male officials who confided in me their own hope that a male player would be brave enough to come out. I reminded them it was only three years earlier that Jason Akermanis had penned a column arguing gay male players should stay in the closet.

In 2010, Akermanis’s article claimed the AFL was not ready for a gay player to come out, and that such a declaration would “cause discomfort in that environment”. Akermanis recalled having a gay team-mate who “played his heart out and was respected by everyone in the team”. Nonetheless, Akermanis wrote that he had been compelled to leave the showers when that same team-mate walked in.

Thankfully, many have since taken Akermanis and his ilk to task, pointing out that his discomfort speaks volumes about his own and others’ homophobia, rather than any issue with his gay team-mates. This includes Jason Ball, Australian Greens politician, LGBTIQ activist and first ever openly gay male player (although still not elite). Ball was influential in inaugurating the first ever AFL Pride game last year between St Kilda and Sydney, which featured Saints players with rainbow numbers on their guernseys and was notable for inspiring club legend and Aboriginal activist Nicky Winmar to come out publicly in support of his gay son Tynan.

I would argue that having queer role models such as Cula-Reid and Clifford will make a huge difference to the youth now flocking to the game in the wake of the AFLW’s success. As reported in the lead-up to the Pride game last year, 87% of young gay Australians involved in team sport feel that they have to hide their sexuality.

This is often exacerbated by the homophobic slurs they encounter on the field, something the AFL has committed to cracking down on after commentator Brian Taylor called Harry Taylor a “big poofter” on air. Ball has written extensively about how damaging this culture is for queer youth: “I feared getting bullied, I feared getting kicked off the team, and so it was this constant battle for me to hide that side of who I was.”

But will these AFLW players’ bravery have any impact on the culture of the men’s game? I retain some hope the AFL’s new lovechild will force the hand of the old guard when it comes to the shadow of homophobia that still lingers as a blight on this wonderful game.

Unlike some other sports, the success of AFLW has so far been built on the close interconnectedness of the men’s and women’s teams. To be granted an AWFL licence, clubs had to undergo a rigorous process to prove their women’s team would have appropriate access to facilities and be integrated into the broader club culture.

There have been positive examples to date; the male Carlton players formed a guard of honour at the game against GWS on the weekend at Princes Park and several clubs have also included their male players as women’s team coaches, such as leadership-member Jordan Roughead at the Bulldogs.

Women’s players are also invited to official AFL functions, such as the infamously heteronormative Brownlow medal, where players’ partners are known merely by the euphemism of WAGs (wives and girlfriends).

But if Annie Nolan could “stop” the Brownlow last year by daring to show up in a suit, then women bringing their queer partners could well send the AFL machinery into a long-awaited and welcome tailspin.

Gay porn star, 29, who was booted from several sites for his Nazi tattoos is arrested in meth raid

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Daily Mail

A gay porn star who recently came under fire for his white supremacist tattoos has now been arrested in a drug raid.

Timothy Harper, 29, was one of four people arrested at a Dallas, Texas home last Thursday where a SWAT team found more than 1,600 grams of methamphetamine – as well as scales and packaging ‘consistent with narcotics trafficking’.

He was arrested on a charge of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance after reportedly admitting to ordering and receiving drugs. He remains held on $100,000 bail.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Harper is a gay porn actor who works under the name Cameron Diggs.

Last April, he came under fire when gay porn studio NakedSword released a clip of him and many pointed out that he had Nazi tattoos on his body – including SS Bolts on his hips and Iron Crosses on his chest.

Harper, who works under the name Cameron Diggs, came under fire for his Nazi tattoos last year - including two Iron Crosses on his chest 

Harper, who works under the name Cameron Diggs, came under fire for his Nazi tattoos last year – including two Iron Crosses on his chest

A few months later, in July, NakedSword suggested that Harper issue a statement to ‘clear his name’ – but that didn’t go down as they intended.

‘I believe people should want to be proud of who they are and where they come from,’ Diggs said in his statement on July 14.

‘I feel like we are suppose [sic] to continue our race and our culture… When it comes to having kids, I prefer to stay inside my race. It’s nothing hateful towards any race, it’s just what I believe. Why is that so wrong? Does that make me a racist?’

Just hours after posting the statement, another porn site, CockyBoys, pulled down a clip of Diggs.

‘We removed Cameron’s scene after reading his response,’ CockyBoys director and CEO, Jake Jaxson, told VICE in August.

‘His statement does not represent the basic values of mutual respect and acceptance that is the mission of CockyBoys.’

And on July 25, NakedSword followed suit by cancelling the release of a new Diggs scene that was scheduled to go live the next day

 

Restoration work to impact Gay Street traffic

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

WBIR

Building restoration work involving a crane is leading to three days of lane closures in the 600 block of South Gay Street.

Starting Wednesday at 7 a.m., the northbound lanes of Gay Street between Church and Clinch avenues will be closed during the day. One southbound lane will remain open while daytime crews are working on the former KUB Building.

The crane work is part of a facade removal and $10 million renovation. The Tombras Group is expected to move into the building in about a year. The building has been unoccupied since the Knoxville Utilities Board moved out more than 16 years ago.

The crane’s operation will block daytime curbside drop-offs in front of the Tennessee Theatre, but all lanes of traffic will reopen each evening.

The lane closures are expected to end by early Friday evening.

Gay footballer long way off: Dogs’ skipper

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Wide World of Sports

Western Bulldogs’ captain Robert Murphy believes the AFL’s first openly gay footballer may be years away from revealing himself for fear of sparking a media circus.

The AFL has made significant strides to tone down the sport’s once-proud masculine image, staging its inaugural Gay Pride Round last season.

Despite the statistical improbability of all 700-plus AFL-listed players being straight, no elite footballer in AFL/VFL history has declared otherwise.

Murphy said potential “sensationalist interest” surrounding an AFL player opening up to talk about their sexuality would be a daunting prospect.

“I can only talk for my own footy club but I just don’t think it’s fair to put it at the feet of the club and the locker-room nature of footy clubs,” Murphy told SEN radio on Wednesday.

“It’s obviously a complex issue but the media storm that waits I feel is just as big, if not a bigger factor in what might hold people back.”

Murphy, who missed the Bulldogs’ drought-breaking premiership last year with a season-ending knee injury, said the demands of being a professional athlete were great enough without the added pressure of becoming a gay icon.

“A lot of footballers who are gay want to be recognised as a footballer first, not as the first person to come out and openly talk about the fact they are gay,” he said.

“The fact we are having this conversation still says to me that we have a long way to go.

“The first player to come out as gay, he may not want to become a spokesman for it and if he’s the first one, he probably will be or people will want him to be.”

Last week, AFL Women’s players Penny Cula-Reid (Collingwood) and Mia-Rae Clifford (Melbourne) revealed they were in a long-term relationship.

More than 20 years ago, NRL star Ian Roberts became the first professional sportsman in Australia to publicly acknowledge he was gay.

Trump Keeps Obama’s Top Gay Rights Envoy at State Department

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Foreign Policy

Trump Keeps Obama’s Top Gay Rights Envoy at State Department

The Trump administration has decided to keep President Barack Obama’s top advocate for gay rights issues at the State Department in defiance of evangelical groups who called for his immediate expulsion,Foreign Policy has learned.

Randy Berry, the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, is continuing “in his role under the current administration,” a State Department spokesperson said on Monday. The move marks the latest surprise decision by President Donald Trump on gay rights as he juggles the agenda of his staunchly conservative cabinet and top aides, and his cosmopolitan, New York-bred daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“This is really surprising to me,” Ross Murray, the director of programs at GLAAD, a pro-LGBT group, told FP. “I don’t think I can applaud it until I see what his mandate becomes in this administration.”

“But Berry has been really effective in that job,” he said.

Berry, an openly gay career Foreign Service officer whom conservative groups have derided as Obama’s “top gay activist,” became the first person to hold the position in February 2015.

In December, Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, implored Trump to launch a major purge of pro-LGBT diplomats inside Foggy Bottom. “The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the ‘activists’ within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out,” he said.

The special envoy position was created during the Obama years to fight back against the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people around the globe. Conservative groups have called the office an attempt to “entrench the LGBTI agenda” into the United States government, and accuseit of browbeating countries opposed to gay-friendly school textbooks and same-sex marriage.

Berry repeatedly stressed that his goal was to convince foreign governments to stop violence against gays and lesbians rather than pressure every nation to allow same-sex marriage. “He was mindful not to be heavy-handed or overly colonial,” said Murray, who mentioned his work in countries with less tolerance for LGBT people, such as Uganda and Nigeria.

On Jan. 20, in one of the Obama administration’s final acts, it also named Berry deputy assistant secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Conservative groups blasted that decision as an 11th-hour move to place an LGBT-friendly diplomat in a position that has influence over U.S. policies at the United Nations. The State Department spokesperson said Berry maintains his duties in both roles in the Trump administration.

The spokesperson declined to say why Berry wasn’t reassigned or dismissed last month when a slew of other political and career officials were booted by Trump loyalists. A recently updated State Department organizational chartshows continued vacancies in positions opposed by Republicans on ideological grounds, such as the Special Envoy for Climate Change, a position previously filled by Jonathan Pershing. But Berry’s name and position remain intact.

In recent weeks, Trump has shown himself capable of surprising the LGBT community even as it wages opposition campaigns to oppose his cabinet appointments such as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Earlier this month, Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have a track record of supporting gay rights, worked to torpedo a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama’s regulations strengthening LGBT rights for federal contracting jobs, according to Politico.

Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, pushed the Boy Scouts of America to be open to gay rights when he served as national president from 2010 to 2011. In 2013, while he served on the executive board of the Scouts, it rescinded the ban on gay scouts. During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson declined to say whether “gay rights are human rights.”

The Family Research Council did not respond to a request for comment.

 

How Gay Is Your Geek TV?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The Mary Sue

willow

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared onThePortalist.com, and is reposted here with permission.

When I was growing up, there were so few queer characters in pop culture that I lived on a media diet of Sassy Magazines and the hope that I’d see myself reflected somewhere by someone.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that LGBTQIA characters were actually depicted in the media I loved: When Willow and Tara made magic together for the first time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my heart sang with recognition.

The validation and encouragement that comes from seeing yourself reflected in the culture you value is just as important to me now as it was then. But unfortunately, in 2017 it can still be a struggle to find positive LGBTQIA representation in media — particularly for people of color. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) found in their most recent annual TV report card that around 64% of LGBT characters on broadcast TV in in 2016 were white, and that percentage was even higher for cable and streaming platforms. Some letters in that acronym are also more likely to see themselves positively represented than others.

My personal gravitation has always been towards television and film, although I know many people who have found themselves best represented in novels and comic books. My heart has also always belonged to science fiction and fantasy, genres that usually feature expansive worlds and diverse characters.

One might think that sci-fi and fantasy creators would use that expansiveness as an opportunity to positively represent all sexualities and genders. But while there are certainly some sci-fi and fantasy titles with great LGBTQIA characters (my personal favorites include Lost Girl and Sense8), there’s still a lot of work to be done.

 

sense 8

Still from Sense8. Photo Credit: Via Netflix

Prior to writing this article, I talked to some sci-fi and fantasy fans on Twitter about the queer representation they love in sci-fi and fantasy TV. Some examples came up repeatedly: Lost Girl,which featured the first bisexual female lead on TV; Sense8, which has queer and trans leads;Orphan Black, which has depicted gay, trans, and women- loving-women characters; andTorchwood.

In my own experience, LGBTQIA audiences can be fiercely loyal to the few shows that do right by them. The opposite, of course, is also true.

For an example, look at The 100. Season three of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi show featured a scene wherea lesbian character was killed by a stray bullet soon after her first love scene with another woman.

Still from The 100. Photo Credit: The CW

Still from The 100. Photo Credit: The CW

That death was an example of ‘Burying Your Gays,’ a trope seen in both genre and mainstream TV in which a queer character is killed off—usually to further the story of a white, cis, straight character. Fans responded to the presence of this trope on The 100 with petitions, fundraisers, guidelines for creators on how to do better, and even the launch ofa new convention for LGBTQ women.

RELATED: Steven Universe Is the Perfect Cartoon for Adults

When sweeps roll around, supporting roles usually make for the juiciest kills—and then a community’s sole representative is being killed.

In 2016 alone, 10 queer female characters on sci-fi and fantasy shows died—many of them in brutal, violent ways. That’s a staggeringly high number when you consider how few LGBTQIA characters there are on TV overall. When queer audiences are looking to find themselves in media, it can be damaging for us to repeatedly receive the message that our stories are doomed to end in tragedy.

So, clearly, not all science fiction or fantasy representation is positive. To me, “positive representation” means fleshed out characters that are more than just window dressing for the stories of straight, cis people.

With that definition in mind, I turned to some creative minds in the entertainment industry to get their thoughts on where queer representation in geek TV stands today—and how we can keep improving.

wynonna earp

Still from Wynonna Earp. Photo Credit: SyFy

Emily Andras is currently showrunner on SyFy’s weird science fiction series Wynonna Earp. She’s also worked on series like Lost Girl and Killjoys, and was kind enough to weigh in.

“As with all television, it’s hard to generalize,” she told me. “Some sci-fi genre does LGBT representation well; some tries but its efforts might make us wince, and some doesn’t bother to try at all.  That being said, I do think genre is paving the way.  It’s a natural fit: Genre is ultimately about outsiders trying to make sense of a strange, often hostile world—and if that doesn’t speak to the queer experience, what does? Much of what attracted me personally to genre is the chance to develop characters that don’t normally get their due on television. Likewise, genre audiences tend to crave unique and broad-minded storytelling. It’s a match made in space fantasy heaven. And it doesn’t have to be either/or: We can celebrate those shows we think are ‘getting it right’ while urging them and their less progressive counterparts to continue to grow and do better—as we should with all media representation.”

Do science fiction and fantasy tropes still subtly present LGBTQ characters as strange and alien?

Some of the shows with great queer representation aren’t on traditional TV networks. Carmilla is a very queer web series about vampires that’s become a hit since it premiered on YouTube in 2014. The series features no less than three queer women, two of whom are the show’s leads, as well as a non-binary supporting lead.

Carmilla series writer and director Jordan Hall says that the nature of genre TV can encourage that kind of great representation. “The license that sci-fi and fantasy provides has allowed people to push at issues that might be harder to address in more mundane genres—fictional societies and characters with capabilities like shifting between differently constructed bodies can allow us to approach issues in innovative ways, and/or illustrate the world as we think it should be.”

Although, Hall points out that relying on genre shows to supply our best representation of the LGBTQIA community comes with its own issues. “What is being said when the accepting societies we create are positioned as flights of the imagination? When a physical body that doesn’t match the gender identity of the consciousness in it is the result of possession, or an alien symbiont, or some other supernatural means? Do science fiction and fantasy tropes still subtly present LGBTQ characters as strange and alien instead of including them as part of the normal spectrum of human experience?”

Still from Carmilla. Photo Credit: YouTube

Still from Carmilla. Photo Credit: YouTube

Apart from these questions, Hall still feels that sci-fi and fantasy TV is making strides in the quantity of queer characters depicted—even if it stumbles in the quality of their storylines. “In television, especially, we still see a lot of ‘token’ LGBTQ characters in supporting roles (I suspect out of a false assumption that straight viewers may be alienated by an LGBTQ protagonist),” Hall writes. “This feeds directly to the truly awful ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope, because when sweeps roll around, supporting roles usually make for the juiciest kills—and then a community’s sole representative is being killed. (Not that the trope would be acceptable either way.)”

“There also isn’t much plurality in the gender identities afforded to LGBTQ characters—androgynous, butch, and even flamboyant presentations (just to name a few) are still pretty rare unless they’re deliberately being showcased for their ‘strangeness.’ Hall adds, “It is worth noting, though, that this kind of analysis is possible because the body of LGBTQ characters in sci-fi and fantasy continues to grow, and I’m hopeful that the variety and sophistication of those representations will continue to grow as well.”

RELATED: 5 Times Sailor Moon Taught Me the Difference Between Empowerment and Strength

I wondered if the worlds of comics, books, and gaming experienced the same problems in LGBTQIA representation. So I reached out to Sam Maggs, author of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy andWonder Women, and a writer at the video game company, Bioware. Bioware has featured queer and trans characters prominently in their games Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Inquisition's Krem Photo Credit: BioWare

Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s Krem Photo Credit: BioWare

Overall, Maggs says she sees sci-fi as a very progressive place: “Sci-fi has always been the most progressive genre for diverse representation, and we’re seeing that trend continue today. It’s a place where people who consume fiction can explore new ideas without feeling immediately threatened by them, which is why creators can utilize the sci-fi space to put forth ideas that might seem radical in contemporary fiction.”

I asked Maggs to share some of her favorite representations of queerness in sci-fi, and she provided quite the list. “I love the diversity in my favorite book of 2015, Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. On a rag-tag space crew that’s part Mass Effect and part Firefly, Chambers included not only a wide variety of LGBT characters, but also characters of differing gender identities. Plus, you fall in love with them all instantly.”

“In comics, IDW’s Jem and the Holograms (drawn by a trans woman) includes queer characters on both the Holograms and the Misfits, and features one of the best coming-out scenes by a trans character I’ve ever seen in comics.”

“In games, I might be biased, but I can’t overstate the importance of what BioWare has done to make gaming inclusive for people of all genders and sexualities – both behind the scenes and represented on-screen.”

Still from Sense8. Photo Credit: Netflix

Still from Sense8. Photo Credit: Netflix

In all, what I learned from speaking with these creators is that having a queer character doesn’t automatically make a story progressive. Creating meaningful LGBTQIA characters requires thought into how they are framed and represented. Writers and creators should aim to think outside the box to create intersectional TV, with LGBTQIA characters that are just as fleshed out, complex, and centered in the narrative as their straight or cis counterparts.

There will always be pushback—perhaps more now recently, given today’s political climate. But it’s very clear that positive LGBTQIA representation in media changes hearts and minds. I know it changed me, offering validation and inspiration when I had never before seen myself on screen. Sci-fi and fantasy have the built-in ability to challenge perceptions, which makes them a natural place for queer representation to thrive. All it will take is a few more creators willing to look beyond toxic tropes to create more worlds where all of us can see ourselves.

[Editor’s Note:The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet author Becky Chambers was formerly an editor at The Mary Sue, and worked there at the same time as Sam Maggs and The Portalist’sCarolyn Cox.]

RELATED:Mass Effect Choices: The Power of a Personalized Journey

Feature still of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” via 20th Century Fox Television

Dana Piccoli is a pop culture critic and entertainment writer who lives recently relocated from New York to Greenville, SC. She’s a former Staff Editor and writer for AfterEllen and contributes to The Mary Sue, TV Junkies and more. She’s also written for Curve Magazine, Go Magazine, and Alloy Entertainment. You can follow her on Twitter andTumblr.

If you, like The Sun, think it’s important that a male nurse used to be a gay porn star, reassess your priorities

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

independent

What would a gay slut-shaming story be without making reference to HIV – ‘that inevitably fatal immune disease,’ as my grandmother once referred to it in one of her longer emails to me about my sexuality? Never fear! They found one of those too

Many of you will, like me, have done a double take yesterday when an article surfaced about a 23-year-old nurse who had previously worked in the adult entertainment industry, a “revelation” brought to light by The Sun.

There is self-evidently no public interest in this story at all – whether or not a person once starred in an adult film, gay or otherwise, has no bearing on whether they can effectively train as medical personnel. Why, then, was this nasty piece of writing even published?

The tabloid media these days avoids the traditional (and now taboo) approach of universally condemning all gay people, and instead prefers to maintain a degree of plausible deniability, playing to people’s prejudices and capitalising on their fears. Who, after all, could forget the Daily Mail’s headline (later changed after an online outcry) about the three “judges who blocked Brexit: One founded a EUROPEAN law group, another charged the taxpayer millions for advice and the third is an openly gay ex-Olympic fencer.”

The nurse in The Sun’s story is a gay man, and it does feel a bit like an “outing”. There is undoubtedly a hot, throbbing vein of potent homophobia here, although if he were a straight woman it’s clear this story would still have run: sexism sells just as well as anti-gay sentiment. And let’s not forget that there’s undoubtedly a dollop of slut-shaming in this decidedly unsavoury recipe as well.

As readers, we are invited not only to be outraged at the fact that this dashing young nurse is a gay man, but that he has also had gay sex with numerous partners, on camera, for money, and now has the audacity to be masquerading as a fully qualified nurse. It is all but suggested that we have the poor man led naked through the street by a severe looking nun with a handbell crying: “Shame! Shame!” à la Game of Thrones.

And what would a gay slut-shaming story be without making reference to HIV – “that inevitably fatal immune disease,” as my grandmother once referred to it in one of her longer emails to me about my sexuality? Never fear! They found one. Visitors to the article are presented with a snap of our unwitting protagonist with his National HIV Nurses Association certificate. The dirty, slutty hypocrite!

Personally I was not at all outraged by this young man’s CV: he sounds impressively illustrious to me, and I have the utmost respect for anyone pursuing a career in nursing, being far too self-centred myself for that ever to have been a realistic consideration in terms of my own career route.

I imagine that when applying to become a nurse, it’s unlikely that he cited his previous experience in the area of adult film-making – largely because it didn’t seem particularly relevant to his burgeoning career in nursing. I have various friends who funded their way through university via similar means, and I don’t imagine they lead with it on their resumé.

I completely understand that not everyone reading the article is going to be as understanding of the young man’s earlier career choices as I am, but I was heartened to see that the vast majority of the reader comments appending the offending article were by and large less to do with a gay adult performer’s filmography, and much more to do with the right to privacy of a young nurse, on whose life this story is bound to have a monumental and potentially lasting impact.

‘Too Gay’? No Way in Mean Girls Musical Parody

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Advocate

Mean Gurlz
 Homophobia. Tyranny. The dangers of school bullying.

There are issues tied to the current political climate — but they were also portrayed with remarkable acumen in Mean Girls, released in 2004.

Directed by Mark Waters and written by Tina Fey, the film was inspired in part by Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes, an anthropoligcal study of high school cliques and their impact on teenage girls. As a result, the movie was a clever social commentary, which also clearly resonated with viewers. In 2014, a decade after its release, it was prounounced a classic due to its many quotable lines of “word vomit” (“You go, Glen Coco!” “That’s so fetch!”) as well as the star power of the young Lindsay Lohan, who as Cady became every outsider navigating the often precarious strata of “girl world.”

Mean Girls also holds a special place in the hearts of queer people, who as outsiders related to Cady and her struggle to fit in. That’s not to mention the presence of a gay character, Damian, as well as the antigay slurs used to bully and exclude; “Janis Ian is a dyke” and “too gay to function” were in the “burn book,” a list of cruel notations written by the popular clique known as the Plastics.

In 2017, this influence and relevance endures, as evidenced by perhaps the film’s queerest interpretation yet, The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Mean Gurlz at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles.

In the tradition of UMPO shows, Mean Gurlz melds the main plot of the film with song-and-dance numbers from popular music, which in and of itself amplifies the production’s camp sensibilities. Aaron Samuels (Jason Michael Snow and Michael Thomas Grant) seranades new girl Cady (Bianca Gisselle) with Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Ms. Norburry croons Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” as she counsels her students on clique culture.

Mean Gurlz Extrax750

But in Mean Gurlz, the story is told by a fanboy played by Ryan O’Connor, who narrates the story with a “few tweaks and polishes,” which work to empower its queer characters. In this imagining, Damian (Andy Arena) has his chance to shine at the talent show, with a complete and soulful rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” The character of Janis Ian — who in the film fell from social graces due to lesbian rumors — is now a queer avenging angel (E.K. Dagenfield, in drag) bent on ruining Regina (How to Get Away With Murder‘s Corbin Reid) and watching Carol with Cady. And as the title implies, RuPaul’s Drag Race references and tongue pops abound.

The production might have once been called “too gay to function,” yet function it does, providing hilarity and also new insights into how the high school hierarchy of Mean Girls is a potent political allegory. “Regina George is worse than Donald Trump,” says the narrator in one of many humorous references. And as the audience members laugh at Gretchen Weiners’s breakdown in the face of Regina’s rule — “Why should Caesar get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet?” — they also feel her pain.

Politics aside, the cast of the Mean Gurlz production includes several LGBT performers, who shared their insights with The Advocate as to why the story still appeals to queer audience members.

Actor Michael Thomas Grant argued that intersectionality might be a factor in this draw, as queer men can relate to and celebrate “strong and flawed women.”

“Finding strength in spite of, or because of, one’s perceived femininity is a shared journey for a lot of us,” Grant said. “I really appreciate that Mean Girlstakes it one step further, though, by not only recognizing that our search for strength can harbor resentment and alpha-beta, cliquey communities, but also, in the end, teaching people that those behaviors can be tempered with a little honesty, community, and communication with those who’ve had a similar struggle.”

“It also holds true that if you stop being friends with someone because you think they’re a lesbian, you most likely deserve to be hit by a bus,” he said.

Tye Blue, the director of Mean Gurlz, added that, despite gains in visibility and rights, there is still a mean streak in some LGBT people that can cause divisiveness as well as its own clique culture.

“There is still much work to be done within our own community. Even though we can get married and trans is out front and drag is winning Emmys, we are still pretty mean to each other,” Blue said. “The slightly overweight, ‘average’-looking newbie at the bar can still identify with Cady, Janis, and Damian, while the athletic, homogenized wonder cliques still feel, to me anyway, very much like the Plastics.”

“There’s a lot of compassion and empathy still to be found in our own culture. Fingers crossed!” he concluded on a hopeful note.

Mean Gurlz, which assures all audience members “you can sit with us,” was written by Kate Pazakis and Joseph Gonzalez, and directed by Tye Blue, with musical direction by Gregory Naboursruns. It runs through April 15 at Rockwell Table and Stage.

Clouds parting in gay marriage debate: Wong

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Sky News Australia

An inquiry into draft laws for same-sex marriage is calling for a new category of religious celebrants.

Federal politicians hope the ‘clouds of partisanship have parted’ in the same- sex marriage debate after the release of a consensus committee inquiry report.

A parliamentary inquiry examined a draft bill to legalise gay marriage that the government would introduce to parliament following voter approval.

However the plebiscite is unlikely to go ahead because of lack of support.

The committee nonetheless released its report to parliament on Wednesday.

It proposed setting up a new category of independent religious celebrants to perform wedding ceremonies within their faith.

The committee recommended civil celebrants should uphold the law if marriage equality is legalised, but was in favour of the right of ministers to refuse to solemnise marriages on religious grounds.

However the committee said evidence supported the need for current protections for religious freedom to be enhanced.

Labor senate leader Penny Wong, who is in a same-sex relationship, described the report as a significant and important moment in the gay marriage debate, insisting the ‘clouds of partisanship had parted’.

‘We must now, together, take the next steps, to work together, to compromise, to end this debate and to achieve what is the will of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people,’ she told parliament.

Gay Liberal senator Dean Smith said it made sense to extend the institution of marriage to others.

Canada, the UK and New Zealand had already legalised gay marriage.

‘There is nothing to fear from changing the definition of marriage to one that gives every Australian the opportunity to share in this tried and tested institution,’ he said.

Gay Labor senator Louise Pratt said the report showed it would not be difficult to create laws that upheld religious freedom and freedom to marry.

‘I would like … the right to be married but please don’t ask me about my plans to get married because I can’t yet make them,’ she told parliament.

But Liberal senator David Fawcett, who chaired the committee, disagreed saying it a complex legal task.

‘If Australia is to remain a plural and tolerant society, where different views are valued and legal, legislators must arecognise that this change will require careful, simultaneous consideration of a wide range of specialist areas of law, as opposed to the common perception that it involves changing just a few words in one act in parliament,’ he said.

Greens senator Janet Rice said the unprecedented show of collaboration, negotiation and consensus had paved the way forward to achieve marriage equality in this parliament.

AAP

 

New York drag restaurant owner, 54, left severely bruised after he was ‘bashed for being gay’ – and he blames the attack on Donald Trump

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Daily Mail

 

  • Mark Zschiesche, 54, claims he was beaten in San Diego on Sunday morning
  • The 54-year-old co-owns Lips Drag Queen Showplace Restaurant and Bar
  • He was left bloodied and had large bruises on his cheek and eye after the attack
  • Zschiesche said the attacker called him an anti-gay slur before punching him
  • He blamed Donald Trump and ‘those who voted for him’ for the anti-gay attack

A New York man who owns a popular drag queen restaurant chain claims he was beaten up because he is gay – and he blames Donald Trump for the attack.

Mark Zschiesche posted an emotional video on Facebook on Sunday claiming he had been punched in the face in San Diego, California earlier that morning by a stranger.

The 54-year-old, who co-owns Lips Drag Queen Showplace Restaurant and Bar, was left bloodied and had larges bruises on his cheek and eye.

Mark Zschiesche, 54, posted an emotional video on Facebook on Sunday claiming he was punched in the face in San Diego, California by a stranger who yelled anti-gay slurs at him

Mark Zschiesche, 54, posted an emotional video on Facebook on Sunday claiming he was punched in the face in San Diego, California by a stranger who yelled anti-gay slurs at him

‘Someone hit me in the face because I’m gay and I have never ever in my entire life experienced this,’ Zschiesche said.

‘I blame this on Trump and all of you that supported him,’ he said repeatedly.

Zschiesche said he was walking alone through San Diego’s North Park neighborhood at about 2am on Sunday when a complete stranger approached him, CBS reports.

He said the attacker called him an anti-gay slur before punching him.

The 54-year-old was left bloodied and had larges bruises on his cheek and eye
The 54-year-old was left bloodied and had larges bruises on his cheek and eye

The 54-year-old was left bloodied and had larges bruises on his cheek and eye following the attack on Sunday morning

Zschiesche posted an emotional video on Facebook saying he had never been attacked because of his sexuality

Zschiesche posted an emotional video on Facebook saying he had never been attacked because of his sexuality

The shocked restaurant owner said he had never been attacked because of his sexuality.

‘My personal opinion is there is a lot of hate in the air. You hate to blame, besides the person who hit me, but I blame Trump and his rhetoric,’ he said.

Zschiesche’s Lips restaurant chain started in New York’s West Village more than 20 years ago. They now have venues in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego and Chicago.

Zschiesche's Lips restaurant chain started in New York's West Village more than 20 years ago

Zschiesche’s Lips restaurant chain started in New York’s West Village more than 20 years ago

The shocked restaurant owner said he had never been attacked because of his sexuality and blamed Donald Trump and those who voted for him

The shocked restaurant owner said he had never been attacked because of his sexuality and blamed Donald Trump and those who voted for him

 

This 18-Year-Old’s Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality And Acceptance Is A Must Read

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

MensXP

We posted a BTS-image of model Saket Sharma from Narendra Kumar’s show at Lakme Fashion Week where he was wearing a full face of make-up that included a red (almost tangerine) lipstick and blue eyeshadow. There were a lot of comments on the post; some were good, some even encouraging, but most of them were just mean-spirited and hateful. Saket shared the post, writing, “Hurts my being to even read the comments, not because I’m the subject here but because it’s difficult for people to be themselves in this country. I don’t wear make-up in my everyday life, but I have friends who do and it doesn’t bother me or alters my life in any shape or form. It’s about time people need to keep going with their life. In the truest hour, I ask for the world to end because this is not the way we should live.”

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance© MensXP

Like any lifestyle website with a big reach, we usually receive a mixed-bag of comments and emails. Name calling, abuse, and even death-threats—we’ve seen it all. And even though we’d usually never call out our readers, this is an exception, because comments like these are simply just…hateful!

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance

And then we received this gem of an open letter, from 18-year-old, Ishan Dhage—whose words definitely echo our sentiments (read the letter below). Why so much hate? Sitting behind a computer, commenting on posts in an obscene language doesn’t make you a stud. What makes you brave is having the ability to face your fears—whether it’s wearing a full face of make-up, dressing up in uncomfortable clothes or wearing heels. If that’s what you have to do, then that’s what you have to do. You cannot mess with someone else’s free will just because it represents the “other” for you. This world is filled with all sorts of people. In your lifetime, you’ll meet various kinds, who will open your minds, show you grace and kindness … if you let them. Should you look at the world with a jaundiced eye then believe us, your hateful comments will truly end up representing who you are: hateful, violent and miserable. So, who do you want to be? The choice is yours, but leave others to make THEIR choices.

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance© MensXP

“Do you know what gender stereotypes are? Of course, you do. You are also aware of the fact that they are utter rubbish. This is 2017 and we have progressed so much. We have made advances in every field possible from medicine to science, art, literature and what not. So what I’m failing to understand is, why can’t our regressive ideas and thoughts, progress? Why do we—as a progressive society—have to stick to a very ancient and conventional (read: ghastly) mindset? Why can’t we ALLOW girls to explore their masculinity and guys to explore their femininity? Why is it that we always make fun or belittle anyone who is slightly different than the norm? I honestly DO NOT understand. 

Let’s discuss make-up and the big fuss about it. I mean why would you make a big deal out of someone wearing make-up?! Putting on a full face of make-up doesn’t make you ‘gay’ or ‘artificial’. And, judging someone’s personality or sexuality based on a palette of colours…is just stupid! 

I stand up for simple things in life that bring people joy—whether it is a pair of high heels or a bright red lipstick. I stand for girls who are tired of hearing ‘too much makeup’, ‘you don’t need it’, ‘artificial’, ‘plastic’ and what not! I stand up boys who are brave enough to go against the grain and stand up for what they love. But what happens when someone is actually brave enough to defy norms? One word: Humiliation!  Instead of applauding them for taking a stand and overcoming their fears—we start calling them names— ‘unnatural’, ‘gay’, ‘fag’ etc. Is your masculinity so fragile that the only way to win in life is by taking someone down? 

Fuck you if you think this is unnatural. 

Fuck you if this goes over your head and against your immature ideas. 

Fuck you if you ever shamed someone based on their choices. 

Fuck you if you think makeup is only limited to one gender. 

Fuck you if you ever made fun of someone for something they love to do. 

Fuck you and your gender norms. 

Oh and you can judge me all you want, because honestly, I expect nothing better. I know a number of people who’ll judge me just for standing up for someone. But guess what? Neither my masculinity nor my ego is as fragile as yours. So please, give it your best shot.

Open Letter About Gay Shaming, Sexuality and Acceptance© MensXP

This is not a ‘coming out’ post. This is not about me. This is much, much bigger than me. This is written in hopes of giving someone courage or at least some kind of inspiration to face their demons. This is me standing up for all those who have to deal with so much unnecessary bullshit. This is me standing up for that one person who’s scared to do what they truly love, out of the fear of being judged and ridiculed—I’m with you and I’ll stand by you.”

Photo: © MensXP (Main Image)

The Homosexuals, or Faggots: new play satirises white privileged gay life – and rings true

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The Guardian

Simon Burke and Simon Corfield in The Homosexuals, or Faggots
Simon Burke and Simon Corfield in The Homosexuals, or Faggots. Photograph: Brett Boardman 

The faggots are burning. The fire alarm rings in gay couple Warren and Kim’s angular Sydney home as the Mardi Gras parade plays out from the bathroom window.

Warren, in his late 40s, played by Simon Burke, waves away the panic of his husband Kim (Simon Corfield), and offers to fix them martinis. As the lithe, 30-something Kim drops to the ground and crawls on all fours, Warren considers buying him a dog as therapy.

The Homosexuals, or Faggots is in its fourth week of rehearsal when I visit the crew in a wharf loft at Walsh Bay. The title references a meal of mixed pork liver rolled into meatballs – a meal which has just burst into flame in the couple’s oven, and one that doubles as a side dish of gay slur.

The play, by the Melbourne playwright Declan Greene and directed by Lee Lewis, has a rainbow of characters: elegant Baebae (Mama Alto), a non-binary transfeminine person of colour, for instance; and Diana (Genevieve Lemon), a foul-mouthed white trans woman.

But Warren, Kim and their model friend Lucacz (Lincoln Younes) are gay white middle-class cisgender males, like me. This appellation sounds exotic, but “cis” really just means I identify my gender as being in line with the sex I was assigned at birth. Sorry for that gaysplaining, but as a gay white middle-class cis male, it appears I have the floor again.

Men such as me, the play contends, have made same-sex marriage their number one activism priority, overshadowing other lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer concerns. This – plus a fondness for cocktails and cash – make a certain sort of Sydney gay ripe for satire, given to marginalising his oppressed cohorts. How else to explain Kim’s possibly transphobic and racist micro-aggression of a costume, when he dresses up in a “sexy” Hitler/Caitlyn Jenner hybrid? Likewise, Lucacz complains that decoupling “Muslim” from “terrorist” is simply “political correctness”.

But as a Sydney gay of Warren’s vintage, hear me out: we would have dropped the constant bleating about marriage equality long ago if the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Abbott-Turnbull governments had pulled their heads out of their neoliberal backsides and done what the high court said parliament has authority to do: allow us to get married, should we want to.

My partner of 18 years and I wrote our wills a decade ago in the event we would need to legally prove our relationship exists, and perhaps I should just settle for that. But there are now some 20 western countries in which same-sex marriage is legally recognised, while still more have civil unions. Nationally, Australia – reactionary, complacent, conservative continent that it is – has neither.

A number of my queer fellow travellers argue that we shouldn’t go near the conservative, patriarchal institution of marriage. For one thing, as Baebae notes in the play, the marriage equality campaign has been cheaply co-opted by commerce: “ANZ supports gay marriage!” Baebae says, of a Mardi Gras float sign. Warren gasps that he has fought for a decade for gay marriage, a “sanctity” he “refuses to pervert” by marrying a woman. The play’s draft text also quotes the US author Bruce Benderson, who has argued that marriage is meaningless and “wanting it is almost as repulsive as gays fighting to join the military, as opposed to gays fighting to end the military”.

All fair enough, but those are different arguments; the argument I’m making is one of equality of opportunity. Much as Lady Gaga’s song Born This Way can be used to celebrate diversity, self-love or genetic determinism, we can have more than one view of marriage.

The gender theorist Kate Bornstein is prominently quoted in the play too, from her book Gender Outlaw: “Male privilege is, in a word, violence.” But surely opening up marriage to same-sex couples challenges existing privilege.

Activists march during a rally in Sydney in support of marriage equality
Pinterest
Activists march during a rally in Sydney in support of marriage equality. Photograph: Carol Cho/EPA

In his play, Greene does hold before me a mirror reflecting uncomfortable truths. I recognised such a moment when a neighbour disses Warren’s loud dance music and Warren calls him a “homophobe”. It’s a word we’re too quick to throw around, undermining the moments when it really needs to be used: step forward Cory Bernardi, who has likened homosexuality to bestiality; George Christensen,who linked the Safe Schools program to paedophilia; and cartoonist in decline Larry Pickering, who last week, at a far-right Q Society meeting in Sydney, said of Muslims: “They’re not all bad, they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings.”

Does my support of marriage equality blind me to other oppression? Well, I did nervously attended an Invasion Day ceremony on 26 January, wondering if I’d feel welcome (I did); and a dozen years ago I was a Mardi Gras volunteer for a season, writing an eight-page guide to the parade and festival and contacting every float maker. Boy was there some socioeconomic, cultural and faith diversity there, beyond the urban, middle-class white gay male.

But I must admit I have little other rainbow involvement with which to signal my virtue, beyond what I take an interest in reading. For most of us living in this absurdly overpriced city, we’re generally too busy to foster rainbow coalitions, instead working to pay Sydney rent and mortgages.

I know my share of conservative gays like Warren and Kim, for whom a facial and a cocktail fix everything. I personally can’t abide the creeping commercialisation of Mardi Gras any more than gays who negatively gear, keeping others consigned to the rental treadmill. Stilettos and floats up Oxford Street are lovely modes of transport but they don’t house or (otherwise) clothe us.

No need for white, middle-class gays to picket Declan Greene’s play, then. If you see it, I predict you will laugh – especially if you recognise your absorbed self. What a way to reclaim a word like “faggot”, too.

The Homosexuals, or Faggots is at the Malthouse in Melbourne from 17 February, and at Griffin theatre in Sydney from 17 March

Church of England apologises for tone of gay marriage report

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

BBC News

Women holding placardImage copyrightAFP

Leading bishops have apologised to members of the Church of England who may be alienated by a report on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The report by the House of Bishops, which the General Synod is debating, calls for a “fresh tone”.

But it maintains that marriage in church should only be between a man and a woman, and services should not be held to bless same-sex relationships.

The Bishop of Norwich said the Church “owes much” to gay members and clergy.

‘Difficult’ report

Graham James, of the diocese of Norwich, said: “Like others which have gone before it, [the report] has not received a rapturous reception in all quarters, and I regret any pain or anger it may have caused.”

In a speech to the Church’s national assembly, the Bishop of Willesden, the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, said he did not want to “attempt an exercise in self-justification”.

He told members: “I don’t want to make excuses for the House of Bishops’ document.

“I do want to apologise to those members of Synod who found our report difficult, who didn’t recognise themselves in it, who had expected more from us than we actually delivered, for the tone of the report.

“On behalf of the House, and without being trite or trivial, I’m sorry.”

Protesters outside Church HouseImage copyrightREUTERS

Before the debate, protesters gathered outside the Church of England headquarters and champions of LGBT rights sang hymns.

The group, organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude now known collectively as One Body One Faith, with the support of Out and Proud African LGBTI and rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, called for the rejection of the bishops’ report.

Mr Tatchell said the report proposed a “massive scale of church-sanctioned discrimination”.

He added: “It denies the right of same-sex couples to be blessed in church, even though it will bless cats and dogs, and it gives a very clear message that clergy who are in same-sex marriages which are lawful will be denied promotion.”

Members of the Synod are holding a “take note” debate of the report on Wednesday evening, but the proposals will not be formally rejected or approved.

sign reading What would Jesus doImage copyrightAFP

The Reverend Bertrand Olivier, who’s gay, told the BBC the Church needed to reflect modern society.

He said: “The proposals on the table are indeed gong to take us back 20 years. I’ve been a priest in the Church of England for 21 years.

“I was ordained as an openly gay candidate then and it’s been going backwards ever since at the same time as the nation has moved on and we now have legal same-sex marriage.”

But the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent said campaigners may be asking too much.

He said: “Our role is to hold the Church together and say we can only go as far as the whole church can agree. Campaigners are actually wanting us to go further, more hurriedly, than we necessarily can.

“We need to do more work on what we can agree around and not just say because we’ve had the shared conversations, we can give campaigners exactly what they want.”

Gambling legislation

The Synod has unanimously passed a motion urging the government to bring forward proposals to reduce the amount gamblers can stake on on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

In a speech to the church’s national assembly, London Diocese lay member Clive Scowen said the “machines feed off poverty and exacerbate it, often plunging people into unmanageable debt”.

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said the debate concerned a “very focused form of betting which has caused huge suffering”.

How Gay Marriage Suggests A Strategy For Climate Change

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Forbes

The iPhone shows how rapidly society can change if it wants to, a California energy commissioner said last week, and gay marriage shows that change can happen in public policy too.

Climate policy could be next, said David Hochschild, the environmental commissioner on the California Energy Commission and an architect of Proposition B, San Francisco’s successful $100 million solar initiative.

“There was gay marriage nowhere until 2004, then we saw that state by state by state by state it got adopted, and now of course it’s in all 50 states. Over a very short period of time. You go back 12, 13 years and you ask how many people think gay marriage is universal and I think most people would assert, it’s not going to happen,” Hochschild said during a Stanford University seminar last week.

“I think there’s actually some lessons for the climate movement in what happened with marriage equality, because they framed the movement in terms of love: Government has no place to get between two people who love each other,” he said. “I actually think climate change is the same thing. It’s about loving the next generation, and I think that is a good way to think about it.”

Hochschild helped design a 2001 ballot initiative for then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to outfit the city with solar panels. His team polled voters and found that of the many potential benefits of clean energy, voters cared most about clean air. The mayor’s“Clean Air, Clean Energy” initiative won with 73 percent of the vote.

He then went to work for Vote Solar, a non-profit that works to topple barriers to solar energy in all states.

The iPhone is his model for change potential: “It’s gone from basically not existing to being ubiquitous in a decade,” he said. And he thinks cigarettes model the country’s addiction to fossil fuels. The smoking rate has fallen from about 50 percent in 1965 to 15 percent today, he said, in spite of early and expensive efforts by the tobacco industry to foster doubt about the science.

The Tragic Lessons of Cinema’s First Gay Love Story

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The New Yorker

There is only one hopeful scene in “Different from the Others,” a silent picture from 1919 that is widely considered the first feature film about gay love. In it, a gaunt, handsome man plays the piano in his Berlin drawing room. He is Paul Körner, a violin virtuoso, and, in his silk housecoat, surrounded by heavy drapery and Grecian statuettes, he appears to live a life that is resplendent but lonely. Then an unlikely event sets him on a new course: a young music student has come calling. Kurt Sivers, round-faced, excitable, has seen all of Paul’s concerts, and he approaches the master nervously, hands clutched to his chest. “My deepest wish would come true if you were willing to be my teacher!” an intertitle reads. Paul responds by offering Kurt his great open palm. Their alliance, a perfect meeting of passion and pedagogy, seems indivisibly strong—but, by the end of the film, we have learned otherwise, owing to the self-hatred and cruelty that homosexual love can inspire, even in Weimar Berlin.

“Different from the Others,” which was written by the gay sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and the Austrian director Richard Oswald, tells the story of one who “suffers not from his condition, but rather from the false judgment of it,” as another intertitle reads. By 1933, when the Nazis stormed Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexual Research, also in Berlin, every known copy of the film had been destroyed. Luckily, the good doctor had included some forty minutes of the footage in a long scientific film called “Laws of Love,” which was shown in Russia in the late twenties or early thirties and remained for decades in the Krasnogorsk archives. In the eighties, film restorers began trying to piece together the original, but it wasn’t until this winter—six years after the U.C.L.A. Film & Television Archive bought a high-definition print of “Laws of Love”—that a reliable version of “Different from the Others” was completed, using detailed Nazi censorship records as a narrative guide, and with images substituted for the missing scenes. “Years before Alfred Kinsey, Hirschfeld was arguing that homosexuality exists on a continuum,” Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of the U.C.L.A. archive, told me. “It’s not abnormal, because there is no abnormality.”

The film makes another argument: that hatred can fester even in the interstices of liberal democracies. On the surface, tolerance prevailed in Weimar Germany. If you were careful enough, you could evade the shadow of Paragraph 175, an infamous law that forbade “unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts.” And it was relaxed censorship laws that allowed “Different from the Others” to be made in the first place, along with later gay-themed films such as “Pandora’s Box” (1929), whose seductive countess was one of the first onscreen lesbians, and “Mädchen in Uniform” (1931), which takes place in a brutal, erotically charged all-girls boarding school. Weimar night life was infamously decadent: men dressed as women flocked to the Silhouette; women dressed as men favored the Mikado; and the Eldorado drew gender-benders of all types. When Anita Loos, who wrote the novel “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” visited the city in the twenties, she observed that “any Berlin lady of the evening might turn out to be a man; the prettiest girl on the street was Conrad Veidt”—the silent-screen leading man who played none other than Paul Körner in “Different from the Others.”

Yet there is a special kind of shame and suffering that comes from living life half-openly, from knowing what it is you’re not really allowed to have. In “Different from the Others,” we watch as Paul loses his faith in the power of companionship. In a flashback to his years as a boarding-school teen-ager, he looks over a text with his roommate, Max, and drapes his arm around the younger boy. Then a teacher walks in and bursts into outrage: Max is supposed to be doing his assignment alone—the standard punishment, it would seem, for untoward tendencies. “As a university student, Körner led a lonely and reclusive life, devoted only to his studies,” an intertitle then tells us. We see him reading as five classmates sneak up behind him, raising their hands in unison and clapping them down on his shoulders—a threat of future violence delivered in the guise of friendship. “The girls are making fun of you because no one ever sees you,” they say, inviting him to a bordello, where two women in lace gowns try to kiss him. “If that boy’s completely normal, then I’m a virgin,” the madam says—the kind of comment that moves Paul to seek a cure from a hypnotist, the conversion therapist of the day.

It is not the state that is responsible for Körner’s downfall, at least not directly: in keeping with the subterranean hatred of Weimar Berlin, convictions under the anti-sodomy law often began with extortionists who operated within the demimonde itself. The villain of “Different from the Others” is the smirking Franz Bollek, played by the well-known film star Reinhold Schünzel, who passes Kurt and Paul on a wooded path in a city park. “Handsome lad,” Bollek says, glaring at Kurt, as Paul starts with recognition: years before, Paul had been blackmailed by Bollek after meeting him at a masquerade. (A scene from that party, showing an androgynous conga line, was considered one of the film’s controversial images.)

Now Bollek decides to resume his crime. On the very day Kurt performs in a concert alongside Paul, they find Bollek prowling around in Paul’s living room. “Don’t get so excited,” Bollek tells Kurt, when he tries to brawl. “You’re getting paid by him, too!” Kurt is not a whore, of course, but the mere suggestion, and Paul’s familiarity with Bollek, is enough to send him running: “I am determined to make my way alone,” Kurt writes to his sister. Paul, meanwhile, refuses another demand for payment; Bollek turns him in to the police, and he is sentenced to a week in prison. He does not need to serve his term to be publicly shamed and professionally ruined: we watch him swallow a few capsules of cyanide and sink into his chair. His eyes narrow and widen; his face tightens and slackens; his head lolls back and he dies.

Bad laws can destroy good relationships—perhaps especially when they’re poorly enforced, leaving just enough space for human bonds to form. At the end of “Different from the Others,” we’re told of a missing sequence in which a great hand descends over a German law book to cross out the entry for Paragraph 175. It is fitting that the scene was lost, because the law prevailed for many decades to come. The Nazis used it to send some forty-six thousand men to prison and perhaps ten thousand of those to concentration camps. Upon liberation, most of the survivors were promptly locked up again, whether by East or West Germany, both of which continued to enforce Paragraph 175 through about 1970. It was not until 1994 that the law was formally repealed, and it was not until last year that reparations were paid to the few thousand victims who were still living.

Today we continue to live in the slipstream of provisions like Paragraph 175. Similar laws are still in force in dozens of countries; in the United States, anti-sodomy statutes were ruled unconstitutional in 2003, but they remain on the books in upward of ten mostly deep-red states, and activists have been stymied in their push for formal repeal. Love trumps hate, the signs tell us, or, as Magnus Hirschfield said in 1919, at the Berlin première of “Different from the Others,” “Soon the day will come when science will win a victory over error, justice a victory over injustice, and human love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.” That day is still ahead of us.

Gay minorities speak out against racists slurs on Grindr

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Medical student Dustin Mangatjay McGregor said he regularly received racist abuse from potential dates on Grindr, including being called a “petrol sniffer” and a “wog abo c***”.

Mr McGregor said gay men who were not white were more likely to be rejected in the online dating world and that he was fed up with users disclosing their racial preferences in derogatory terms, such as “no rice or spice”, meaning they have no interest in Asian or Indian men.

“There’s a hierarchy in the gay community,” said Mr McGregor, who is from North East Arnhem Land and also has Greek and Scottish heritage.

“The white attractive male with the European background is at the top of the pyramid. The further you are away from that ethnicity or body image the more you’re shunned in the gay community.

“‘No rice or spice’ is one of the most common things I’ve seen on Grindr. It’s all good and well to have preferences but don’t throw that around in a derogatory way.”

Mr McGregor, 23, said he had been sent racist messages frequently since he joined the dating app five years ago. They include slurs about traditional land ownership and petrol sniffing, as well as being asked if he speaks English because he “looks Chinese” and questioned about “bush techniques”.

Grindr users who spoke to Fairfax Media said most men who made the offensive comments on gay dating apps were white and that profiles commonly said “Euros only”, “Aussies only”, “GWM only” [gay white men] and “No Asians”. Some also use emojis of turbans to indicate they are not interested in Indian men.

In one disturbing example, a user’s profile picture shows a tattoo of an eagle, similar to the emblem used in Nazi symbolism.

A screengrab of a profile on a gay dating app. A screengrab of a profile on a gay dating app.

Dinesh, a Melbourne man with Sri Lankan heritage, said he calls people out on dating apps who use terms such as “No Asians”.

“If you’re a young guy coming to terms with your sexuality the last thing you need to be told is that you’re not attractive by the community you’re supposed to be part of,” he said.

“The biggest thing for me is being asked where I’m from. Every time I’m asked that I’m jolted into thinking ‘I don’t belong’.”

Dinesh said he personally knows Asian men who discriminate against other Asians on gay dating websites. He said there was a “ranking order” that placed Asian men at the bottom. “The Asian guys want to be seen with the white guys, which is really sad,” he said.

Mr McGregor’s profile, which he has now deleted, said he was “Aboriginal/Greek/Caucasian (mixed Euro)”. As an experiment he recently removed all references to his heritage for one month and described himself as “white” instead of “other”.

“I wondered if people would notice such subtle changes in my profile and they did,” he said. “I was flooded with messages. There was so many more – I lost count. But when I changed it back there wasn’t as much interest.

“What frustrates me the most is that there are vulnerable people out there who have more typical presentations of their heritage than I do and they can’t hide from that. They receive this sort of abuse more often and in worse forms than me.”

Skiatook man busted after child porn sent through Grindr mobile dating app

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

A Skiatook man was arrested Tuesday on allegations that he sent sexually explicit images of underage boys to another man through a popular mobile dating application.

The man who received the images, which were sent through the mobile application Grindr, reported the incident to Broken Arrow police officers on Monday, police said in an arrest and booking report.

The man reportedly told police that Joshua Duane Gauger, 25, of Skiatook, sent the images to him after first asking whether he was “into taboo,” according to the police report. When the man told Gauger that he didn’t know what that meant, Gauger specified that it meant “bestiality” and “young,” police said.

Gauger reportedly sent sexually explicit images of underage boys despite the man’s having told him that he was not interested. The man took screenshots of the images and his conversations with Gauger and showed them to police, according to the report.

The next day, police searched the man’s cellphone after he agreed to turn it over. Officers confirmed that the images were sent by Gauger, and the man was given his phone back, according to the report.

The man agreed to meet up with Gauger through the mobile application so that police could arrest Gauger, according to the report.

Gauger and the man agreed to meet about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at a restaurant in the 3800 block of South Elm Place in Broken Arrow, police said.

When Gauger arrived, police officers were waiting in the restaurant’s parking lot. When officers saw Gauger get out of his vehicle, they approached him, according to the report.

Gauger was taken into custody and taken to the Broken Arrow City Jail, where he was interviewed. He was told why he was being arrested and allowed officers to search his cellphone, police said.

Gauger reportedly admitted to having about 500 sexually explicit images and a couple of videos of underage boys on his cellphone. The sexually explicit materials were found on the phone.

Gauger reportedly said he did not know any of the children in the images and that he downloaded them from the internet, police said.

He was booked into the Tulsa Jail about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday on complaints of possessing and distributing child pornography as well as on a hold for Washington County, according to jail records. He is being held in lieu of $10,000 bond and has a court appearance set for Thursday.

Washington County District Court records indicate that Gauger was charged on Wednesday with one count of proposing a lewd or indecent act to a child younger than 16.

Paris Burris

Suspect accused of robbing, kidnapping victims on Grindr

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
kxan
Justin Carrillo, admits to aggravated robbery and kidnapping of men he met on Grindr in Austin and Kyle (Hays County Police)
Justin Carrillo, admits to aggravated robbery and kidnapping of men he met on Grindr in Austin and Kyle (Hays County Police)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A suspect is now in custody after police say he confessed to the armed robbery and kidnapping of several people through the dating app Grindr, across Austin and the city of Kyle.

Justin Carrillo, 22, is accused meeting men on the popular dating app and then taking them to ATMs to withdraw cash. The first instance was on Jan. 24 around midnight when a man told police he invited Carrillo to his apartment and ended up robbed at gunpoint.

The victim said as soon as Carrillo entered his apartment on West Slaughter Lane he turned off the lights and pulled out a handgun. According to the affidavit, Carrillo took the victim’s laptop and two iPhones before forcing him to drive to an ATM and empty out his checking account. The victim returned home after the robbery and called police.

Two days later, Kyle police responded to a similar situation where a suspect robbed a man he met on Grindr at gunpoint. The second victim told investigators Carrillo had him drive to an unknown address in Kyle. Holding on to the man’s wallet and keys Carrillo told him to wait in the car. Fearing for his life, as soon as Carrillo entered the house, the victim ran out of the car and called for help.

Meanwhile, inside the house Carrillo robbed the homeowner he met on Grindr before driving away. Using the app, police were able to set up a fake meet-up and tracked down Carrillo.

Carrillo is currently in custody at the Hays County Jail and admitted to one count of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated robbery.

Spoofed Grindr Accounts Turned One Man’s Life Into a ‘Living Hell’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

wired

Matthew-Herick.jpg

Cases of Grindr catfishing and deception happen every so often on Grindr—sometimes with tragic results. But the Grindr impersonation Herrick describes in his lawsuit was a longer-term form of abuse with equally dangerous consequences. In the worst cases, the suit alleges, the impersonator requested a “rape fantasy.” In one instance, Herrick says, a man refused to leave Herrick’s apartment building, and wrestled with Herrick’s roommate in the hallway until Herrick broke up the fight. Others have screamed obscenities at Herrick at his workplace, stalked him outside, and tried to have sex with him in the bathroom of the restaurant. On one day earlier this month, six men seeking sex came to the restaurant where Herrick works in just a four-minute span. And Herrick says the person controlling the fake profiles will often tell the visitors Herrick will “say no when he means yes,” or that he’d sent them away only to hide them from his jealous roommate, and that they should return.

“They were setting him up to be sexually assaulted,” says Herrick’s attorney Carrie Goldberg. “It’s just luck that it hasn’t happened yet.”

Herrick’s civil complaint points to an ex-boyfriend as the source of the impersonation attacks. (WIRED has chosen not to identify him as he’s not named as a defendant in the complaint.) He allegedly began impersonating Herrick on Grindr even before their breakup earlier this year, but only started using the spoofed accounts to harass him after they separated. The complaint states that the ex “would manipulate the geo-physical settings” of the app—a simple enough hack using GPS-spoofing apps for Android or jailbroken iPhones—to make fake accounts appear to be located at Herrick’s home or work.

The ex-boyfriend told WIRED in a phone call that he denies “any and all allegations” in the complaint, but declined to comment further due to what he described as another pending case that involves both him and Herrick.

Goldberg said she had personally verified all the claims in the complaint. “Any attack on my client’s credibility is countered by the voluminous evidence I’ve seen,” says Goldberg, who has risen to prominence as a fierce advocate of victims of revenge pornography cases. Goldberg declined to share any of that evidence, however, preferring to reveal it at a later stage in the lawsuit. Goldberg and Herrick also declined to comment further on the ex-boyfriend or his alleged involvement in the spoofing attacks, emphasizing that Grindr is the subject of their lawsuit for allowing the spoofing regardless of who carried it out. “A malicious user is just running amok using their product as a weapon,” says Goldberg. “Grindr can control that, and they’re not.”

Grindr did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.

‘It’s cheaper for them not to staff a department that addresses complaints and abuses of the product.’ATTORNEY CARRIE GOLDBERG

Herrick contrasts Grindr’s alleged lack of direct communication or action on the spoofed accounts to the behavior of a lesser-known gay dating app, Scruff. When profiles impersonating Herrick began to appear on Scruff, he filed an abuse complaint with the company that led to the offending account being banned within 24 hours, according to Herrick’s complaint against Grindr. Scruff also prevented the same device or IP address from creating any new accounts. Herrick says that Grindr, despite terms of service that explicitly disallow impersonating other people, never responded even after dozens of requests from him and from family members trying to help. “It’s the ostrich with its head in the sand strategy,” says Goldberg. “It’s cheaper for them not to staff a department that addresses complaints and abuses of the product.”

One reason for Grindr’s unresponsiveness, in fact, may be that it isn’t actually legally liable for the ordeal Herrick has experienced, says Ashley Kissinger, a media defense attorney with Levine, Sullivan, Koch and Schulz LLP. Despite the early ruling Herrick has already won against Grindr, Kissinger points to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that internet services can’t be held legally responsible for content posted by their users. “If I were defending the case I’d have a strong argument that section 230 protects them from these claims,” says Kissinger. Herrick’s complaint counters that the case should be considered not one of illicit content on a service, but product liability: “Grindr affirmatively availed itself as a weapon to destroy [Herrick’s] life,” the complaint reads. But Kissinger points to a2003 case where a woman sued Matchmaker.com over false profiles that had resulted in harassment. Matchmaker argued the section 230 defense and won.

In the meantime, Herrick says he’s reported the situation to the police repeatedly. He declines to talk about any criminal investigation against the ex he believes is behind the spoofed profiles. But on some occasions sympathetic cops have patrolled his block or parked outside his building. They’ve also suggested he move or get a new job, a notion that infuriates him.

“Why don’t you move? Why don’t you run? Why don’t you hide? I find that so insulting. How is that a solution?” says Herrick. “Why doesn’t Grindr do its job?”

Meth Addict Who Murdered and Ate Gay Police Officer After Grindr Hookup Found Dead in Jail

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

towleroad

Stefano Brizzi

Stefano Brizzi

Stefano Brizzi, a 50-year-old meth-addict who murdered a gay police officer after luring him to his apartment for sex and drugs and then ate him, has died in prison where he was recently sent to serve a life sentence.

The BBC reports:

In a statement the MoJ (Ministry of Justice) said: “HMP Belmarsh prisoner Stefano Brizzi died in custody on Sunday.

“As with all deaths in custody there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

The MoJ has not indicated a cause of death and said that would be determined by a coroner. No date has been given for an inquest.

In December, the Guardian reported:

Stefano Brizzi

Stefano Brizzi

Stefano Brizzi, 50, was found guilty last month of murdering Gordon Semple, 59, in April. A court heard that he lured the officer to his London flat for sex and drugs before strangling him, dismembering his body and dissolving it in acid in a bath, copying the method of corpse disposal used by Walter White, the lead character in the US TV series.

In gruesome details that emerged in court, the prosecution also accused Brizzi of cannibalism after bite marks were found on the dead officer’s rib and it was revealed that the Italian had cooked other parts of his body.

Brizzi admitted dismembering and disposing of Semple’s body, but claimed the officer, who served in the Metropolitan police for 30 years, died accidentally during a sex game after a dog leash around his neck slipped.

An officer with the Metropolitan Police for three decades, Semple reportedly left his home on April 1st and visited the Shangri-La hotel in the Shard building later that day. He left the hotel at 12.30pm and was last seen on CCTV about two-and-a-half hours later near London Bridge. Semple met Brizzi on Grindr, the court heard:

The court heard that on the day of the murder Brizzi was tired and bad-tempered because he had been engaged in heavy drug use, had not slept and had been let down by someone else on Grindr. He was also dissatisfied with Semple’s appearance, describing him as fat, ugly and unattractive.

Brizzi and Semple had been trying to persuade other gay men in the area to join them for a “chemsex” party, but when one man agreed to join them he was sent away by Brizzi, who told him via intercom: “We’re having a situation here. Someone fell ill but we’re taking care of it. So our party is cancelled,” the court was told.

Pathologists believe he killed the officer after the pair had sex.

Semple’s body was discovered on April 7 after a neighbor alerted police to a “smell of death” coming from the flat. Semple’s dismembered body was found dissolving in a bath of acid. Brizzi reportedly dumped body parts in the River Thames and attempted to boil his flesh away. He also ate some of it:

Officers found a pool of fat and grease inside Brizzi’s oven, which had a blood-stained handle. Semple’s DNA was found on chopsticks, a cooking pot and the oven.

Brizzi, who answered the door to officers wearing pink underpants, initially confessed to deliberately killing Semple, telling police at the scene: “Satan told me to.” But he later changed his account, claiming it was an accident caused by sexual asphyxiation.

Crystal meth addiction was behind much of Brizzi’s behavior, the court heard:

The judge said there were “terrible features” of the case and that Brizzi’s drug addiction had ruined his life. He added: “Regret you express now for Mr Semple’s death has to be seen against what you did over a number of days to his body.”

The defendant sat in the dock with his head bowed throughout the hearing.

Before the murder, Brizzi had been a £70,000-a-year web developer at Morgan Stanley, but lost his job because of his crystal meth addiction. The court was told he sought help from a users’ support group, whose organiser described how Brizzi had been obsessed with Breaking Bad.

‘You Can Find it On Grindr’: Twitter Can’t Stop Laughing at Trump’s Tweet About ‘EASY D’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

mediaite

trump-brody-intervieweditedAs he complained about the block on his executive orders again today, President Trumptweeted something that currently has Twitter aflutter with giggles and snickering.

Trump’s immigration-restrictions were blocked by a federal judge late last week, and a speech he gave earlier today suggests that the challenge to his controversial policy is still a sore spot for him. As Trump tends to do, the president decided to get back on the Twitter machine to complain:

 

While “EASY D” probably refers to an “easy decision” for his order to win its judicial appeal, the last two words of Trump’s tweet have already become a major point of mockery across the Twittersphere.

 

 

 

 

 

Homophobic posters banning gay dogging plastered on trees around popular sites for outdoor sex

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The sun

The notices appeared at Ockham Common near Wisley, Surrey, and are styled on the official posters issued by park rangers.

The homophobic posters have been plastered up in a park which is a popular dogging site

SWNS:SOUTH WEST NEWS SERVICE
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The homophobic posters have been plastered up in a park which is a popular dogging site

The laminated sheets show a silhouetted image of two men with the words “no buggery” in bold beneath and contains translated terms for offensive gay slang such as ‘a*** bandit’.

The poster, which also includes the Wildlife Trust logo, advises: “Gentlemen, if you really can’t find love in a specialist establishment or online, please clear up after yourselves.”

Grace House, a local dog walker, said: “At first I thought it was a joke – which it might be – but it has the Wildlife Trusts logo on it and the sign is the same design as other signs on the common asking dog walkers to pick up their dog poo.

“So it seems like quite a lot of effort for someone to go to just for a joke.

“I could understand if it was in a more prominent place like Richmond Park but to go to such extreme lengths just to put a joke sign on a small common like Ockham seems strange.”

The local Wildlife Trust have branded the offensive posters “inappropriate”.

A spokeswoman for the Surrey Wildlife Trust, which manages the site, said: “Obviously these posters are very inappropriate and have used the logo of The Wildlife Trusts without permission.

“We have asked our rangers on the site to remove them as soon as possible.”

 

These Gay Republican Activists Are Making Inroads With Trump’s Team

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

BuzzFeed News

Ben Jackson / Getty Images

Gregory T. Angelo has been waiting for this moment. In 2008, he began volunteering for the Log Cabin Republicans, the country’s most famous conservative gay organization, and over Obama’s tenure, he climbed the ladder to become the group’s president. But he was often sidelined when better-known, more-liberal LGBT organizers ran victory laps with the White House to celebrate milestones like marriage equality (a position that Angelo’s group supported years before Obama did). And in the past year, he clenched his teeth while other LGBT organizations — and their leaders — crusaded for Hillary Clinton.

Then it became obvious just how unprepared his liberal counterparts were for Donald Trump winning, he recalled during a recent interview. A week after the election, advocates had met in California to grapple with their situation, and the second item on their agenda was figuring out how to “engage” with the transition team.

Angelo already knew how to engage with Trump’s team — their numbers were in his phone. He spoke to them several times a week. And he wasn’t the only gay activist plugged in. A few LGBT groups with roots in conservative circles, including the American Unity Fund, told BuzzFeed News they had had been talking to Trump’s staff for weeks or more. In some cases, they had been cultivating relationships for years with people who ended up working on the transition. Now, with Trump prepared to take the oath, Angelo and a handful of gay conservative activists think they have a rare, if not unprecedented, advantage over their liberal peers.

As progressives sprint to catch up — or refuse to deal with Trump’s staff directly — these gay activists on the right believe access to Trump’s White House will make them bellwethers for the entire LGBT movement.

“A lot of people tried to deny that our movement even existed.”

On Saturday their relationships will be on display when the Log Cabin Republicans hold an inauguration party at the Capitol Hill Club. Their guest of honor will be Rep. Chris Collins — the Trump transition’s congressional liaison. Angelo said his group was also invited recently to brief Trump’s staff on preserving an executive order, signed by Obama, that banned LGBT discrimination in federal contracts. Angelo submitted a white paper earlier this week.

“For decades, the push for LGBT equality in the United States was defined almost exclusively by the left,” Angelo said in his group’s Washington, DC, headquarters last month. “But LGBT leaders who represent our interests didn’t even try to form a relationship with the president-elect while he was running for office — that is astounding to me.”

Angelo is himself like a young, gay Trump, with a plume of yellow hair and an appetite for combat. His office near Capitol Hill features a framed portrait of Reagan behind his desk and a flag with a “Don’t Tread On Me” logo hanging in front of him. Like Trump, he occasionally breaks with Republican doctrine — like diverging from the party’s anti-LGBT platform — but he’s more coy. He said his middle initial stands for “Thunder” and refused to share his age. Most of all in our interviews, Angelo relished that this week, LGBT Americans will have their first Republican president who isn’t openly hostile to them.

Trump’s positions on LGBT rights have been contradictory, but his gay supporters point out Trump made several positive overtures during the campaign — even holding a pride flag on stage — giving hope he will rein in anti-LGBT people around him, like his vice president, Mike Pence. They want to persuade Trump to leave Obama’s LGBT legacy untouched and hope to work with Trump, and a Republican Congress, to cut deals Democrats would have shunned.

Upstart gay activists are invigorated, too. Among the inauguration festivities, a Gays for Trump ball will be hosted on Friday night by a group that formed on Twitter. “We have moved from a hashtag movement to a flesh-and-blood organization,” said Peter Boykin, the ringleader from North Carolina, who is expecting more than 200 people for a three-course, black-tie gala. Tickets topped out at $500, he said. “A lot of people tried to deny that our movement even existed.”

But as they try to cement inroads with the new administration, Angelo said traditional LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign could have little, or zero, influence. “They so demonized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign that any advocacy they did wouldn’t have any heft to it,” Angelo said. Log Cabin Republicans didn’t endorse Trump, he noted, but they didn’t oppose him, either. “We have organizations on the LGBT left with budgets in the millions and staff in the hundreds, and they’re scrambling now because they don’t have the level of access to the Trump transition team and incoming administration that the Log Cabin Republicans have.”

But on the conservative side, American Unity Fund’s strategic adviser, Tyler Deaton, and the leader of a group called LGBT for Trump, Chris Barron, have — like LCR — been talking to Trump’s transition regularly, they told BuzzFeed News in recent interviews.

Deaton said his organization, which is backed by hedge fund manager and philanthropist Paul Singer, has been briefing Trump’s staff on legal issues pending at federal agencies. Deaton has been talking to landing teams for the Justice Department, the Education Department, Health and Human Services, the Pentagon, and more. “The fact that these conversations are happening, and [their position] isn’t just a forgone conclusion is a great sign.”

“Conservative LGBT organizations are going to be leading more and more during this administration.”

This could force the public to reckon with how they think about LGBT rights in the US. “Conservative LGBT organizations are going to be leading more and more during this administration,” Deaton said at a lunch spot a few blocks from the White House, noting that red dominance in both Congress and state capitols favors couching LGBT issues in conservative terms. “This is an opportunity for the LGBT community to dig in, to look at the landscape, to see that Republicans are overwhelmingly in charge.”

Which would flip the tables. Conservative LGBT activists were always relegated to fringes of their own movement because their agenda — legalizing marriage, banning discrimination — has been anathema to their own party’s anti-LGBT platform.

(Transition officials did not comment on what type of contact they have had with conservative LGBT organizations and if the advocacy before Inauguration Day has influenced their plans.)

But as Angelo, Barron, and Deaton see it, this is their chance realign one of the country’s leading social causes. They could help conservatives back away from unpopular, hardline positions while making headway where liberals couldn’t — and cutting deals that Democrats wouldn’t.

Yet those deals, their idea of what makes good policy, would make many progressives howl. For example, they think an LGBT nondiscrimination bill in Congress must include exemptions for religious objections, so people of faith can opt out in some circumstances.

Perhaps even harder to swallow for the left, Angelo wants to make other conservative goals — like gutting the Affordable Care Act and slashing taxes — intertwined with the LGBT agenda.

“We will be making a case for things like Obamacare repeal, death-tax repeal, fighting radical Islamic terrorism in the US — issues that henceforth have rarely been viewed through the prism of the LGBT community,” said Angelo. “The strategy and the tactics that we pursue may be different,” he acknowledged, but added, “Whether folks want to believe it or not, I do have the interest of all LGBT people at heart.”

Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

President Obama wasn’t tight with gay Republicans. The most recent White House LGBT liaison, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, told BuzzFeed News this month she never got in touch with conservative groups like American Unity Fund or Log Cabin Republicans — even though her job was being the president’s main contact for LGBT groups.

As she explained it, the conservative gay groups never contacted her, and she never reached out to them.

“I obviously work for a Democratic administration,” she said in an interview during her last week on the job. “There are obviously appropriate conversations and inappropriate ones, sometimes based on what’s going on.” But she didn’t regret keeping a distance, she added. “I was never in a position where I needed them, to be honest … I’m not in political strategy, and if I had been, it might have been a different story.”

“I was never in a position where I needed them,” said Obama’s LGBT liaison.

Which is why it’s not shocking the relationship between Trump’s people and progressive LGBT groups is firming up as rather icy.

The biggest of the organizations, the Human Rights Campaign, swung for the fences for Clinton — producing videos last year about Trump’s “hate-filled campaign” and sending a membership email this week about their long-term plan to “defy Trump.”

Jay Brown, a spokesperson, said in December the group was “eager to talk with anyone on the Trump team who is willing to stand up and be a champion for equality,” but he didn’t confirm they had actually talked to anybody. Brown did say Trump is preparing to stack his cabinet the “worst enemies of equality,” adding that his group has been “working closely with progressive partners to discuss and plan strategies to block attempts to roll back our progress.”

Other mainstream LGBT groups reported varying — but limited — contact with the Trump team a month after the election. Freedom for All Americans, a nonpartisan group with ties to both parties, said through a spokesperson they had “been in touch” with Trump’s transition, but refused to elaborate. Karin Johanson, the ACLU’s national political director, said in a statement that staffers “have had informal conversations with the Trump team” and offered no more.

At the National Center for Transgender Equality, spokesperson Jay Wu said in December they had done nothing on this front: “We haven’t reached out to the transition team.”

As much as conservatives may dislike it, however, these progressive organizations cannot be ignored — they can rally thousands of activists and Democrats to try to block bills in Congress and state houses. The ACLU has vowed to be a brute in court. Plus, LGBT people as a bloc skew far to the left, with Gallup reporting three times more LGBT Democrats than Republicans.

When he spoke about the partisan divide, Angelo unspooled years of frustration at what he sees as a dead-end strategy by liberal LGBT organizations that represent those interests. They tailored advocacy to Democrats and shut out conservatives. They helped pass laws that ban discrimination in states that Democrats already control, but now they face nearly three dozen states where the LGBT movement is essentially stuck. Most state legislatures, governor’s mansions, and seats in Congress belong to Republicans. The one federal bill to ban LGBT discrimination, the Equality Act, hasn’t had a hearing in Congress since it was filed in 2015.

The only way to pass new LGBT-friendly bills, his thinking goes, is by having fellow conservatives argue the case.

Angelo said he speaks several times a week with people in Trump’s circle, including Ed McMullen, who has assisted with the transition and is vice chairman of the committee planning for Trump’s inauguration. Angelo has known other people in the transition for years, he said. They include financial pundit Larry Kudlow, who spoke at the Log Cabin Republicans annual dinner in 2014, and David Malpass, who worked in the Treasury under Reagan. Those two aren’t representing LGBT issues for the transition, he said, but he argued it underscores how Log Cabin and groups like his have built relationships.

Barron, with LGBT for Trump, said, “There is this belief somehow that Donald Trump is the antichrist for LGBT folks,” pointing out that Trump has made gestures never seen before from a Republican president-elect. Barron has been furious that liberal groups balked at nominees who have been friendly to gay causes, such Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, who backed gay inclusion in the Boy Scouts as the group’s president. If the left-leaning groups don’t play ball, he said, “They become marginalized.”

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

There is a question many can’t help but wonder about gay conservatives: Aren’t they already marginalized? Their party largely rejected their cause.

Deaton said the premise of that thinking is flawed, countering that many conservative Republican lawmakers want — in fact, they’re “excited” — to support LGBT rights. He’s coached some of them, he said, and the first step is creating a “safe space” for them to ask questions. Many want to be taught transgender basics. “It wasn’t too long ago that we were talking about what it means to be a gay American, and now we are having that experience on what it means to be a transgender American.”

“I am kind of borrowing from the left with that ‘safe space’ jargon,” he laughed. Deaton sells this to Republicans as a conservative issue — one conservative to another. Even his language is tailored for this framing, consistently using the term “LGBT freedom” in our interview, never “LGBT rights.”

Another tactic to win Republicans: Telling stories about family and getting the government out of private lives, which are bedrock language for both conservatives and LGBT people, Barron added. “I think it’s sad we have gotten away from some of that messaging, and it has become much more of a ‘Our way or the highway’ from some folks in the community.”

But realistically, even the best messaging is a tough sell for the base: The GOP adopted a platform last summer that reads like a manifesto to extinguish LGBT rights in America, and several members of Trump’s cabinet have severe records.

To get past the sales pitch, these guys actually sell a slightly different product — a different blueprint for LGBT rights than groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

Deaton, Barron, and Angelo said bills banning discrimination must compromise by offering limited carve-outs for people with religious objections.

“There is this belief somehow that Donald Trump is the antichrist for LGBT folks.”

Deaton suggested a federal model based on a Utah law, which bans LGBT discrimination at work and in housing, but includes a few exemptions. The Utah law lacks protections in places of public accommodation, so businesses can still legally turn away a couple for being gay. Religious groups are also exempt, and people would be free to express their religious beliefs about marriage in the workplace, so long as it’s not done in a harassing way.

Of course, Democrats and progressive groups would balk at a bill like Utah’s if it were attempted in Congress. Many have said they only supported the Utah law because of unusual circumstances there — the state’s preexisting civil rights law lacked public accommodations protections for other classes of people, which is why it was omitted for LGBT people.

The more immediate concern in Washington, DC, is persuading Trump to not repeal anything already on the books. Trump’s cabinet, particularly Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who’s been nominated to lead the Justice Department and has a rigidly anti-LGBT history, presents a unique threat. The primary unresolved issue of the Obama administration’s LGBT agenda is its effort to interpret bans on sex discrimination so that they also include bans on discrimination against transgender people — a legal stance held by the Justice Department that influences every agency. Sessions could reverse that interpretation and, for example, reverse the government’s position on a pending Supreme Court case involving a transgender boy’s use of school restrooms in Virginia.

Deaton, who has been in talks with landing teams for federal agencies, said that how Trump and Sessions handle this matter signals how the next White House “will handle LGBT freedom generally.”

But it’s unclear if this hallmark of Obama’s progress — fighting for transgender people — is also on the radar of gay men like Angelo and Barron.

“We haven’t taken a position on that yet,” said Angelo, unfamiliar with the scope of this legal interpretation that sweeps across agencies and courts.

Angelo paused to note his group recently came around to include transgender rights within its mission. “We don’t have any transgender staff here at Log Cabin Republicans,” he said. “I rely largely on transgender chapter leaders, members, and supporters to provide guidance on those issues to me.”

Barron, for his part, said he “is not a legal expert” on the issue of using civil rights laws to cover transgender people, and seemed to suggest it could be handled on a “case-by-case basis,” despite the fact that inconsistency could create legal fractures between departments.

But if the Trump team scorches these guys on LGBT rights somehow, the question becomes, how much capacity do they have to fight back?

American Unity Fund has a multimillion dollar budget and about a dozen staffers — a fraction of the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU. The Log Cabin Republicans’ membership is a mystery. Angelo and a spokesperson for the group said they have 30,000 supporters, but refused to answer questions about how many were actually members and about the group’s budget. Barron’s group, LGBT for Trump, is mostly him advising Trump’s staff.

“Maybe I will be be proven wrong,” Barron said about his hopes for Trump’s LGBT legacy. “But I will trust him for now rather than terrifying people into believing that Trump is going to do something that he hasn’t done.”

Lush features gay couples in Valentine’s ad and it’s super cute

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

metro

Picture: Lush Cosmetics
Lush USA feature the women on their homepage (Picture: Lush Cosmetics)

 

And cosmetics giant, Lush, has embraced the all encompassing spirit of love with its latest ad campaign.

The company tweeted a picture of two men in a tub enjoying a bath bomb together and the US home page features two women playing with bubbles.

A spokesman for Lush told us: ‘At Lush we believe that love transcends gender. We set out to do one thing when creating our Valentine’s Day visuals, we wanted to capture love between two people and we believe that’s what we have done here.

‘The fact that our loyal and loving fans are starting their own conversations using our visuals and #loveislove absolutely warms our hearts.’

What It’s Like Inside Toronto’s Bathhouses

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

torontoist

hunk03

It’s no hard task to find gay bathhouses in this city, if you know where to look. Follow the smell of chlorine down an alleyway in the Church-Wellesley Village, pass through a set of heavy metal doors and up a flight of stairs, and there is Steamworks. Go a few blocks south and there is Spa Xcess. There is the Oasis Aqualounge, which also markets itself to heterosexuals. But by and large, these are establishments by and for gay men, and they have always been so.

In 1981, the year of the bathhouse raids, they went by different names—the Barracks, the Richmond Street Health Emporium, the rather indiscreetly named Back Door Gym—but the concept was the same. You pay to get in under the pretense of working out or going for a shvitz, and spend a few hours pacing and mingling. In truth everyone is there for the explicit purpose of no-strings-attached sex. At Steamworks, a room on a Saturday night costs $33 to rent for eight hours, less if you want to redeem your Frequent Fucker points.

Up until the raids, baths were popular because, in those early days of the gay pride movement, the other options (bars, public restrooms) were riskier and seemed more liable to infiltration by the police. Back then, the force had the Morality Bureau, an entire unit dedicated to upholding the city’s puritanical mores. Its officers led a raid on The Parkside, a local gay bar, in 1979. A popular washroom for hooking up in Greenwin Square was similarly monitored and used to entrap men who came looking for sex. But the baths were considered safer. The emphasis on cruising and on fucking was the ultimate queer shibboleth. Undercover officers who scoped out the joint as part of the six-month undercover Operation Soap were probably serviced freely and willingly, but that did not stop then-police chief Jack Ackroyd from authorizing the raids on the basis of antiquated anti-prostitution laws.

On February 5, 1981, 200 of Toronto’s finest simultaneously stormed four different bathhouses around the city. They came wielding crowbars and sledgehammers, smashed through walls and doors, and herded hundreds of men wearing only their towels into front lobbies. One officer dubbed “the Animal” singled out men wearing wedding rings, and warned them, “This is going to be the biggest fucking mistake of your life.” To others, he said, “You guys are lucky this isn’t Germany.” Men were made to bend over, grab their ankles and cough, a humiliating test that is typically only administered to inmates in jail. In total, 306 men were arrested and charged that night, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history—a record that stood until the G20 protests in 2010.

hunk01

Almost immediately after the raids, the outcry was such that Chief Ackroyd was forced to issue a terse half-apology. The public saw through police attempts to pass off the raids as a mere anti-prostitution sting, and recognized it for what it really was: an assault on the nascent organized gay community. Gay people, Ackroyd begrudgingly acknowledged in January 1982, were “legitimate members of the community” who are entitled to the same “rights, respect, service, and protection as all citizens.” The protests that erupted in the aftermath of the raids eventually evolved to become the Pride Parade of today.

Undercover cops who were already in the baths when the raids transpired wore tiny red stickers to identify themselves to their fellow officers. I thought of those little red dots when I visited Steamworks on a Thursday night, when the lights are dimmed even lower than usual and visitors are given keychain lasers whose pointillist rays can be aimed at prospective suitors. When its new owners acquired the space, which was previously known as the Spa on Maitland, they undertook a $2-million renovation. The locker room wraps around a glass-walled space that includes showers, a wet and dry sauna, a small pool, and a hot tub. Across the hall from the lockers is a very dark room that can only be described as a sex maze. The many private, rentable rooms take up the rest of the space, though there is a second set of showers and another dark area. There is a full gym, brightly lit though unused except by the occasional gym bunny looking to get his pump on. The entire space is kept immaculately clean, a far cry from the stereotype of the sketchy or grungy bathhouse.

The baths have endured despite repeated predictions of their imminent demise, prompted first by the HIV-AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s, and then by hook-up apps like Grindr in the 2000s. Yet visit one of the city’s gay baths on a Friday or Saturday night and you will find that these establishments still do a brisk business. In the early morning hours, after the bars let out, there is often a wait list for rooms. Ten thousand men passed through Spa Xcess in 2014, according to its owners. In addition to its space in Toronto, Steamworks has locations in Vancouver, Chicago, Seattle, and Berkeley, California. Far from operating as havens for the closeted or ashamed, bathhouses seem to thrive in places where the gay community has by and large already been liberated.

The appeal lies in the immediacy of the experience itself, of checking out other men in the flesh. Cruising online collapses the reality of another body into pixels and a series of statistics that allow for sorting by age, race, body type. As the novelist Garth Greenwell writes, “the circulation of bodies in physical space allows for a greater possibility of being surprised by desire, of having an unexpected response to the presence of another.” At Steamworks, there are all manner of men—men of colour, men from other countries and from poorer parts of town, men that I would otherwise never have encountered. There was the fellow from Niagara who worked in a chicken slaughterhouse; the personal-injury lawyer who was smoking meth; the hormonal 18-year-old from rural Ontario who seemed astounded that such a place of casual sex could actually exist.

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Up until the Supreme Court intervened in 2014, a place like Steamworks was, in the eyes of the law, a bawdy house. This bit of legalese was, at the very least, etymologically apt: outside the Criminal Code, the adjective “bawdy” describes the humorously indecent, a manner of dealing with sex in a comical way. The scene inside a place like Steamworks—teeming masses of men, naked but for a towel and sometimes not even that, all there for the singular purpose of getting laid—is nothing if not bawdy.

Under the now-abolished sections of the Code, the bawdy-house provisions allowed police to raid any establishment where “indecent” acts were taking place. In my experience, it is indisputably true that “indecent” acts take place in a gay bathhouse—though unlike Ackroyd and the authors of the Criminal Code, I don’t use the word pejoratively. The carnal, hedonistic environment is actually rollicking good fun, if you’re in the mood. Group sex is par for the course, orgies arise in the sauna spontaneously. Some nights there is a DJ: wearing only a pair of briefs, he spins deep, throbbing house music from a booth at centre of Steamworks’ maze of hallways. The scene is funny, it is bawdy, but it certainly does not feel as though it should be illegal.

The police now agree, though relations between TPS and the LGBTQ community have already improved significantly. On a recent summer afternoon, the Toronto Police LGBTQ Community Consultative Committee held an open house at Second Cup on Church, just around the corner from Steamworks. Officers sat on the sunny patio and fielded questions from passersby. A large contingent of police march every year in the Pride Parade, celebrating the very community the force once persecuted.

Bathhouses, to quote Greenwell again, are “spaces in which the radical potential of queerness still inheres, a potential that has been very nearly expunged from a mainstreaming, homonormative vision of gay life.” I thought about those words as I left Steamworks at nearly 5:00 a.m. one morning. The staff had set out a table laden with breakfast food: yogurt cups, mini-croissants, bananas, and coffee. Towelled guests paused their hedonism and gathered around to eat and banter in the early-morning light. A new day was beginning.

Thriving in a Hostile Environment on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

advocate

I can’t help but think this as we commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today that taking care of ourselves can indeed be a political act, especially in the face of a new presidential administration that could walk back the strides we’ve made toward ending the HIV epidemic. Most importantly, we had turned a corner by expanding health care access to large numbers of young gay and bisexual men of color, especially black/African-American men.

The day was originally established in 1999 to call attention to the impact of HIV and AIDS in the black/African-American community, and 18 years later, it is a vital reminder that in Los Angeles County — and indeed across the country — the impact of HIV continues to be devastating. According to the 2017-2021 Comprehensive HIV Plan for Los Angeles County, for example, the HIV epidemic among the black/African-American community in our own backyard encompasses the following statistics:

  • Blacks/African-Americans are one of three racial/ethnic groups most impacted by HIV
  • Among men who have sex with men (MSM) blacks/African-Americans have the highest estimated HIV prevalence
  • Young (18-29) black/African American MSM are one of the fastest-rising groups contracting HIV
  • New HIV diagnoses  both adults/adolescent males and females is highest among blacks/African-Americans
  • Among females living with HIV, the majority are black/African-American

For a sobering perspective on the epidemic nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that if current trends continue, one in two black/African-American MSM will contract HIV in their lifetime. Fifty percent. Even PrEP, the daily use of a pill that prevents HIV, approved four years ago, is not yet making major inroads in communities of color, due to lack of awareness, problems with access, and concerns about its cost as well as distrust of the medical establishment (the shameful legacy of Tuskegee still looms large).

The theme for this year’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!” I appreciate that it brings together the idea of watching out for each other but also includes the word “fight.” After all, in communities that can quite often feel under siege, every day — even if you are not living with HIV — can be a struggle. But we’re in this together.

The steps that this observance asks us to take are:

Get Educated
Everyone in our community has a responsibility to learn the facts about HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections and talk with our friends, family, and sexual partners. This will go such a long way in ensuring that we are all informed. Additionally, it is important that we all know the truth about the ways to prevent HIV transmission (condoms, PrEP/PEP, HIV-positive individuals being in care and on medication). It is also important we support those who are HIV-positive. This reduces the stigma associated with living with HIV, which often prevents those who are HIV-positive from seeking the medical care they need or from talking to their loved ones.

In addition, if you have health insurance, talk to a medical provider about PrEP and other HIV prevention methods. If you don’t have insurance, find out if you qualify for a low-cost plan. In California, for example, Medi-Cal enrollment continues year-round, and PrEP is one of the benefits an enrollee can access for little or no cost. The Trump administration can’t take that away yet.

Get Tested
If you’re sexually active, get tested for HIV and STIs every three to six months. It’s easy to do, free even if you don’t have insurance, and confidential. Encourage your friends and partners to get tested and share their results too.

Get Involved
There are many wonderful HIV and health care organizations in our community that are committed to ending the epidemic. They need your support, whether through volunteering or financially. Reach out to them to see how you can help. In addition, lend your voice to the fight to keep Obamacare accessible for everyone. Access is a crucial component to fighting HIV and getting people in care.

Get Treated
If you are HIV-positive and not getting medical care, find out where you can get it. If you are in care, take your medication as prescribed. We know that when HIV-positive individuals are virally suppressed the likelihood of them transmitting HIV is almost zero.

We should never forget that we can help each other with each of these steps — that we are stronger working together. The future isn’t looking so bright out there at the moment, let’s be honest. But we can ensure we are doing everything possible with the resources above to stay healthy in body and mind. We can, and will, thrive despite those who would seek to strip care away from us.

TERRY L. SMITH is the director of HIV preventions services for APLA Health. For more on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit NationalBlackAIDSDay.org. For more on APLA Health, visit APLAHealth.org

Nigeria AIDS agency warns against HIV cure ‘publicity’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

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Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, NACA, Sani Aliyu

Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, NACA, Sani Aliyu

The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Sani Aliyu, has expressed displeasure with the publicity given to the claim of a cure for HIV/AIDS by a Nigerian professor.

Mr. Aliyu, in a statement by his office on Monday, said it was a great disservice to the vulnerable group of HIV patients for the media to disseminate such claims in the absence of scientific evidence.

Maduike Ezeibe, who is a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umuahia, Aba State, had claimed he had produced a drug that could cure HIV.

He said the drug he produced with “Aluminium Magnesium Silicate” had been successfully tested on ten persons living with HIV.

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, on Monday disclosed that the Federal Government had mandated the National Institute for Medical Research and the College of Medicine, Ibadan to do a proper study of claims of HIV cure in the country.

While responding to questions on the position of government on the claims at a Town Hall meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr. Adewole said getting a cure would be of public health interest to the country but that any claim would have to be subjected to standard scrutiny.

“We are concerned that the publicity given to these claims will stop patients with HIV from taking life-saving antiretrovirals and give them false hope of a cure,” the NACA Director General said on the claim in the statement on Monday.

“There are long established, tried and tested routes for the discovery, development and validation of modern medicines before they can be registered and used for treatment in humans and animals.

 

Mr. Aliyu called on academics to follow legal and scientifically-acceptable methods in conducting their researches and to avoid making premature claims that are capable of derailing the huge progress made in the last two decades in the war against HIV/AIDS.

“Millions of lives have been saved as a result of modern antiretroviral treatment and people living with HIV can now look forward to a normal healthy future”, he said.

Aliyu also calls on editors of media houses in Nigeria to seek comments from the leadership of the relevant government parastatals and professional bodies when it receives new research findings related to the agency’s areas of responsibility.

“We assure you that we will respond rapidly and constructively to any queries”, he stated.

He also encouraged people living with HIV to continue to take their medication and to see their doctors if they have any concern or call the NACA helpline (6222) for information.

Nigeria has about three million people infected with HIV, the second highest number in the world after South Africa.

Trump Seems to Support Bush’s AIDS Program for Now

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
theatlantic

Despite concerns raised during the presidential transition, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) seems poised to continue its work. The multi-billion dollar government initiative created by George W. Bush in 2003 has worked with remarkable success to treat and prevent HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in a number of countries around the world, and is often hailedas his greatest legacy.

The Trump administration decided early last month to keep Obama-appointee Deborah Birx, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, in her position, at least for the time being. Birx, who holds the highest position in PEPFAR, told me she was asked to stay on an interim basis the day before the inauguration. While non-termed presidential appointees typically resign leading up to a transition, the fact that Birx was asked to stay on, avoiding a gap in leadership, suggests a degree of consideration for the initiative.

As Helene Cooper of The New York Times reported, this came after a Trump transition-team questionnaire posed questions that seemed skeptical of the program, asking: “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

The tone of the questions was perplexing, given Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s praise of PEPFAR in his confirmation hearing, and Vice President Mike Pence’s support of the initiative when it was first proposed in 2003 and when it was re-authorized for the first time in 2008.

And, as my colleague Ed Yong wrote after the questionnaire was made public,tragedy would unfold if PEPFAR were eliminated. The initiative funds and maintains a complex web of laboratories, supply chains, and health centers that provide a wide array of health services to millions of people around the world—all enabled by sustained funding and logistical support. As of 2016, the program helped provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 11.5 million people, trained 220,000 health-care workers, and facilitated counseling and testing for over 74.3 million people.

Though keeping Birx in her post seems to demonstrate that the administration values PEPFAR, they may also have endangered its ability to function.

Three days after Birx was asked to stay on, Trump issued a presidential memorandum re-instating the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule.” The policy has traditionally blocked NGOs from receiving funds from the U.S. government for family-planning programs unless they promise not to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.”

This move was, in a way, expected, said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Each president since Reagan has instituted or rescinded the policy along party lines. But Trump’s memorandum breaks precedent.

His memorandum calls for “a plan to extend the requirements … to global-health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.” With the addition of that phrase, the policy goes from affecting $400-$600 million in U.S.-aid dollars to $10 billion, according to Morrison. That includes PEPFAR.

In the past, the Mexico City Policy has applied to funding for family-planning programs, rather than all global-health programs. And, once PEPFAR came into being, former President George W. Bush exempted it from the policy. As Scott Evertz, who served as director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy under George W. Bush, told Slate, “It would have been impossible to treat HIV/AIDS in the developing world … if the global gag rule were to be applied to the thousands of organizations with which those of us involved in PEPFAR would be working.”

Yet this is not the first time that PEPFAR, which is funded through Congress, has come into conflict with ideology. When Pence advocated for PEPFAR in Congress, he pushed for the allocation of funding to abstinence-education programs. “Abstinence and marital faithfulness before condom distribution are the cure for what ails the families of Africa,” Pence said in a 2003 floor speech. “It is important that we not just send them money, but that we send them values that work.”

But these values, in the end, did not work.

When PEPFAR was first funded in 2003, one-third of its budget for HIV-prevention programs was earmarked by Congress to fund abstinence education, though that amount was reduced in 2008. These interventions—including messages printed on billboards and broadcast over the radio—were shown to beineffective in reducing HIV risk or changing sexual behavior.

The Mexico City Policy has proven to be similarly counterproductive: It’s beenassociated with an increase in abortions, including unsafe abortions, in the affected countries. NGOs that cannot access U.S.-government funding due to the gag rule are also key providers of contraception, which is thought to lowerabortion rates.

It’s unclear how the new global gag rule will be implemented, and how PEPFAR’s support of other organizations will be affected.

Morrison told me the administration’s actions seem dissonant: Keeping Birx in her position—which he called a “smart decision”—“was the done with the right hand, and the Mexico City order comes with the left hand,” he said.

“It hasn’t been explained,” Morrison added. “We don’t know the true costs will be, how this will be implemented in practice, and we don’t know what the legality is.”

And while abortion is illegal in some sub-Saharan countries where PEPFAR operates, some make exceptions for cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, or when the mother’s health or life may be on the line. Other countries place no such restrictions. For instance, abortion is fully legal in South Africa, a PEPFAR partner country, where 6.8 million people were estimated to be living with HIV in 2014.

Health centers that receive PEPFAR funding provide a wide array of services. So a clinic that includes a family-planning program in a country like South Africa may also receive PEPFAR funding for an HIV-treatment program. Under the new policy, that clinic may now be unable to counsel a pregnant 18-year-old girl who was raped that abortion is an option for her, or the clinic would lose its U.S. funding, even if those family-planning services aren’t funded by the U.S.

“I’m very worried, and I’m not sure that any of this was thought through,” Morrison said, adding, however, that it would be “wrong to jump to catastrophic conclusions.” But, in the continued absence of clear direction from the White House, he believes NGOs may begin to “self censor,” and preemptively cut services for fear of losing funding.

For now, the situation remains unclear, says Morrison. But figuring out “whether the left hand contradicts the right is going to have to happen somewhere downstream soon.”

Beaumont native spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

12newsnow

BEAUMONT – Deondre Moore was diagnosed with HIV nearly 3 years ago at the age of 19.

“The day that I found out I was in the doctor’s office at Sam Houston State and the first thing that came to mind is that I have to go home,” said Moore. “This was the day after Easter so I had just left home so I had to drive two hours to come home. I had to get to my mom. I didn’t know who else to talk to.”

For Kathleen Wingate, Moore’s mother, the news was shocking.

“He came in and we sat in the den, and he proceeded to tell me and it nearly killed me,” said Wingate

Since that fateful moment, Deondre and Kathleen have been trying to spread awareness about the disease. They are being featured in commercials airing around the country partnering with Greater Than AIDS and The Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“When I first thought about me wanting to come out and tell this story, it’s something that I struggled with just in general,” said Moore, a Beaumont Ozen graduate. “But there was this voice and I always said it was God talking to me telling me that it was something I needed to do.”

As the situation strengthens their family, Wingate wishes the same outcome for other families affected by the disease.

“I’m hoping it has helped to make other people stronger,” said Wingate. “That’s the reason. So many people turn their backs on their kids, for whatever reason. And at the end of the day, like I remember speaking to one lady after church service, that’s still your child.”

Being raised in Beaumont, Deondre feels that it is necessary to spread his message to this area.

“As a person coming from this city, I can say I was nervous,” said Moore. “It’s always in the back of my mind, what are people at home going to think or say?  But I have to know that, what I’m doing in the service and what I’m doing in the community is much larger than my own personal feelings or whatever one or two people might think about it.”

George Michael Was the Kind of Gay Man We Now Whisper About

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

advocate

George Michael

George Michael came out later than many would have liked, but he came out with a (dirty, anonymous) bang. Many of us come out late — most wish we had come out sooner. But few of us can say that our coming-out story permanently marked our queer lives. For many of us, coming out was simply the beginning, an event that eventually got overshadowed by better, richer experiences. But George never lived down his coming-out — or, rather, his “outing.” It was public, scandalous, and almost custom-written for tabloids. Today, there are many out gay celebs, but who can say they got arrested for lewdness (pulling his dick out) in a public restroom in Beverly Hills? Hell, yeah!

After than infamous 1998 hookup, Michael became relentlessly sex-positive, perhaps to his detriment, for the remainder of his career. He never seemed apologetic about his sex life — in his greatest-hits album he released following the arrest, his song “Outside” set its video clip in a men’s restroom. I don’t want to forget that sleazy, sexy side of George Michael. Despite all the clean-cut, polished queer celebs out there, from Anderson Cooper to Neil Patrick Harris and his picture of familial cuteness to power couple Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black, I identified with Michael most.

Most gay celebs probably won’t admit they like getting fucked up and fucking guys in public — but George did, and I do. That’s what my gay life is like, not the glamorous, conventional life of married, monogamous couples. Michael and I were cut from the same cloth. Our world is filled with drugs and dance floors. We struggle with sex and image and finding sincere connections. It’s easy for us to get depressed and overwhelmed. When I look at my straight counterparts, I see a different culture and a different set of ideals, a world of kids and big family Thanksgivings and a lot less drag and a lot less dope. I imagine when Michael, shut in his house in Oxfordshire, England, in his final days, looked out at the world of his straight counterparts, including his legions of devoted fans, he saw something similar.

The juiciest part of his career happened before I came along, but I still latched on to “Father Figure” in high school, 20 years after it came out, because I was living my own coming-out story and found strength in kitschy queer icons that came before me. I joined the legions of countless homos who loved Michael for loving sex and getting caught and wearing leather pants.

But many of us forgot about him over the years. We assumed he was trooping along, dating boys, and living comfortably. So the reports that he died alone, a recluse, on Christmas Day are heartbreaking. From this news, I suddenly step closer to Michael than ever before. I know he struggled with drugs — he was arrested in 2006 and 2008 for drug-related charges, and in 2010, after a Gay Pride parade, he drove his car into a storefront.

But the fact is, I’ve heard many stories like this. He may have been one of the guys in my gay men’s Crystal Meth Anonymous group, raising his hand in a meeting, sharing his feelings, trying to stay sober. There are so many of us out there that the world doesn’t see.

No official coroner’s report has been released, and I have doubts if one ever will be, but for me, Michael’s death proves again that, aside from HIV, there is another scourge sweeping over gay men — the silent one. We have a drug problem, and have had one for a long time.

If addiction may be seen socially as the disease it is, we could start addressing it with antistigma campaigns the same way we do HIV. Gay men: Your best friend is an addict. We hush the drug-related details of celeb deaths for the same reasons the media has long shied away from saying someone died of AIDS-related complications — because we believe their diseases somehow disrespect their legacies, and because we shame these diseases. We have lost some of the world’s greatest minds — artists, writers, thinkers, performers — to AIDS, and we will continue losing great people to addiction if we continue crouching and creeping around it, keeping it out of the spotlight. Just as we call out publications that report poorly and ignorantly on HIV, we must call out publications that report poorly on drug use, and ignore sensationalist headlines that vilify drugs or the people who use them. Shaming anything doesn’t make anyone safer — it does the exact opposite.

I mourn George because I lost one of my own — in more ways than one. In 2017, let’s create safe spaces for celebrities and everyone to get help, find community, and spend Christmases with others. And let’s listen to hits like “I Want Your Sex” and the indefatigable Pride ballad “Freedom! ’90” again and again in memoriam. And let’s go cruising in public restrooms — because it’s fun.

Supporters’ attitudes HAVE changed — openly gay footballers would be applauded, and the moronic minority of fans hounded out

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

mirror


Anton Hysen, European’s first openly gay footballer, says it’s an insult to English fans to suggest they would shun players who come out (Photo: Rex Features)

The likes of Clyde Best, Cyrille Regis and Viv Anderson who had “Get back on your jam jar” chants and monkey grunts thrown at them by entire sections of grounds on a weekly basis.

But who rose above it and made it possible for the next generation of black players to integrate, and the generation after that to play in English stadiums so relatively free of racism that when they travelled to other parts of Europe they would be genuinely shocked to be attacked for the colour of their skin.
Changes in society’s attitudes had much to do with the haters being muted but within football, racism as a mass participation activity was defeated by the courage of those pioneers, and by the sheer amount of black players succeeding at the highest level.
It was all about the numbers, of black faces on the pitch, and of fans prepared to make a stand against bigotry on the terraces.
Frank Clark of Nottingham Forest
The bravery of Anderson and other black players defeated the ranks of terrace racists (Photo: Getty)

Which is why FA chairman Greg Clarke may be on to something as he tries to break what some people are calling sport’s last taboo — the fact that not one single gay footballer in the English professional game feels ready to declare his sexuality for fear of the backlash.

Clarke says he has recently spoken to 15 gay sportspeople (including footballers) to ask their advice, and concluded that, if a number of top-level players wanted to come out, it might be a good idea to do so en masse, on the same day .

The reaction thus far is mainly positive (although many have winced at Clarke’s Disneyesque rationale for making it the opening day of the season when “the crowds are happy and the sun is shining”).

Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell backs a collective coming out, as does Europe’s first openly gay footballer Anton Hysen, who said : “It’s insulting to supporters in England to suggest that they’re not ready to support a gay footballer.”

Which is the key point.

When people ask if English football is ready to accept gay footballers, they really mean ‘Are the fans ready?’, or would any players coming out fall victim to a level of abuse and ridicule that would ruin careers and scare off others from doing the same.

Video thumbnail, Stonewall video promoting 'Rainbow laces' campaign to promote tolerance of LGBT fans and players
No-one knows for sure.

But I would say that now, more than any other time, the majority of fans would applaud their courage and silence the moronic minority.

Contrary to an out-dated public perception, this is the era of supporters embracing and championing social issues.

Groups have sprung up locally and nationally to challenge greed and injustices in the game, many ditching old rivalries and working together.

We’ve seen The Football Supporters Federation unite with Kick It Out to run a campaign called Fans For Diversity; Middlesbrough fans show solidarity with sacked steel-workers and those exploited by the makers of poverty-porn TV shows; “Refugees Welcome banners” held up at grounds such as Arsenal’s, Aston Villa’s and Swindon’s; Liverpool and Everton fans setting up a joint food-bank under the title “Hunger Doesn’t Wear Club Colours”; anti-fascist flags flown at non-League Clapton, and Dulwich Hamlet supporters chanting “We love you Stonewall, we do” when they played the country’s leading gay team.

Fans hold a banner reading Refugees Welcome at the Emirates stadium
Fans’ capacity for compassion on display at Arsenal (Photo: PA)
Middlesbrough players and fans show their support for the Save our Steel Campaign at the Middlesbrough v Leeds match
Middlesbrough supporters join in the Save our Steel Campaign last season(Photo: Doug Moody)

Attitudes among all but a hardcore of fans are shifting to a more liberal stance, and any gay professionals wanting to come out should take great encouragement from that.

Clarke is trying to get that reassuring message across but other major bodies and figures in the game need to back him up.
Imagine what a boost it would be to gay teenage footballers who fear coming out would lead to persecution, to see a group of high-profile professionals say: “I’m gay. So what?” and for them to be accepted and embraced by fans across the land?

Meaning the only people who then needed outing were the bigots.

Mother Stabs Son To Death For Being Gay

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

newnownext

A mother in Brazil has confessed to stabbing her teenage son to death because of his sexuality.

The attack occurred on Christmas Eve as Tatiana Lozano Pereira, 32, and her 17-year-old son Itaberli Lozano were returning home after having a heated argument. Once they entered the house, the boy was ambushed by Pereira and two men she’d hired to assault him.

itaberli-3

Facebook

Though the original plan was to bruise him up to “teach him a lesson” about being gay, halfway through the beating, Pereira ordered the men to kill him. When they refused, she took a kitchen knife and stabbed him herself, according to local news sources.

The 32-year-old mother told police that after he was dead, she removed the body from the house with the help of her husband, the boy’s stepfather. They took it to a nearby cane field where they burned it.

itaberli

Facebook

The young boy’s charred remains were discovered on January 7. During her first interrogation, Pereira reportedly confessed her part in the crime, naming the two men she’d hired. Her husband was charged for aiding in the disposal of the body.

According to several family members, including the boy’s uncle, Pereira had long rejected her son for his sexuality.

These Students Were Asked To Sign “I’m Gay” Legal Documents To Serve On Council

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

BuzzFeed News

Students at the University of Sydney have had to sign statutory declarations confirming they are gay, a woman, or have an ethnic background in order to hold certain positions on the student council.

Students at the University of Sydney have had to sign statutory declarations confirming they are gay, a woman, or have an ethnic background in order to hold certain positions on the student council.

Supplied

The controversial ruling was introduced by the SRC’s returning officer after a male Liberal staffer briefly pretended to identify as a woman in order to earn a $12,000 council position last year.

The new ruling applies to anyone who was elected to a position based on identity – for instance queer officer, disability officer, or even mature age student officer – and anyone who was elected to an affirmative action position, which must go to people who identify as women or non-binary.

This year, Andrea Zephyr, a 24-year-old student, was elected as one of the SRC queer officers.

In order to keep the position, she had to sign a statutory declaration saying she fulfilled the queer-identifying requirement to hold it.

“Do I look straight or cisgender to you?” Zephyr wrote on the document.

Another student simply wrote “I’m gay”. One added “P.S. FUCK THE STATE” on their stat dec.

20-year-old student Maddy Ward had to sign a stat dec stating that she is Maori and a woman.

“They said that all our positions would just get re-elected if we didn’t sign, so it was like we didn’t have a choice,” she told BuzzFeed News.

“I wrote on one, ‘I’m a FOB’, and [the SRC secretary] said ‘No’. So I had to write on a different one saying ‘I’m Maddy Ward and I identify as Maori’.”

FOB is short for Fresh Off the Boat, a slang term meaning an immigrant from another country.

Supplied

The ruling stems from a council meeting in October last year in which Liberal staffer Alex Fitton said he was a woman in order to become joint general secretary of the SRC with a man from Labor Right.

The $12,000 position can be split between two people, but only if one of them is not a cisgender man, according to SRC regulations.

BuzzFeed News understands that Fitton said he identified as a woman on the night, but when election returning officer Paulene Graham asked him to sign a statutory declaration to prove it, he declined. The election was ruled invalid 24 hours later.

“There were concerns raised to Graham that by making [Fitton] sign a stat dec it was questioning his gender and getting into dangerous territory, the politics of passing and not passing, which I think are valid concerns,” SRC president Isabella Brooks told BuzzFeed News.

“So we’re not picking and choosing whose identity we question, she decided the most logical thing was to get everyone to sign stat decs.”

Graham’s ruling has left several students disgruntled.

Zephyr said that while she disagreed with Fitton’s actions, she was alarmed by the way his nomination was treated.

“I don’t agree with Fitton because he lied. He is not transgender, he is a cisgender man,” she said. “But the immediate witch hunt that happens around transgender feminine people, it’s horrific.”

“I think everyone was pretty pissed off about having to sign a stat dec,” Ward said.

Brooks said “quite a few people” had complained to the SRC, but most were OK with the situation after discussing it with Graham.

Just Weeks Into 2017, Its Movies Are Already Very Gay

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
Stills via Wolfe Video/Brainstorm Media

Compared to most weeks, this has been a good one for gay movies. Moonlight*scored a stellar eight Oscar nominations on Monday. I Am Love director Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s beloved 2007 novel Call Me By Your Name debuted at Sundance on Sunday to such effusive praise, “raves” feels like an understatement. Also unveiled at Sundance to glowing reviews was Eliza Hittman’s Coney Island cruising flick Beach Rats.

For civilians nowhere near Park City, two new gay movies are in theaters today: Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo and Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael. As is the case with most queer movies that aren’t Moonlight(and the Sundance selections mentioned above), both of these films focus on the sexualities of a few white characters, with only nominal recognition inMichael that non-white people can be queer too. There’s your caveat that while 2017 is off to a good start in terms of queer visibility in cinema, it’s the same kind of visibility that we’ve been seeing and it will take considerably more time before the influence of Moonlight (and, more to the point, Moonlight’s impressive-for-its-size gross) to be felt.

Neither Théo & Hugo nor I Am Michael have experienced nor warrant the hype that precedes the as-yet-unannounced commercial release of Call Me By Your Name, but they’re both trying (I guess) to be important and one is far less worse than the other. Let’s take a look:

Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo

Starting with a happy ending and then working its way toward an even happier one, the French language Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo wants to make it clear that intimacy can be found in the least likely of places. Our protagonists, Théo & Hugo meet virtually wordlessly at a gay sex club during their movie’s highly explicit 19-minute opening scene, during which boners and blowjobs abound (however, there aren’t any shots of anal penetration). Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau perfectly nail the disorienting, narcotic energy of red-lit, writhing bodies, and what feels like miraculous focus that can materialize when surrounded by nothing but options.

Théo spots Hugo fucking another dude and wants a taste, so through a series of intense stares and bodily maneuvering, he makes his way over. If you can read the movie’s title, you know what’s coming (they both are—together, with the matter-of-factly versatile Hugo assuming the role of bottom). They leave the club together in a euphoric afterglow, as Hugo rhapsodizes the cosmic implications of their amazing fuck (“I think we made a big contribution to world peace. What we did was pure love creation. We need to start over for the good of humankind!”).

And then, when Hugo realizes that Théo fucked him without a condom, their universe built for two threatens to collapse. But so does their movie. Hugo’s ensuing panic initially suggests he’s terrified of contracting HIV—he calls Théo “insane”—until you realize that Hugo is HIV positive and he’s scared for Théo’s health.

A few things there: If Hugo is aware of his status and concerned enough about it to worry about how it may impact his sex partners, he’s more than likely on meds, which means his HIV is undetectable, which means it’s virtually impossible for him to transmit the virus. That Théo topped further cuts the risk. And if Hugo were the kind of person who cares so intensely about these things, why didn’t he make sure Théo put on a condom?

Many of these points are eventually teased out as Théo goes to an all-night clinic to get PEP (or post-exposure prophylaxis, in which a regimen of antiretroviral medications are administered over the course of about 30 days to thwart the transmission of the virus), though perhaps not precisely enough—Hugo twice mentions that he’s undetectable without explaining what that means or the implications for transmission. That the irrational fears of HIV transmission conjured by its characters’ unrealistic ignorance (especially on the part of Hugo) remain the source of tension in this film feels at least slightly exploitative if not a total perversion of the truth for the sake of plot, which continues to follow Théo and Hugo around Paris in real time, just the two of them so that the structure of the movie is something akin to Weekend with a heaping dose of AIDS paranoia. I wanted to print out the results of the PARTNER study (which surveyed some 58,000 sex acts among serodifferent couples and found not one instance of HIV transmission) and throw it at the screen.

Théo’s uncertainty and resentment is a contrived device for getting at bigger issues that are rarely talked about outside of private conversations among gay men, so even if Théo & Hugo’s methods are overblown and disingenuous, at least the movie is contributing something to culture, including the mere presentation of the idea that Hugo doesn’t bear the entire responsibility of Théo’s predicament (which seems obvious to me, but laws criminalizing HIV across our very nation suggest otherwise). “It takes two to screw up,” says Hugo quite reasonably. Later he also notes, “Desire is stupid,” which is also correct, but probably too on the nose given the rest of this material.

I Am Michael

I think it would be useful to rattle off some things that actually come out of people’s mouths in Justin Kelly’s ex-gay yarn I Am Michael to give you the clearest picture of what we’re dealing with:

  • “Everyone’s gonna die. No amount of praying is ever going to change that.”
  • “We are making a documentary about queer youth in America because discrimination against LGBT youth must be eliminated!”
  • “When faced with your own death, it reminds you of what’s important in life, and for me that’s helping other people.”
  • “Not everyone wants to be part of the subculture!”
  • “Stop hating, start loving!”

These are just a few of the lines penned by Kelly and fellow screenwriter Stacey Miller in their bad-verging-on-incompetent adaptation of Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s great 2011 New York Times Magazine story “My Ex-Gay Friend,” about gay-activist/writer-turned-ex-gay Michael Glatze. Kelly and Miller’s script is so mercilessly heavy-handed that not only are you conspicuously aware of its presence as you watch Kelly’s film, but you can practically see their lips moving as they were writing it.

I Am Michael is strung together with more than just verbal clichés. As his Michael (played by James Franco), via a religious awakening, struggles with the idea that his sexuality is perhaps mutable and convertible, Kelly slings melodrama like it’s crack. There’s a scene of Franco taking a bath in shallow water and dim lighting with knees pressed up to his chest. In another he listens to a radio show on headphones outside, and as the guest says choosing gay identity will lead to eternal suffering, the camera swirls. “This is hard! Michael Glatze is conflicted!” this movie says over and over without adding much insight beyond that or depth to the character. This sensibility extends to the final frame.

Kelly’s I Am Michael follow-up King Cobra (nominally about the murder of gay porn producer Bryan Kocis, who discovered former twink du jour Brent Corrigan) was just as shallow as this. It surveyed gay-porn production as voyeuristically as a dude jerking off at home in front of his computer (and there weren’t even dicks in Kelly’s movie) and was ineptly paced (it takes more an an hour and 15 minutes to get to the murder the movie is supposed to be about!!!). However, it is Franco who comes off worst here, though he’s done no favors via Kelly’s script, which gives Zachary Quinto and Emma Roberts nothing to do but show up and look vaguely concerned. Franco displays “pained” like he’s playing a remedial game of charades. Franco, who played bicurious in Interior. Leather Bar and power bottom in King Cobra, has talked at length about his fascination with gay culture (despite claiming never to have indulged in man-on-man “intercourse”) but his choice of Kelly’s gallingly dumb scripts (and otherwise willful misunderstanding and contempt of gay art) suggests that he is just skimming the surface for brownie points. Certainly, given his choice of material, he hasn’t been blessed with the refined taste stereotypically attributed to gay men.

While a nuanced argument regarding the elastic and ever-evolving nature of sexuality is in order, I Am Michael is perhaps too compassionate to Glatze, who gave his blessing to the film. It’s kind of hard to take a guy seriously who went through the life of a writer-activist in San Francisco and then goes on to advise questioning youth, “If you’re a moral person then you’ll choose heterosexuality to be with God.” But it’s not like you can take Glatze in any way because Franco never disappears into the part. He’s never not James Franco doing that James Franco thing where he plays gay/not gay on screen in part of the bigger, provocative performance of his life. His quite like Madonna in that way, actually. I guess if you can’t be gay, or a gay icon, you can at least act like one.

Sebastian Barry wins second Costa Book Award with gay Wild West love story

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
telegraph
Sebastian Barry
Sebastian Barry CREDIT:  PETER NICHOLLS

Sebastian Barry has become the first novelist to win the Costa Book Award twice, for a love story set in the Wild West and inspired by his son coming out as gay.

The Irish writer won the £30,000 prize for Days Without End, which the judges praised as a “searing, magnificent, incredibly moving description of how the West was won”.

It is no run-of-the-mill tale of frontier life. At its heart is the relationship between Thomas McNulty, a teenage boy who flees the Irish famine for America, and his comrade, John Cole, who both sign up for the brutal Indian Wars. They also work as entertainers in a saloon bar, dressing as women to comfort miners starved of female company, and settle down as a family with a young Sioux girl as their ‘adopted’ child.

The book is dedicated to Barry’s son, Toby, who came out as gay when he was 16.

Accepting his award, Barry said the win had made him “crazy happy from the top of my head to my toes, in a way that is a little bit improper at 61.”

And he paid tribute to his family, singling out his son with the words: “This book is dedicated to Toby eternally.”

The author has previously described himself as a “proud father of one shining person who happens to be a member of the LGBT community” and in a recent interview said the book was in part a reaction to an incident in which his son was threatened on a train after a gang saw him kissing his boyfriend goodbye.

Days Without End

“Two or three people on the train thought it licenced them to come over and sit beside him and menace him and be dreadful. It shook him.

“I didn’t want to go and remonstrate with them. I wanted to beat them to death with a large stick. And this informed this book because I felt such a terrible sense of emergency because he was terribly worried,” Barry said.

Through literature, “maybe you can reach back into the past in order to make a strange template for a possible future where gayness is so unremarkable that literally no one remarks on it. So someone as amazing as my son can be safe on trains and everywhere else.”

Speaking after he found out he had won, Barry said he wished for a world in which homophobia no longer existed.

“As a father, I’m trying to mobilise the world to stop being in any way prejudiced towards people who are gay, since they are actually incredible instances of human existence and should be revered and emulated rather than in any way feel unhappy. I mean, when somebody is bringing to bear a comment on your 16-year-old son, you’re on action stations.

“He said a beautiful thing to me after he’d read the book: ‘You’re not gay, dad, but you’re an ally.'”

Barry said Ireland’s vote in favour of gay marriage “was one of the times I felt truly and properly proud to be Irish”.

The initial idea for the book came from a family tale of his great-uncle fighting in the Indian Wars. “And it just so happened that the time I was thinking about it enough to begin the book, that Toby came out in that magical way. It’s what you pray for as a writer but how could you possibly arrange it? It’s like a celestial coming together of things.

Barry winning the prize in 2008
Barry winning the prize in 2008

“You should be teaching your child something, it’s not supposed to be the other way around. But maybe it always is, in truth. He’s taught me something.”

Barry, who lives in Co Wicklow with his wife and three children, won the Costa in 2008 for The Secret Scripture. He is the first novelist to score a double win, although Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney both won twice in the poetry category.

Days Without End is also a bloody historical account of the Indian Wars and the US Army’s suppression of indigenous tribes. Kate Williams, chair of the judges said: “It’s brutal, it’s terrifying, it moves you to tears, it horrifies, and at the same time it’s got these fantastic moments of light, of beauty and of friendship. It takes you from the highs to the lows of human experience.”

Gay Adult Film Actor Strip-Searched and ‘Humiliated’ At Israeli Airport Because of ‘Muslim-Sounding Name’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

towleroad

French gay adult film actor claims that airport officials in Israel strip-searched and interrogated him for hours because of his “Muslim-sounding name.”

Ibrahim Moreno arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on Friday to perform at a club in Tel Aviv.

He alleges that he was questioned three times by officials and that it took him two and a half hours to clear customs.

Times of Israel reports that in a Facebook post on Monday, he alleged that he again faced discrimination on his return trip to the airport:

“Today at the Tel Aviv airport back home I have been humiliated, treated me like a terrorist and simply because my name is IBRAHIM, why can not I have a name of Arab origin? I’m GAY, I’m not a MUSLIM, I don’t speak any Arabic language, but if I carry a cross that allows me to be judged and humiliated.”

According to Ynet News, Moreno uploaded a picture of himself on Facebook crying on the airplane before uploading another post, this time highlighting the fun he had in Tel Aviv.

In a statement, Israel Airports Authority (IAA) said that security checks at Ben Gurion are “carried out on all travelers leaving the country regardless of their identity, nationality, etc, and in the procedures laid out by the authorized officials.”

“Items that are prohibited on flights in hand luggage are confiscated as is the norm all over the world,” the IAA added.

Pope Francis says he has accompanied gay and transgender people through pastoral care

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

americamagazine

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Rome Oct. 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Catholics who are homosexual, confused about their sexuality or convinced they were born in the wrong body deserve the same attentive pastoral care as anyone else, Pope Francis said.

Flying back to Rome on Oct. 2 after a visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, the pope was asked, given his criticism on Oct. 1 of “gender theory” and of what he describes as “ideological colonization,” how he would provide pastoral care to a person who felt his or her sexuality did not correspond to his or her biology.

Pope Francis began responding to the reporter’s question by saying that as a priest, a bishop and even as pope he has “accompanied people with homosexual tendencies and even homosexual activity. I accompanied them; I helped them draw closer to the Lord, although some couldn’t. But I never abandoned them.”

“People must be accompanied like Jesus would accompany them,” he said. “When a person who has this situation arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual.’ No.”

Pope Francis said what he was condemning was “indoctrination of gender theory,” teaching small children that no matter their biological sex, they can choose their gender. He said a Spanish father told him he had asked his son what he wanted to be when he grew up and the boy replied, “A girl.” The father realized the child was taught in school that gender is a choice “and this is against nature.”

“It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option and even to have a sex change, but it is another thing to teach this in schools in order to change mentalities. This I call ideological colonization,” the pope said.

The pope also told the story of a Spanish husband and wife whom he invited to the Vatican. The husband was born a girl, but always felt like a boy. When she was in her 20s, she told her mother she wanted a sex change operation, but the mother begged her not to do it as long as she was alive. When her mother died, she had the surgery, the pope said.

A Spanish bishop, “a good bishop,” spent time a lot of time “to accompany this man,” who later married, the pope said. They asked to come to the Vatican “and I received them and they were very happy.”

In the town where the man lived, he said, a new priest, “when he would see him would shout at him from the sidewalk, ‘You will go to hell!’ But when he’d meet his old priest, he would say to him, ‘How long has it been since you’ve confessed? Come on, confess so you can take Communion.'”

“Do you understand?” the pope asked the journalists. “Life is life and you must take things as they come. Sin is sin. And tendencies or hormonal imbalances” create problems “and you cannot say, ‘it’s all the same, let’s throw a party.’ No.”

Welcome the person, study the situation, accompany the person and integrate him or her into the life of the community, the pope said. “This is what Jesus would do today.”

“Please,” the pope told reporters, “Don’t say, ‘The pope will bless transgender people,’ OK?”

“I want to be clear. It is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem,” the pope said. “And it must be resolved the best one can—always with the mercy of God, with the truth” and “always with an open heart.”

#MemeOfTheWeek: Trump Asked ‘The Gays,’ And Got Answers

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

npr

A man wears a rainbow cape during a memorial vigil for the victims of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting Thursday in San Antonio.

Eric Gay/AP

After last week’s mass shooting that killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, politicians of all stripes have been speaking out about the LGBTQ community — arguing what should be done to protect them, speaking to the importance of their safe spaces, and pledging commitment to their needs. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, per usual, seems to have made the most waves with his words.

On Monday, one day after the attack, Trump spoke as an ally of the community. “A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation,” Trump said. He then called the attack a “strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation,” as CNN reported, saying it was an “assault” on people’s ability to “love who they want and express their identity.”

But by Wednesday, the tone had shifted. While Trump seemed to still be showing sympathy to gays and lesbians, the delivery was off for many watching — his talk shifted from support for the community to boastful pride. “The LGBT community, the gay community, the lesbian community — they are so much in favor of what I’ve been saying over the last three or four days,” Trump said during a campaign stop in Atlanta on Wednesday, defending his tough talk on limiting Muslim immigration and fighting ISIS.

“Ask the gays what they think and what they do, in, not only Saudi Arabia, but many of these countries, and then you tell me — who’s your friend, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?”

We’re not even going to touch the fact that he used “the” in a strange way with those words, a thing he’s done before when referencing other minority groups, like the Latinos, orthe blacks. What stood out most, besides that precariously placed definite article, was the question: “Ask the gays.”

Some were just beyond words.

Even Hillary Clinton got in on the fun, with one simple word.

There was a certain power on display in all the tweets, and in the LGBTQ community’s ability to not just speak for itself, but to find humor in a painful week, when politicians could be seen as using gays and lesbians as political props. But there is also a more serious undercurrent to #AskTheGays — how, why, and how quickly an entire group can become political footballs in moments of such distress.

To be fair, both Clinton’s and Trump’s records on LGBTQ issues are up for debate. Trump has spoken less disparagingly of gays and lesbians than he has of other minority and affinity groups, though he has opposed issues like same-sex marriage. He has said he would allow transgender people to use any bathroom at Trump Tower, but also argued that states should be allowed to decide their own policies concerning bathrooms for transgender individuals.

Hillary Clinton has gained the endorsement of most major LGBTQ organizations, and has campaigned with her support of same-sex marriage and transgender rights. But she did not always support same-sex marriage, and has made some missteps with the LGBTQ community before — most recently during the funeral of Nancy Reagan, when she argued that Reagan had helped advance the nation’s conversation on AIDS. (Nancy Reagan’s husband was actually silent on AIDS for years.)

Still, Clinton seems to have the advantage — in a May Gallup poll, 54 percent of those who identify as LGBT view Clinton as favorable while only 18 percent view Trump as such.

There is much to unpack in the way LGBTQ people have been both marginalized, co-opted, and embraced in just a matter of days since a physical safe space was taken from the community. But, in a way, #AskTheGays was able to create a safe space online in a week where it might have been particularly hard to find those spaces in the real world or our political discourse.

Texas Republican: Gay people were sent by Russia to destroy America

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

PinkNews

 

Conservative Republicans of Texas President Steven Hotze made the astounding claim

Conservative Republicans of Texas President Steven Hotze made the astounding claim

A Texas Republican activist has compared gay people to termites, claiming homosexuality was created by the Soviet Union to destroy America.

Steven Hotze of Conservative Republicans of Texas made the shocking comments at the ‘Stand 4 Truth; evangelical conference, which was held over the weekend in Houston.

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In the speech, snipped by Right Wing Watch, he warns: “The homosexual movement has really infiltrated… think of them like termites.

“They get into the wood of the house and they eat away at the very moral fabric of the foundation of our country.

“This is exactly what the Marxist movement was all about… If you remember, [Soviet leader] Khrushchev came and said we’re going to get your country one way or another, and the way they want to do it is to destroy the moral fabric and create moral anarchy in our country so that our people no longer live righteous lives but they’re living lives that are ungodly.

“When you do that, you lack moral courage, because you can’t very well stand up and oppose people doing wicked things if you’re participating in the same activities.

“Now you’ve got pornography… it’s legal to have pornography on the internet, but we, in some jurisdictions of the country, you can’t stand up and say that homosexuality is wrong or immoral activity, whether it’s the promotion of adultery or premarital sex, we can’t say that that’s wrong because that’s hate speech.

“But it’s perfectly legal according to allow pornography to be perpetrated upon our public, and even in our public schools to be taught and shown.”

A Texas pastor recently prophesied that paedophilia will soon be renamed ‘happy’ and legalised.

Rick Scarborough of Vision America made the claim while preaching at Trinity Family Church in Forney, Texas.

He fumed: “What’s next? Paedophilia?

“When we called homosexuality, instead of sodomy, ‘gay,’ it changed everything because everyone wants to be gay. So let’s just change paedophilia to ‘happy’ and we’ll have all kinds of leagues of happy people and we’ll have the lobby for happy people.

“Who wants to keep somebody from being happy? I don’t know how long we’ve got, but I intend to fight this.”

Idaho man pleads guilty to hate crime in beating death of gay man

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

reuters

An Idaho man who admitted fatally beating a gay man by kicking him up to 30 times with his steel-toed boots pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal hate crime, U.S. attorneys said.

Federal prosecutors said Kelly Schneider, 23, of Nampa, attacked Steven Nelson at a remote wildlife refuge last spring because of Nelson’s sexual orientation.

“Steven Nelson was assaulted and later died because he was gay,” Wendy Olson, former U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a statement.

Last month, Schneider pleaded guilty to a state charge of first-degree murder in Nelson’s death and is scheduled to be sentenced March 20.

Sentencing for Schneider on the federal charge is set for April 26 in Boise. Both crimes are punishable by up to life in prison.

Schneider was contacted by Nelson the evening of April 27 after Schneider posted a shirtless photograph of himself in a solicitation for sex on the website backpage.com, federal authorities said. The pair met by prearrangement the next evening, when Schneider took Nelson’s money but did not engage in a sexual act, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Before that encounter, Schneider told his friends that he was not gay and would not let anyone who was touch him, prosecutors said. Schneider arranged to go with Nelson on April 29 to an isolated area within Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge in southwest Idaho with the promise of a sexual encounter.

Instead, Schneider attacked Nelson at the wildlife area, kicking Nelson between 20 and 30 times with steel-toed boots while repeatedly using a homophobic slur, prosecutors said.

THE LOVING, WARLIKE UNITY OF GAY AMERICANS AGAINST TRUMP

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

newyorker

After more than a decade in which leading L.G.B.T.Q. organizations focussed their fight on same-sex marriage, a right held most dearly by affluent whites, Trump’s ascension is driving the gay-rights movement to embrace its greatest natural strength: its extension across lines of race and class. Zeke Stokes, a vice-president at glaad, told me, “Our top priority is to make sure that we are locking arms with other parts of the progressive movement,” and Hari Nef, the trans actress and model, led her remarks at the rally with the legend of Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman who is said to have thrown the shot glass that started the Stonewall riots. Thus, although the event featured many colorfully worded signs—“hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned”; “rise up faggot”; “i want dicks in my 👄, not running my country”—the one that best captured the spirit of the day, and the great diversity of the crowd and speakers, was the simplest: “&.” “They don’t know that we are Muslims, we are women, we are transgender, we are Mexican,” Carmelyn Malalis, the city’s commissioner on human rights, told the crowd. “They don’t know that we are united and never leave a brother or sister behind. Not ever.”

Such unity, loving and warlike, is the only defense against an Administration whose treatment of the vulnerable seems, like its whole agenda, to combine pernicious intentions with minimal planning. After Johnson’s speech, as the wind chill began to outmatch the sun, he told me about the origins of the rally: the weekend before, he’d put out a call on Facebook, in response to reports that Trump was poised to revoke Obama’s anti-discrimination protections for L.G.B.T.Q. federal contractors. Then, last Tuesday, the White House appeared to change course, releasing a statement that championed Trump as “respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights.” (Reportedly, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump had intervened.) After the reversal, word of the rally spread virally, Johnson said—a way of calling “total bullshit” on an Administration that includes Mike Pence, one of America’s leading homophobes. Johnson pointed to the leaked version of an executive order on “religious freedom,” which would allow almost any organization to exempt itself from federal regulations protecting same-sex marriage, transgender identity, abortion, and contraception. “That is a license to discriminate,” Johnson said.

The left is sometimes ridiculed for its factionalism—its thicket of nonprofit support systems, its acronym for every gradation of identity. But when you shake one part of that structure, you learn how durably it is fastened to all the others. Many of the speakers at the rally testified to how this crisscrossing can manifest on a personal level. A magnificent testimonial came from Olympia Perez, of the Audre Lorde Project, which advocates for queer people of color: “I cannot divide the pieces of me that are Dominican, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, and South Asian from the parts of me that are trans, a woman, and a fuckin’ New Yorker.” The crowd roared as Perez, her long black hair framing her face, read a battle cry from Assata Shakur, a Black Panther who went into exile after killing a New Jersey State Trooper. “It is our duty to fight,” she said. “It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

The nationwide uprisings of the past weeks—from the Women’s March to the resistance to the immigration ban—have reminded us that, although the people’s power can be gathered by revanchist right-wingers and finance-friendly Democrats, it belongs ultimately to the people themselves. Neither Governor Cuomo nor Mayor de Blasio attended the rally on Saturday, but Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, seemed to have absorbed the message of the protesters who mobbed his Brooklyn brownstone the week before, demanding total opposition to the new Administration: he led the crowd in a brief recitation of “dump Trump” and promised to defeat both Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, and Neil Gorsuch, his appointee to the Supreme Court. “Stop protecting Trump Tower!” someone shouted at Scott Stringer, the city comptroller. The pest, an Irish-born actor by the name of Donal (not Donald) Brophy, told me, “I think it’s unfair for our tax dollars to be used to protect the so-called First Family.” When I asked why he’d used the word “so-called”—Trump’s word, in a tweet from early that morning, for the judge who stayed the immigration ban—he said that the Electoral College system was disenfranchising coastal Americans. “We are the majority, and we’re constantly under attack.”

As the rally disbanded, I found myself sucked into a knot of people near Seventh Avenue. Some two dozen police officers had formed a circle around a group of five protesters. It seemed that they had refused to move out of the street, which was being opened to traffic, and now they linked arms tightly as they chanted, “In the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.” A few cops moved in, taking hold of shoulders and arms and torsos, and a slow-motion struggle commenced. Along the border of the circle, a hundred cell-phone videos were being filmed, and, after the last protester was pushed into a patrol car, the crowd took up their chant.

Why Gay Men Should Talk About Their Partners at Work

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Fortune

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by Phil Schraeder, president and COO of GumGum.

Your company supports workplace equality, right? There’s an easy answer to that question: “Yes, of course!”

But when I say “easy answer,” I mean exactly that. Boilerplate support for diversity and equality is one thing, but what team members throughout your organization actually think and experience might be different. If you’re serious about not just talking the talk but walking the walk when it comes to workplace equality, it takes a clear plan, active commitment, and change in your office culture.

Here’s how you can be a part of moving the ball forward:

Share your own story

Every employee at your company has a unique perspective, and it helps immensely if they discuss their background with colleagues. As a gay man, I’m always willing to discuss my own story with the rest of the organization. This means, for instance, bringing up my partner in casual conversation with the same ease that a straight colleague might bring up a girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse. When I initially gravitated toward working in accounting and finance, I didn’t have a tremendous number of gay role models to look up to, so I’m especially aware of the subtle but powerful value of just being visible and vocal about who I am.

For example, over the past few years, half of our interns have been women, which is particularly exciting in the engineering field. From the conversations we’ve had with our interns, we’ve learned about which undergraduate and graduate computer science programs actually care about gender equality.

Be ready to listen

Put your ego aside and be willing to hear and address hard truths about your workplace culture. I’ve been in situations at companies in the past where I’ve heard anti-LGBTQ comments in casual lunchtime conversations. I tend to be a pretty vocal person, so I’ve spoken up when I’ve needed to, but it’s important to recognize that not every employee may have the same willingness to engage in a confrontation. That’s why we have an anonymous hotline to which people can text concerns or questions regarding workplace issues including diversity and equality.

It’s also easy to take too much credit for the diversity in your organization when you’re based in a community that’s already diverse. We’re headquartered in Santa Monica, and are deeply appreciative of the advantages of being part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a proudly diverse melting pot.

But at the same time, we know that we always have to stay aware of the struggle for workplace diversity and equality that continues beyond the walls of our offices. Only 19 states and Washington DC, for instance, have laws that prohibit companies from firing an employee just for being LGBTQ. Particularly in larger organizations with offices in states that lack such protections, it’s important that your team’s leadership let all employees know, through clearly articulated diversity and equality policies, that you stand with them—regardless of the local political and cultural climate they may face.

You and your colleagues can help set a powerful example that can change hearts and minds—even if every heart and mind at your company is already pro-diversity and pro-equality.

Gay Porn Gave Me The Sex Education That Real Life Didn’t

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

BuzzFeed News

Scott Mabe for BuzzFeed News

G Books, a gay used bookstore, was crouched at the garden level of a brownstone on DC’s U Street, back when the block was still snaggletoothed. I went there often in college, to browse videos and rummage through magazines from that golden age of late- ’80s gay porn. So often that, at a certain point, I exhausted their supply and was forced to choose something from the more sanitized stack of ’90s mags that I usually avoided. I liked the look of the cover model, his handlebar mustache a relic of a bygone era. But the model, when I opened up the centerfold, turned out to be a bait-and-switch. In the photograph — just a still from a movie, when I looked closer — he stood wreathed by text: a column that posed the question of whether gay men were in danger of OD’ing on porn.

The article warned that watching porn would jeopardize my mental and emotional health, a threat more pernicious than all the moral arguments against my sexuality I’d heard at church over the years and finally faced down. All that work, to secure the space to masturbate without shame, and now my wellness was imperiled. All that work to enter basements like this bookstore and maintain eye contact, and now I had to trouble over what Colt Studios might mean to the man I was becoming, or how my adoration for Catalina Video would limit the way I might view other men — turn them into fetish objects, the projections of my own desire.

I railed against that. Couldn’t even finish reading the thing. And so I flung the magazine back on the shelf. Obviously, it wanted to snatch away the bounty of secret knowledge I’d found at G Books, which offered up so much to me at the time. Straight people had their love songs, I fumed. Even black straight people had their haven, my college, a historically black university; thusly, straight people had the world. Their instructions — on how to get a man and keep him, on how to keep yourself when you needed to leave him, or most vitally, on when you wanted him and that sentiment was unrequited — were embedded in the lyrics of the girls I sang along to: Coko and Mary J. Blige and Monica. But where were mine?

I had this place, this dank corner in the back room of a shop, to discover what new permissions I would grant myself. And I remained there spiritually for much of my twenties, in righteous, ribald rejection of the sentiment in that magazine column. Still, through much of my adult life, that warning about porn has hounded me. At times, I’ve reassured myself that I was only giving myself the education — on legislating feelings and relationships, on developing my emotional well-being — that I was denied as a gay man in a heteronormative society. At other times, I’ve thought of myself as an addict.


Desire had driven me to the bookstore in the first place. All the habits I’d developed to still my anxiety — the fast food, the liquor, the cigarettes, the porn — were resulting in serial overdrafts to my bank account. Having sold most of my literary titles to Second Story Books for quick cash, and my DVDs to CD/Game Exchange, I turned to the cache of porn I’d been hoarding since freshman year, VHS tapes that ran $50 a pop and came in big, muscular boxes. I toted the least coveted items from my stash to G Books in order to liquidate them quickly.

The store grew like a polyp at the edge of the black neighborhood where I was attending undergrad, and I inhabited the world of my university in much the same way. This was the year I’d cut off my dreadlocks, grown my hair back, and permed it bone-straight, a kind of penance for failing to accomplish what I’d arrived on campus from Arkansas two years ago to do: to be validated as a black man, to make coherent the frustrated parts of myself that grew neurotic, speaking in so many voices all the time — butch masculine black, token black, dutiful church black, black best friend. At Howard, I imagined I would resolve the discord between the representations of black men I’d seen, and the smart, sensitive, expressive one I longed to be.

I imagined I would resolve the discord between the representations of black men I’d seen, and the smart, sensitive, expressive one I longed to be.

The dreadlocks had been an attempt at making physical the kind of person I wanted to be then — bold, exotic, and unmanicured. But there were only so many times I could be mistaken for a spoken-word poet before I realized that I was giving a counterfeit impression. No self-respecting conscious soul would have longed, like I had, to skip out on the midnight affirmative action march on the Mall in the dead of winter to watch mustachioed Chad Douglas plow California Blonde Cory Monroe in Spring Break: Falcon Pac 48.

I escaped campus, too afraid to pursue gay friendship yet, and made my first forays into gay bars. But I soon swore off the lonely sojourns to the clubs near South Capitol, where rounds of drinking myself slurry made me courageous enough to insert myself into huddles of gay men, stand at the periphery nodding my head to the beat, and hope to catch the eye of the one who was the closest approximation of Chase Hunter.

The frustration from those nights sent me hurtling toward kinkier scenes, leather bars I rode to in secret on my bike and snuck inside, being underage. There were the awkward nights when I came to, licking the boot of some leather daddy perched in a shoe shine chair, begging off when he got too mean with the titty-twisting. And there were the nights when I shut up and suffered the rough nipple play because I worried this might be as good as it got.

I wondered why all of this had to happen in secret, why I couldn’t find spaces on my campus that might have made the transition easier — a support group for failed black twinks. A mixer? But I did nothing to establish those scenes myself; I wanted to simply arrive upon them, the way my straight classmates had. My own rainbow identity at the time remained small enough to fit in my pocket, and the most audacious things I did then, I did with my wallet. And so my porn collection grew.

After finding G, I discovered my predilection for the dated VHS stuff over the newer, glossier DVDs, and began hoarding them like a fanboy. My college had only just installed ethernet cables, and access to most online porn required a membership. Unable to find classes that even acknowledged gay bodies in the course catalogue, I skipped class to go to the library, where I determined to do that reading on my own. I slunk most days from the library, having skipped a day’s worth of classes, and took my envy of the good time I assumed everyone else was having, at the place that was supposed to have been my salvation, to G Books.

The G Books brownstone (painted blue). Google Maps

The bookstore, like me, had made a pathetic attempt at declaring itself, this far from Dupont Circle: a letter-sized rainbow flag Scotch-taped to the window. But inside, the store took the contents of an inner life I’d hardly explored and displayed it proudly: classic gay novels, queer theory, sex aids festively heaped in jars on the front counter, a wall of dildos behind the cashier. The only light streamed in through the front windows, leaving the back, where the sex tapes were kept, shrouded in darkness. But even the paper goods chastely displayed closer to the front, the vintage erotic magazines, put crotch and pec and bicep right up in my face. And it was at G that I realized my desire did have a lineage, and unearthed not just my identity but the term for it: bossy bottom, indeed. I went there to mine the things men had always known about me, what I liked and how I liked it, before I’d even known myself.

I went there to mine the things men had always known about me, what I liked and how I liked it, before I’d even known myself.

There were stacks of tattered, musty magazines to rifle through, the perfect texture and scent for what they contained: the kitschy machismo of all those pinup men from late-’80s Playgirl, hair erupting all over their bodies. New stock arrived at random, drawn from the collection of some anonymous perv — someone I liked to imagine had, like me, missed out on all the real-life fun looking at dirty pictures, and so had survived the ’80s themselves. I hoped never to meet any of said people. We maintained our dignity by remaining anonymous.

I brought in my wares, the VHS tapes, along with books of critical theory whose titles and subtitles had turned out to be much sexier than the dense prose inside. Most times I went, I ended up spending back whatever I’d earned. I think the shop proprietor, an Asian guy with silvering hair and preppy clothes, saw me — saw the ambition in the titles I’d collected and the exhaustion in my gait, when those books finally made their way into the shopping bags I toted from campus. He scanned each title politely, always, though he’d probably scanned them before and would now have to refuse them again. Most times, I came in so early in the day that there were no other customers. When the shop was empty, he’d step from behind the counter and smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk with me, and mostly we’d just exhale together. I was thankful for the company.

I spent enough time in that place to need smoke breaks. It felt almost as if it were a friend’s bedroom, and I was stashing things there for safekeeping until I could come retrieve them or they passed out of memory (which most of them did). But really, the store just became a very expensive library; I would check things out for purchase, and return them for much less.

At G, I could look at enough of those images of glowering Castro clones, the gay paper dolls from San Francisco in their macho costumes, that my now-aching desire to be bent at the waist and fucked started to make a kind of sense. No black man had claimed a desire like that within earshot of me in my entire lifetime.

The ire I’d brewed back home in Arkansas — growing up black, gay, closeted but helplessly signaling, in a world that validated straightness, whiteness, and most avidly, their admixture — seemed newly neutralized. How could it touch me anymore, when I was the one now granted the right to see, to frame, to discover, to discern, to discriminate? This is why looking — becoming a black body looking, hungry and devouring — meant so much to me. It gave me the power not to feel looked at; it made me the person who got a choice.


There’s a tension in me still, acknowledging all that might’ve passed me by while indulging my impulse toward porn, and allowing it to shape my desire. I do wonder if so much looking was also a distraction, a chance to sidestep regret or disappointment. I never even bought a condom, a bottle of poppers, a tube of lube or Anal-ease. Those were for men far more successful at being gay than I was then, things that admitted that desire involved someone else.

At G, I did not have to acknowledge all the things I was not, or lament all the things I was not having: the white, blonde, athletic bodies I watched so rabidly on those tapes. Instead, I could concern myself only with what I wanted. I believed that understanding what I wanted would guarantee possession of it.

I believed that understanding what I wanted would guarantee possession of it.

That’s not the sexuality I want anymore: one that refuses to acknowledge the longing I feel for another person, because I’m afraid they won’t talk to me. I’ve wrestled enough with that (mostly unrequited) longing to have become cautious of letting myself want. The volume at which I spoke my right to desire in my twenties has been tamped down by age, and by an abiding fear that no amount of ranting will compensate for the companionship I’m missing.

There are only so many new things to learn about gay-for-pay actors, only so many interracial scenes where the black guy gets to be the bottom, only so many times to grow righteously angry over everyone’s seeming inability to see black men as fuckable — as deserving of that kind of indulgence, or desirable enough for it. It’s begun to feel like a fixation; I worry that my zealotry on these counts masks some pretty deeply rooted racial self-loathing, that my reluctance to turn away from the retro vids in favor of a dating app signals toward a nostalgia for a world that will never be again, and an impulse to justify rather than confront my fears.

But too, there’s a delicious power in knowing myself this well. There’s a self-reliance I’ve learned in not expecting the universe to deliver me beautiful things. And this instinct toward self-authorship has sustained me in a world that has often refused to see black boys like me the way I think we should be seen. It has let me forgive that earlier me for failing to find the courage to say so many things. It has pushed me to make something rigorous and exacting of myself, that is also sometimes heedless and addicted — something beautiful.

How a Gay Man, Two Artists, and a Drought Made an Impossible Mural

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

advocate

One of California’s largest farmers’ markets is beneath a freeway in its capital, Sacramento — Route 50, or the intersection of W and 6th streets, to be exact. As cars whiz by overhead, hundreds of patrons below peruse a cornucopia of offerings — apples, meats, honey, pastries, rainbow-colored carrots, bottles of olive oil, pearl onions, and more — which are brought in each Sunday morning from the region’s many farms.

The stretch of cement over the parking lot is far from an eyesore. In fact, it is a work of art. Dubbed the Bright Underbelly, the 75,000-square-foot area is painted with patches of blue, birds in flight, insects, and phases of the moon, which cycles through a lunar year in a circle overhead. Branches of sycamore trees — live ones once stood in this site — are outlined in various stages of flowering, a reminder to visitors of the passage of time.

As Allen Ginsberg foreshadowed in his 1955 poem “A Supermarket in California”: What peaches and what penumbras!

Awakening Fullx750

Poetry aside, the passage of time is one of the key components in the story of how one of California’s largest murals — created by Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Cristophel of LC Studio Tutto in collaboration with the California Department of Transportation and Sacramento — was made.

Completed in March 2016, the project took several years of planning, paperwork, and painting to complete. Its ribbon-cutting, hailed as “a sign of what’s possible in Sacramento” by The Sacramento Bee, is also a sign of what’s possible in America — as long as one is provided with inspiration and has patience for the sometimes slow-moving wheels of bureaucratic processes.

“You’d think that just putting paint on cement is the easiest possible thing. But if you’re a freeway engineer, it’s not,” said Tre Borden, the project manager and “placemaker” who first envisioned art where blank cement once stood.

Borden, a gay graduate of Yale University and the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management, was struck by inspiration for the project during a student exchange program in Buenos Aires in 2011. In the Palermo neighborhood, he encountered a pedestrian bridge and observed how art had transformed a structure that was “utilitarian into a real community gateway.” Borden, a native of Sacramento, imagined how such a tactic could be applied to his own city, which is bordered by blank canvases — highways and infrastructure just waiting for a creative mind to take action.

A seed was planted. But its flowering took a few seasons. In considering a subject, Borden was drawn to the Downtown Farmers’ Market because of what the venue represented. This crossroads of commerce showcased the region’s agricultural assets. Sacramento is known as “American’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” and its largest market is symbolic of the city’s pride in supporting local farms on both dining room tables and restaurants. The venue is also melting pot of the city’s diverse inhabitants, which includes everyone from “hipsters” to “rich white ladies” to “people who live in the projects” nearby.

Borden, a fellow in the mayor’s office of Sacramento at the time, asked Mayor Kevin Johnson how he might implement such a program. The mayor had no idea. So Borden did his own digging. He learned there were many hurdles to clear. For one, the property was managed by the state, not the city. He engaged with people in the arts community, who told him there was no funding or “no real mechanisms” in place for such a project. The manager of the market thought it was a great idea — but again, the money wasn’t there. In the midst of these obstacles, Borden graduated from business school and took a job at a utility company for about a month before realizing his future wasn’t there. He quit. Indeed, he questioned whether he would quit Sacramento as well.

However, certain shifts were happening in the city, California, and the country that would determine Borden’s fate — as well as that of the Bright Underbelly. Sacramento’s population was changing. Artists, entrepreneurs, and progressive thinkers were moving to California’s capital, in part due to the tech industry driving up rent prices and the cost of living in San Francisco. They found a city welcoming to creative types, where a person or group could make a significant impact in ways that might not be possible in larger cities with more established systems.

Queer transplants might be surprised by the vibrant scene. There’s a thriving gayborhood, Lavender Heights, where bars like the Depot, Badlands, Faces, and the Mercantile Saloon draw packed crowds on weekends. Dining options are not only farm-to-fork, they are LGBT-friendly, with mainstays like Mulvaney’s B&L hosting many a same-sex wedding party.

The city’s progressive policies also help. California has been in the vanguard of climate initiatives and health care, which led Gov. Jerry Brown  to declare in Sacramento last month, “California is not turning back, not now, not ever,” in response to threats on these issues from the White House. (Borden said some of his liberal political contacts in D.C., mourning the loss of the Obama administration, are looking to Sacramento for new opportunities.) The city’s spirit of inclusiveness can also be seen in its sports stadium, the Golden 1 Center, which is one of the first major arenas to have transgender-inclusive restrooms.

Overheadx750

Even in 2012, the market was ripe for Borden help launch Flywheel, a creative incubator, which taught business skills to creative minds. Two of Flywheel’s participants, Lacin and Cristophel — who would become the pair who designed and executed the Sacramento mural — expressed their interest in the project to Borden. The wheels began turning once again.

Borden is no artist, but he sees his role of placemaking consultant as a bridge between artists, businesses, and political players. His skills were put to the test in realizing Bright Underbelly. He re-established communication with state operators, including California’s freeway operator, Caltrans — “not the tiniest, most nimble bureaucracy, let me tell you,” joked Borden. He received a stroke of luck. Caltrans, as a result of the years-long drought that had impacted California, was seeking ways to beautify spaces without water or vegetation. A partnership with an arts project seemed like the perfect solution, and Borden succeeded in obtaining permission from the state agency. All he needed was the money.

Remarkably, Borden and his small team were able to do the fundraising themselves. Not having traditional sources of money at their disposal, they found other means to reach goals. Since the project supported healthy food, the California Endowment, a health foundation, gifted $50,000. Bright Underbelly was able to leverage this donation to convince small businesses to help match the amount. In total, they raised $150,000 for the project. In doing so, Borden and his team also helped “create a new template, a new model for civic improvements” for others to follow.

However, the fundraising wasn’t the end of the story. During this process, Caltrans changed legal representation, which added an additional delay of several months. At points, Borden wondered if he would ever be able to navigate around the red tape.

“There was so many points where it felt like, this is never going to happen,” said Borden, who often felt like giving up in the face of bureaucracy.

But after about two years from its project launch in April 2014, Bright Underbelly was completed. It was a victory not just for Borden, Lacin, and Cristophel, but for all artists and creative people. The rewards to the city were many. In the short term, visitors to the Farmers’ Market now enjoy a beautified space, which in turn attracts more business and neighborhood revitalization. In addition, by showing that something is “possible that people didn’t think was possible,” said Borden, it inspires others to take action as well.

“The fact that this conversation is happening is part of it,” said Borden. “Who knows who will read this article and go, ‘Hmm, I didn’t know Sacramento was a thing, let me go check that out’? Maybe there will be some bazillionaire who wants some investment opportunity or maybe a really excited gay kid who will check this place out. It’s hard to measure, but every little bit definitely contributes.”

The delay of Bright Underbelly — the project was initially only supposed to take six months — was also a blessing in disguise for Borden. As the gears turned on the mural, he engaged in smaller projects, such as helping to convert a century-old factory into the Warehouse Artist Lofts. The mixed-use facility houses over 200 members of Sacramento’s creative community as well as two dozen art installations. These artists are also investments for the city, as their accomplishments will bring more Bright Underbellies into the world.

As a result, Borden has taken new root in the city where he was raised. His work has also taken on new meaning since the election of Donald Trump, which has left many members of vulnerable communities fearful of the future. Looking forward, Borden is excited to be planning projects that are “thinking of those communities that are less out of these conversations, particularly underserved black people, Latino people, gay people, and where this could have the most impact.”

Borden argued that Trump, who has threatened to cut federal funding to the arts, should learn that the arts are necessary to making America great. Fostering individual creativity, for example, is a more effective strategy to boosting the economy than bullying and bribing big businesses not to fire U.S. workers.

“Trump … appeals to a person who is afraid, who doesn’t feel they could really have an impact in the community. His solutions obviously gear toward the titans of the world who control all these low-wage jobs in warehouses that are never coming back,” said Borden. “I think that if he were savvier and not so craven about his solutions, I think [he should be] telling people how they could empower themselves.”

Borden cited cities like Sacramento, Indianapolis, and Detroit, where “you’ve seen how citizens, when they feel empowered with these new tools, they do things that are really resonant to their own communities, and start businesses that people patronize. That gets more people excited about being in a city, and that becomes its own engine.”

“I think that trying to return people to the past is not productive, and it’s not reality. It’s so irrelevant to what’s happening right now,” he added.

Despite the pessimism that Trump has expressed over the state of the country — the president invoked “American carnage” and the “graveyard” of industry in his inaugural speech — and the despair many LGBT people feel about the new administration, Borden sees the bright side. He is hopeful of what can happen in the face of adversity.

“I have a determinately optimistic view. I think that when such a shocking and almost unbelievable external threat happens, people really start to become active and engaged,” he said.

“The exciting part about being in Sacramento is it’s still a place where you can change a lot of things you think are wrong. All it takes is someone taking an interest.”

Queer art pushes boundaries: why I made my explicit gay porn music video

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The Guardian

Australian musician Brendan Maclean
‘Anything beyond the whole truth sanitises queer history and makes it boring,’ says Brendan Maclean. Photograph: Brock Elbank

As the shimmering, lube-smeared bottom descended over my face while the cameras rolled, one question ran through my mind. Not, “Have I taken this music video too far?” but instead, “Have I taken this far enough?”

Over the past three days, my explicit music video House of Air has been viewed more than 400,000 times. It has resulted in 3,500 comments, five email hacks, two death threats and one online protest video from Brazil (and a counter-protest video). The film clip, which was released on 30 January, is a light-hearted, extremely explicit look at the world of gay semiotics. You can watch it right nowif you like – but if you’re at work, or a child, or just not in the mood to look directly at some sex, you shouldn’t.

The genesis for the clip came last year, when I found myself in a library hidden in an iconic London sex shop that was being knocked down to make room for another Pret A Manger. There, snuggly positioned between various musings on queer culture and biographies of Harvey Milk, I spotted a very plain, very thin grey book: Gay Semiotics by Hal Fischer. Vaguely familiar with the handkerchief codes of the early 70s, I found myself unable to part with its scholarly yet delightfully witty take on the movement. I devoured the essay and its awkwardly shot collection of kink photography in a park opposite the doomed store, and quickly scrawled down the note: “Gay semiotics music video.”

Man with a yellow handkerchief in back pocket
Pinterest
‘Gay men needed a method to communicate sexual preferences, [and] a sexual semiotic was developed,’ writes Hal Fischer in his essay Gay Semiotics. Photograph: Brendan Maclean

Gay semiotics are described by Fischer as a series of “signifiers of accessibility”, one that gained notable popularity in the sadomasochism (S&M) community of San Francisco. The code was designed to surreptitiously let prospective sexual partners know what you’re into. “Traditionally western societies have utilised signifiers for non-accessibility,” Hal muses. “The wedding ring, engagement ring, lovelier or pin are signifiers for non-availability which are always attached to women.

“Gay men needed a method to communicate sexual preferences, [and] a sexual semiotic was developed.”

Under the handkerchief code, a dark blue hanky in the pocket is a sign the wearer is seeking anal sex. How they want to have it depends on the pocket: the left pocket, for example, indicates a desire to play the dominant role, and right the passive. A yellow hanky suggests watersports, red is for fisting, and brown – well, do I really need to spell it out?

It’s a concept my generation of emoji-sending meme traders should feel quite at home with; a language of winks and nudges that not only bond a community, but protect them from outsiders who would wish to intrude.

Fast-forward two weeks, and I received a text from one of the directors: “The porn stars have been booked and the studio is all set for next week.”

Porn stars? Yes, I was surprised. I’d assumed we’d simply be faking the action, a few camera tricks and innuendo, but I see now this would have made our clip redundant: if you are going to make a film about the outrageous truth, there is no room for fakes. And so there we were: two porn stars, one with his arm elbow-deep in the other, while the owner of the studio sat on set behind a large box to avoid seeing it happen.

So why do it at all? Why make something very few people would seemingly want to watch, that next to no media outlets will run, which would see all my social media accounts banned upon release, and my email hacked, and that I’d have to warn my parents against watching? (Mum, seriously.)

The first thing to keep in mind is this: nothing we show in this video is new. Fischer’s essay from 40 years before had laid our script out for us so clearly I was worried we’d be sued for plagiarism. (Fischer has since given us his blessing.)

Add to this the accompanying photos, which provided a perfect framework for our stylist to draw from, and you’re left with a video truly rooted in its original era. The pastel blue backdrop and high school-style pop-up facts provides guidance and a frankness to what would otherwise be a shocking flash in the pan, and as we walk you through the various handkerchiefs and what they mean, the viewer learns to anticipate the rising stakes – there is no “gotcha” moment. We don’t want you to look away; we want you to watch everything, even if you are watching through your fingers covering your eyes.

Screen shot from House of Air
Pinterest
‘There is no “gotcha” moment’: a safe-for-work screen shot from the explicit, albeit instructive, clip. Photograph: Brendan Maclean

To answer the question “why?” – well … why not? Are we not collectively over artists who make “edgy” work that is secretly designed to appease the masses? The kind of touching or extreme viral videos, which so often turn out to be a commercial for jeans? And while I am obviously amused at the pearl clutchers – like the guy from the global imaging company who refused to print the footage, or half the crew who asked for their names to be redacted from the credits just days before the release – we didn’t design it for any reason but to explore a culture that is already decades old.

Do critics asking me to release a censored version understand why I made the clip at all? Take out the extreme images and you’d be left with a bundle of gay models walking around London – to which I’m certain I’d receive the comment, “Why do the models have to be gay?” You can’t win, so I won’t try.

Tell me what’s really more upsetting, my film clip or the fact Donald Trump is the president of the United States? George Michael didn’t soften his videos to make people feel comfortable, and in his wake I am given so much hope from groundbreaking queer artists – rapper HTML Flowers, songwriter Kira Puru, journalist and photographer Jonno Révanche – and their common value: fearless truth-telling.

There are some queer artists who would find it easier to shave off the rough corners of our history, to wave our flag but leave out some of the colours that don’t sell to a straight crowd. But frankly, anything beyond the whole truth sanitises our history, and makes it boring. And if there’s one thing queer historyisn’t, it’s boring.

Hungarian mayor seeks to ban Muslims and gay people from his village

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

indépendant

The mayor first unveiled the plans to ban Muslim traditions as part of a “preventative action package” of laws last November, describing them as a “defence against the forced mass resettlement of migrants by Brussels”. The Hungarian government is due to rule on the legality of Asotthalom’s by-laws later in February.

In another display of his strong anti-refugee rhetoric, MrToroczkai released a video in 2015 warning immigrants entering the town that they would be caught and imprisoned.

The video, which appeared to be a mash-up between a clichéd car advert and a low budget action film, showed dramatic police chase scenes on the Hungary-Serbia border, ending with the ominous warning: “If you are an illegal immigrant and you want to get to Germany… Hungry is a bad choice. Asotthalom is the worst.”

The mayor’s latest remarks come as Hungary’s government on Monday submitted proposals to the EU that all asylum seekers in the county be automatically detained for the entirety of their asylum claim. The government’s chief spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said anyone seeking asylum through the country would be kept in “shelters” for the entire period of their application.

Speaking at a briefing in London, Mr Kovács said: “No migrants – not even those who have already issued their request for asylum – will be able move freely until there is a primary legal decision whether they are entitled for political asylum, refugee status or anything else, so they are not entitled to move freely in the country.”

Hungary has repeatedly clashed with the EU over its migration policy, including its decision to erect a fence on its Serbian border and its refusal to accept EU-wide asylum quotas. During 2015, the country saw nearly 10,000 refugees entering every day.

The country set up border fences with Serbia last year, and plans to employ between 6,000 to 8,000 border guards “to apprehend those coming through the fence”.

 

Gay affair rumours in French election race: Favourite is forced to deny he is enjoying extra-marital liaisons with radio chief

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

 

Daily mail

  • French Presidential election favourite Emmanuel Macron denies gay affair
  • It was alleged 39-year-old was seeing Radio France boss Mathieu Gallet, 40
  • Mr Macron has been married to Brigitte Trogneux for the past 10 years

The current favourite to become the next president of France has been forced to deny rumours that he is enjoying an extra-marital gay affair with a high-profile media chief.

Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old former economy minister, has been rumoured to be seeing Mathieu Gallet, the 40-year-old boss of Radio France.

This is despite Mr Macron being married for the last decade to Brigitte Trogneux, who is 20 years older than him.

French Presidential election favourite Emmanuel Macron, pictured, 39, has been forced to deny he is having a 'gay affair' 

French Presidential election favourite Emmanuel Macron, pictured, 39, has been forced to deny he is having a ‘gay affair’

Mr Macron, who was alleged to be having an affair with Radio France boss Mathieu Gallet, pictured, 40, said he had 'nothing to hide'

Mr Macron, who was alleged to be having an affair with Radio France boss Mathieu Gallet, pictured, 40, said he had ‘nothing to hide’

Addressing the rumours head on during a presidential campaign rally on Monday night, Mr Macron said: ‘I am who I am – I have never had anything to hide.

‘I hear people saying that I have a secret life or something. It’s not nice for Brigitte. Because I share all my days and nights with her, she asks me how I manage it.’

On Sunday, Jean-Luc Melenchon, one of Mr Macron’s rivals to become president in May, used a hologram of himself at a rally in Paris.

Mr Macron said: ‘If they say I have a double life with Mathieu Gallet, it must be my hologram, but it can’t be me.’

The Russian state news agency Sputnik has made allegations that Mr Macron is backed by a homosexual lobby.

They quoted French MP Nicolas Dhuicq, of the conservative Republican Party, saying: ‘Concerning his private life, it is becoming known….He is supported by a rich, gay lobby.’

The interview has prompted fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to interfere in the French election.

Mr Macron, right, has been married to Brigitte Trogneux, left, who is 20 years older than him, for a decade

Mr Macron, right, has been married to Brigitte Trogneux, left, who is 20 years older than him, for a decade

Putin is a friend of Francois Fillon, the conservative Republican candidate who is currently at the centre of sleaze allegations involving setting up fake jobs to family members, including his Welsh-born wife, Penelope.

Mr Macron, who served in France’s current Socialist government, has become increasingly popular as the Fillon scandal deepens.

He is now predicted to make the second round run-off against Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, and then win by a landslide.

The boyish Mr Macron has particular appeal to young people in France, who are impressed by his modern, anti-establishment image.

He is a former tax inspector and Rothschild banker whose business activities saw him become a multi-millionaire.

He met Ms Trogneux as a 15-year-old when she was his teacher at La Providence high school in Amiens, northern France.

His parents tried to split the couple up, but they stayed together until he was 18, and they married in 2007.

The couple now live with Ms Trogneux’s three children from a previous marriage.

 

This guy tried to ‘cure’ his homosexuality and it’s seriously heart-wrenching

Monday, February 6th, 2017

pinknews

(Photo via Humans of New York)

(Photo via Humans of New York)

Humans of New York has profiled a man who was subjected to gay ‘cure’ therapy.

At present, it is legal in nearly all US states to attempt to ‘cure’ homosexuality, even though experts say the practice can be deeply harmful.

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The state of New York moved to outlaw gay ‘cure’ practises for minors last year, but adults are still free to seek treatment.

Photojournalist blog Humans of New York, which is run by Brandon Stanton, posts daily pictures of everyday people around New York – and attracts a huge following across the internet.

A picture from the blog went viral this week, featuring a man opening up about his relationship with faith and sexuality.

He says: “I call them clobber verses. There are six of them. They’re the verses that get used to hammer gay people.

“The funny thing is that I never felt pressured by God himself. Only his followers. But I desperately wanted God to change me.

“I didn’t want to be part of a group with so much shame attached to it. So I started praying in my twenties for God to make me straight.

“If I could have taken a pill, I would have. I joined the ministry. I got married. I told my wife that I’d had experiences with men, but I convinced both of us that I could choose to be different.

“I wanted to be normal. I wanted kids. I thought it was just a matter of commitment.

“I even tried to take reparative therapy classes – just to show her I was serious. They tried to teach me that homosexuality wasn’t real. They said that I’d just had an overbearing mother. But

“I couldn’t change. I kept slipping up. I couldn’t give my wife what she needed. My marriage ended.

“I had tried so hard but nothing worked. I got so angry with God for not keeping up his end of the bargain.

“But after some time, I finally realized why he wouldn’t change me. He never felt like he needed to.”

 

A Pro-Gay Arabic Hashtag Recently Went Viral on Twitter

Monday, February 6th, 2017

unicorn booty

Last Friday, a pro-LGBT Arabic hashtag trended worldwide. The hashtag, “,” translates to “I love gays and I’m not one of them.”

International Business Times, reprinted in Raw Story, writes:

Homosexuality is illegal in nearly every nation in the Arab world. Punishment ranges from imprisonment to death. Many users took the opportunity to voice their support for gay rights and respect for their struggle.

“Leave the hate to your ancestors and learn to accept differences and to love other sexual and racial minorities,” user @Q_Valour wrote.

“If only some people would open their minds and accept that (gay people) were born with these sexual tendencies without choosing. Generally, gay people are the best and nicest people I know,” @Stunggrll19 wrote.

“They marry four women, they marry minors, they wish harm on others who have not harmed them in anyway and then they have the audacity to say homosexuality is abnormal,” wrote @Alaa09877.

Other Twitter users expressed themselves more visually:

 

But despite this beautiful display of support, social media still offers potential dangers to LGBTQ people living in the Arab world. Twitter has a problem with accounts who use the service to “out” gay Arabs.

Homosexuals in Nigeria face anti-gay Gambian President Yahya Jammeh being offered asylum

Monday, February 6th, 2017

ibtimes

Jammeh is refusing to relinquish power after defeat in presidential election held in December 2016.

The incumbent leader, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric, has long been accused of committing human rights abuses during his time in office.

Among other things, the strongman vowed to slit gay men’s throats, he compared homosexuals to “vermins” and claimed homosexuality was anti-humanity.

Now gay Nigerians fear that if Jammeh finds safe haven in Nigeria – where homosexuality is illegal – this will strengthen homophobic attitudes that have already prompted LGBTQ people to hide their sexuality and identity and flee Nigeria to avoid persecution and prosecution.

“In Nigeria, Jammeh’s presence will further justify the fact that he does not really care, whatever he says about LGBTQ people. It will send the message that if you are African and you are very homophobic, we will protect you,” Alimi told IBTimes UK.

He spoke at the launch of the London-based Bisi AlimiFoundation‘s first report ongay rights and homophobia in Nigeria.

Among other things, Not Dancing to Their Musichighlighted the discriminationLGBTQ people are facing in Nigeria, where “isolation and stigmatisation is commonplace.”

“On the other side, if Jammehremains in the Gambia, would we allow Gambia to break up? ” Alimi, who became the first gay Nigerian to disclose his homosexuality on national TV in 2004, continued.

“There would be another refugee situation and, as we have seen in places such as Syria, people who would suffer from it are going to be mostly women, children and vulnerable people, including disabled people and LGBTQ people. Do I want to see that happen because of my sexuality? No.

“Achieving peace in Gambia is very important, even if that means it can be achieved by Jammeh being in Nigeria. I don’t have to agree with it, but I think the most important thing is peace. I don’t want my brothers and sisters in Gambia to become the victims of another war.”

gay rights gay marriage
Nigerians in a gay marriage or civil union face imprisonment of up to 14 years under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill signed by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan in 2014iStock

Gambia’s political impasse

A delegation of West African leaders, led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, has failed to persuade Jammeh to step down. The entrenched president, who lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow, initially conceded defeat.

However, he now intends to contest the election result at the Supreme Court due to what he claims are “unacceptable abnormalities”.

The apex court said it could hear his case in May or even November, due to lack of judges available to hear the case.

Fears Jammeh might not give up power were further compounded on 12 January when his party – Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) – filed a request with the Supreme Court seeking to block Barrow’s inauguration.

Barrow, who will stay in Senegal until the day of his inauguration on 19 January, told IBTimes UK he considered himself the “rightful leader” of the country.

Meanwhile, reports warned Gambians are fleeing to neighbouring nations, fearing the country’s political impasse will escalate into violence in the following days.

7 Facts About Gay Conversion Camps and Homosexuality Cures

Monday, February 6th, 2017

insider monkey

The 7 facts about gay conversion camps and homosexuality cures will lay bare what a farce it all is. Ever since the world’s most popular book, The Bible, came out, homosexuality has been deemed a horrendous sin and a one-way ticket to hell. According to the passage Leviticus 18:22, man must not lay with man. For over two millennia, this has led to the ostracization of such people and more often than not, their deaths. And while the human race has advanced by leaps and bounds in this time period, it looks like our intellect has not.

I will say this once, and then probably keep on repeating it because apparently it needs reinforcing, but being gay is not a choice. It is not a conscious decision and a person does not simply decide that he wants to do something which is still regarded as distasteful throughout the world, could lead to his own family in disowning him, and in some countries, could lead to his death as I mentioned before. A person is born gay, and it is about time we accept it.

7 Facts About Gay Conversion Camps and Homosexuality Cures

Now I’m not surprised that many people in developing countries whose law is still dictated by a religion that is 1,400 years old view homosexuality as abhorrent and in fact, punish the act by death. I am not saying it is excusable, just that I, being from such a country myself, see why people react like that. This creates trouble for the gay population in such countries, which can surprisingly be found in the 10 Countries with the Biggest Gay Populations in the World. But to be from the United States, the nation which proclaims itself to be the champion of freedom, and yet, simultaneously establish practices such as gay conversion therapy, where the ‘gayness’ is tortured out of the person. Can anyone else see the hypocrisy here? And do you know the success rate of such therapy? The answer is zero percent. Even if a person claims to be cured, he or she will simply have done so to avoid the repercussions.

While some states in the United States, such as California, Vermont, and Oregon have introduced legislation to make illegal the offer of such therapies to minors, a lot more still needs to be done. The reason why such therapy was outlawed by these states is because medical professionals have through the decades stated it to be not just ineffective but dangerous as well. However, while I believe that gay conversion therapy should be illegal on a federal level, due to the discrimination the LGBT community has faced throughout the decades, it is unlikely to happen soon enough.

We compiled some facts regarding gay therapy conversion and homosexuality cures to prove how dangerous and horrible this practice is. Funnily enough, I did not intend for the facts to be actually persuasive in favor of my argument; I went in with an open mind. However, the result has convinced me more than ever that this practice needs to be abolished with severe penalties and jail terms for those engaging in it. So, let’s hear these facts about gay conversion camps and homosexuality cures.

To beat Aids, we must show compassion for the infected

Monday, February 6th, 2017

daily nation

Agnes Nyambura left the clinic in a daze. A prenatal check up had just revealed that she was HIV positive. Yet she had been married for less than a year and was two months pregnant.

“I wished the ground would open up and swallow me,” she says of the life-changing discovery in June 2006.“The news came as a real shock. I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t figure out where I had contracted it [HIV] from since I had been faithful to by husband,” she says.

Confused, Ms Nyambura returned to her home in Karuru Village in Banana, Kiambu County, but could not gather the courage to tell her husband. Then, while cleaning her house a few days later, she found some medicine hidden under the carpet. She had already been put on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at the clinic, so she knew exactly what they were for. And since only she and her husband were living in the house at the time, she was sure they were his, so she decided to confront him.

“He did not deny it and even admitted that he had been on ARVs for a while but was afraid to tell me because he feared losing me,” she explains. “That really broke my heart because I knew that having the virus would subject me to public disdain and eventually wipe out my entire family. I contemplated suicide several times because I wasn’t prepared to undergo what I had seen people going through.”

As days went by, she and her husband started losing weight and were soon the subject of gossip among their neighbours. Though it was difficult, Ms Nyambura, who had grown to hate her husband, decided to follow the doctors’ advice and continue taking her medication as she awaited her fate.

“Though we were still living under the same roof, we were not on speaking terms. In fact, we had separate bedrooms but couldn’t file for divorce since we didn’t not know what reasons we would give for the break-up,” she adds.

TAKING CHARGE

In the meantime, she continued attending her prenatal clinics, where the nurses consistently assured her that being HIV positive was not a death sentence, and that if she heeded their advice, she could even give birth to an HIV-negative child. But it sounded too good to be true.

About five months later, during one of her visits to the clinic, she met a counsellor who had lived with the virus for 13 years, which convinced her that, indeed, all was not lost. That gave her the courage to approach her husband: “If you were afraid of telling me the truth because you thought you would lose me, now I am here and we can start all over again. And if we accept our condition and follow the doctors’ advice, we will both live long.”

In January 2007, the couple had an HIV-free baby. Ms Nyambura did not breastfeed him to avoid the risk of infecting him. In addition, the baby was put on medication for a year to prevent mother-to-child transmission and subjected to regular testing until it was ascertained that he did not have the virus.

But while Ms Nyambura had accepted her condition and moved on, her husband couldn’t and resorted to heavy drinking. He died of HIV/Aids-related complications in 2008.

Though Ms Nyambura had accepted her situation, her husband’s death dealt her a severe emotional blow.

“My friends and in-laws started rejecting me and made me the talk of the town. I had a small business from which I earned a living but with all the gossip, my customers fled and I had to close it down. To survive, I sought casual jobs far from home where nobody knew me,” she says.

Not even her church was willing to offer her a shoulder to lean on, so after some time, she stopped going there.

Alone and dejected, Ms Nyambura found solace in her son, the health workers at the clinic and a few people living with the virus whom she met there.

Then, after a lot of soul searching, she decided to take the bull by the horns. “First, I had accepted my status, only that people had made it a topic of discussion. So I decided to talk about it myself, which helped end the gossip because apart from backbiting me, there was nothing else my neighbours could do. I also prioritised my health and left the rest to God,” she says.

That silenced her neighbours, especially after she started talking to people about HIV with a view to reducing the stigma associated with it. She even received invitations to different fora and churches to talk about HIV/Aids.

Her health improved dramatically, such that people found it hard to believe she was HIV-positive; some even doubted her. Men started making sexual advances at her but since she did not want to tell them she was HIV-positive, she would tell them to first undergo an HIV test, which put them off. But after a while, she decided it was best to tell those seeking a romantic relationship the truth.

Agnes Nyambura and her husband Peter Waweru, a discordant couple at their home in Banana, Kiambu County. PHOTO | ERIC WAINIANA

NEW BEGINNING

In 2009, she met Mr Peter Waweru, who treated her differently, although he was not aware of her status. After months of friendship, he made advances at her, but since Ms Nyambura did not want to reject him to his face, she sent him a text message.

“I told him that whatever he was talking about was good, but my status would not allow me to let him into my life because I had vowed never to infect anyone with the virus,” she recalls.

But Mr Waweru took it as a joke, arguing that, given society’s views on the condition, no HIV-positive person would genuinely reveal their status.

To put him off, Ms Nyambura insisted that they both go for HIV testing, to which Mr Waweru agreed; the results showed that he was HIV negative.

Not one to give up, Waweru continued pursuing her despite discouragement by his family and friends. And blown away by his determination, Ms Nyambura, who saw real love and acceptance which she had been missing, gave in and they became part of the statistics of the estimated 260,000 discordant couples  — where only one partner is infected — in Kenya.

They both went for intensive counselling, during which they were assured that they could  live together, as long as they took certain precautions.

“To me, she had great potential and I did not let the differences in our status come between us. At first she was hesitant, but she eventually accepted my proposal,” says Mr Waweru, adding they started getting intimate, but with protection. After some months, the couple decided to have a child to prove their critics wrong but did not know how due to the risks associated with unprotected sex.

For reasons they cannot explain, they risked unprotected sex, which fulfilled their wish of having a child but left them both deeply worried.

Ms Nyambura feared that she might have infected Mr Waweru, who was also afraid that he might have contacted the virus. After some time, he began preparing himself psychologically for any eventuality.

Mr Waweru says it was probably because Ms Nyambura’s viral load had been suppressed by the medication that she had been taking consistently that he did not contract the virus.

However, he kept undergoing regular tests to clear any doubts, as did their baby, who had also been put on preventive medication. Thankfully, the results have been negative.

Ms Nyambura and Mr Waweru say very few people understand HIV/Aids, which leads to stigmatisation, adding that people with the virus deserve love.

________________

SPEAKING OUT

Agnes Nyambura and her husband, Peter Waweru work in their farm in Banana, Kiambu County. The couple also aims to reach out to those infected with HIV. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA

Networking to help reduce Aids stigma

Agnes Nyambura and Peter Waweru  have become household names in the Banana, thanks to their voluntary efforts  to empower  people living with Aids.

“I have lost count of the people we have found on their death beds, having given up in life. After talking to them, they gain confidence and looking at them today, we can hardly believe they are the same people,” Ms Nyambura says.

They have created a network within the community which ensures that anytime there is a patient who is about to give up, they are notified. Their activities include monitoring to ensure total adherence to medication as well as proper eating habits.

At the moment, they have a network of 300 people living with the virus in Banana and its environs, including about 100 children.

The patients encourage each other through peer support by sharing challenges, working them out and learning from, and encouraging, each other.

Ms Nyambura, whose viral load has reached a barely detectable level, says  they are sometimes andgive their food to people who are seriously sick,  or to live with them in their corrugated iron sheet-walled, earthen-floor house. Sometimes she hosts more than 10 people at ago, especially the youth.

“HIV is not a killer disease like previous campaigns sought to portray it. On the contrary, it’s manageable and not painful like cancers and other ailments but the reason people die is because they are in denial due to stigma, so they end up not taking  drugs,” she says.

The couple believes it is possible to run a campaign that is geared towards ensuring a virus-free society, which they believe can only be achieved if the world worked to ensure zero infections, which has been a challenge, especially among the youth.

Last year alone, the National Aids Control Council (NACC) director, Mr Nduku Kilonzo, released statistics showing that there were at least 35,000 new HIV infections among women aged 15-24 years.

“Today, an HIV-positive positive mother can give birth without transmitting the virus to her child or spouse. If we were to ensure that anyone living with the virus does not pass it to anybody, we would be guaranteed a virus-free generation,” she says.

Meanwhile, Mr Waweru believes that the anti-HIV campaigns that have been going on cannot achieve much, saying that, instead of focusing on zero infections and eliminating the stigma that was created by campaigns in the past,  the focus has been on collecting statistics of the victims.

“There is a huge problem among the youth, who are transmitting the virus either intentionally out of anger or unknowingly. Some people lack the courage to visit a health centre for a test or to collect medicine because the stigma is still very much alive,” he says.

He adds that if the campaigns focused on ensuring all people voluntarily get tested and created an environment that ensured that all patients took their medication as prescribed, and above all that no one was transmitting the virus to others, it would be the beginning of having an HIV-free generation.

Karuri County Assembly member Martin Njoroge agrees, saying that all isolated HIV/Aids standalone service centres should be abolished and the services integrated into mainstream health services.

Mr Njoroge argues that the isolated VCT and ARV services discourage many people from taking the test, while patients feel isolated and exposed, which makes them reluctant to go for ARV drugs.

In 2014, the MCA, who previously worked with HIV and Aids organisations, successfully moved a motion stating that the greatest stigma emanates from the discrimination that people living with HIV/Aids encounter in health institutions.

“One’s HIV status, or any other status, is a personal and confidential issue but when you line up people and put a banner above of them written ‘VCT’, you carelessly expose their status,” Mr Njoroge said.

He claims that more than 70 per cent of the people living with Aids in Kiambu seek treatment in Nairobi while others go  as far as Murang’a and Nyeri counties for treatment.

Tragedy Would Unfold If Trump Cancels Bush’s AIDS Program

Monday, February 6th, 2017

theatlantic

A questionnaire from the president-elect’s transition team asked whether the extraordinarily successful PEPFAR had become a “massive, international entitlement program,” and whether it was worth the investment.

In 2003, in a move that has been described as his greatest legacy, George W. Bush created a program called PEPFAR—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. At the time, more than 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with AIDS, but only 50,000 had access to antiretroviral drugs that manage the disease and prevent its spread. Now, thanks to PEPFAR, 11.5 million people are on those drugs. For good reason, it has been variously described as a “globally transformative lifeline,” “one of the best government programs in American history,” and something “for all Americans to be proud of.”

It seems that some members of President-Elect Trump’s transition team beg to differ.

Last Friday, Helene Cooper at The New York Times reported that the transition team sent a four-page questionnaire to the State Department about America’s relationship with Africa, on topics ranging from terrorism to humanitarianism. Several questions indicated “an overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid.” Two mentioned PEPFAR in particular: “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

Without knowing the specific author, “it’s hard to assess the intent of those questions, but at face value, they represent a point of view that is skeptical in the least and barely veiled hostility at the most,” says Jack Chow, who worked at the State Department under Colin Powell and acted as an ambassador focusing on HIV. “They could be aimed at provoking a justification—an aim that is not too uncommon for these kinds of inquiries.”

For those who work in public health, the justification is clear. “It’s very clear that PEPFAR has saved an incredible number of lives in the past decade,” saysRebecca Katz, Co-Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

Bush initially committed $15 billion to PEPFAR over five years, but the program was renewed in 2008 and 2013 and has since received over $72 billion in funding. As well as disseminating treatments, that money has: funded HIV testing and counseling for 74 million people; provided critical care and support to 6 million orphans and vulnerable children; prevented 2 million babies from being born with HIV by offering drugs to mothers; trained 220,000 health workers; supported 11 million voluntary male circumcisions to prevent the spread of HIV; improved health care in the various focus countries; and supported services for controlling other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

While PEPFAR program has been criticized for also funding ineffective attemptsto prevent HIV infections by teaching abstinence and faithfulness, such efforts only used up a small and decreasing proportion of the program’s money. The vast majority of the funds went towards evidence-based practices—with demonstrable results.

One study showed that within five years, PEPFAR had roughly halved the adult death rates in nine targeted countries, at a time when mortality in other sub-Saharan African nations barely declined. During that period, African adults were16 percent less likely to die if they lived in one of the PEPFAR-targeted nations.Another project found that in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, HIV incidence has fallen by 51 to 76 percent since 2003, and 65 percent of infected adults are successfully suppressing the virus to a point where they’re much less likely to transmit it. “That’s almost touching the 73 percent level that’s predicted to really give us epidemic control,” says Elizabeth Radin from Columbia University, who was involved in the research. “It’s a remarkable achievement compared to where we were 15 years ago.”

PEPFAR “helped changed the equation on what was once—not too long ago—seen as an insurmountable plague,” wrote Amanda Glassman and Jenny Ottenhoff from the Center for Global Development in 2013. And it “managed to maintain bipartisan support that bridged two U.S. Administrations, six U.S. congressional sessions, and one global economic crisis.” It’s a tribute to what can be accomplished with sustained funding and political unity.

Indeed, Obama has taken flak from congressional Democrats and Republicans for halting the year-on-year rise in PEPFAR funding, and slightly reducing it on several occasions. “The current administration’s comparative neglect of it demonstrates that its existence and survival are anything but guaranteed,” wrote Dylan Matthews in 2015.

Defunding the program would be catastrophic. Antiretroviral drugs aren’t a cure for AIDS; they must be taken continuously, lest the disease flare up again. “To sustain that therapy, there are substantial pipelines involving supply chains, financing mechanisms, and myriads of organizations,” says Chow. “Disruptions risk rekindling HIV.”

Trump has actually commented about PEPFAR once—sort of. At a conference in October, a group of college students asked him if he would commit to doubling the number of people receiving treatment through the program to 30 million by the year 2020. “Those are good things,” he replied. “Alzheimer’s, AIDS. We are close on some of them. On some of them, honestly, with all of the work done which has not been enough, we’re not close enough. The answer is yes. I believe strongly in that and we are going to lead the way.” If you squint a bit, that looks like a yes. But as I noted last month, it’s unclear if Trump actually understood the question, given that PEPFAR doesn’t cover Alzheimer’s.

More encouragingly, Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO and Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, unequivocally praised PEPFAR during his Senate confirmation hearing last week. It “has been one of the most extraordinarily successful programs in Africa,” he said. “I saw it up close and personal because ExxonMobil had taken on the challenge of eradicating malaria because of business activities in Central Africa.” (ExxonMobil is one of several companies that contribute to the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.)

Tillerson’s answer hints at something crucial: PEPFAR’s impact goes well beyond AIDS. It also helps to curtail future epidemics that begin in sub-Saharan Africa and threaten to spread to other continents. “What do we do to keep Ebola out of the U.S.? We build capacity in the countries that need it most,” says Katz. “And PEPFAR has unquestionably contributed to building foundations for systems that can be used to fight the next pandemic.”

And since AIDS hits people of working and reproductive ages the hardest, the social benefits of controlling it are huge. Compared to other countries, those targeted by PEPFAR have a better opinion of the U.S. Their male employment rates are 13 percent higher, creating economic benefits that are equal to half the amount spent. They have developed three times faster. Their levels of political instability and violent activity have fallen by 40 percent since 2004, compared to just 3 percent in non-PEPFAR countries.  All of this benefits the U.S., creating markets for exports and reducing the instability that leads to extremism.

This is why the transition team’s questionnaire, which juxtaposes PEPFAR investments against the “many security concerns in Africa,” makes no sense, says Radin. “Controlling the AIDS epidemic is in the interest of national security,” she says. “It’s not a zero-sum game.” And speaking of sums, the $6.8 billion committed to PEPFAR in 2015 was just 1 percent of what the U.S. devoted to military spending.

She also frowns on the question that portrays PEPFAR as a “massive, international entitlement program.” “There’s an important argument that says that just by dint of being a human being, you’re entitled not to die from a treatable disease, especially for just a few hundred U.S. dollars a year,” she says. “That entitlement isn’t predicated on your ability to pay global market prices for treatments.”

How we overcame Aids against all the odds

Monday, February 6th, 2017

spectator

This month, 30 years ago, I wrote a draft of what was to become soon afterwards the first comprehensive human rights charter for people with HIV. It was born out of an urgency to stop the global drift by governments to panic and repression. In March 1987, a handful of us founded the UK Aids Vigil Organisation to campaign for the protections set out in the charter, lobby the World Health Ministers Summit in London and host a parallel HIV human rights conference, one of the first such conferences held anywhere.

Our modest efforts were a mere footnote to a much bigger and more important story, which is told by David France in How To Survive a Plague. This is a remarkable book about a remarkable achievement: how an unlikely alliance of US activists, patients, doctors and scientists tamed one of the greatest threats to public health in the past 100 years, saving millions of lives. It is a tale of triumph over obstructive government, greedy drug companies and homophobic political and religious leaders; transforming a death sentence into a manageable disease — all within the timeframe of a mere decade and a half. And it was made possible by people with HIV and their LGBT activist allies who dared to question medical, scientific, pharmaceutical and government authority. This is the heroic inside story of how we, thanks to them, survived HIV.

Outside Africa, the US was the epicentre of HIV, and it is about the US experience that this book is written. It documents one of the most effective and inspiring campaigns of the last 50 years — which got results and prevented a far longer and more deadly pandemic. As a result, few westerners die of HIV today. However, in poorer counties, anti-HIV treatments are often not available. Worldwide, over one million people are still dying needlessly of HIV every year.

From the outset, this book makes the point that HIV was a public health issue that was made political by the homophobia of US political and religious leaders, from President Reagan to Senator Jesse Helms, Revd Jerry Falwell and Cardinal O’Connor. For the first few years, as thousands of mostly young gay men were dying, Reagan refused to even say the word Aids, let alone fund action to save lives. By default, he allowed gay men to die in their thousands. Supposedly Christian clergy stirred the pot with claims that Aids was divine retribution for the sin of homosexuality.

Much of the progress in the fight against HIV was spearheaded by gay HIV-positive activists via the direct action group Act Up (the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power), with its mantra ‘Silence = death’. There were other key players too: Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Treatment Action Group and hundreds of HIV organisations that sprang up all over the US in response to official indifference.

The focus of these predominantly young campaigners — some barely out of their teens — was, variously, to protest against government and drug company failings, push for public education about HIV and improve funding for scientific research, promote the innovative idea of safer sex to cut infection rates,challenge the demonisation and scapegoating of gay men and demand faster, better, cheaper HIV treatments.

Never before in history have people with a life-threatening condition been so prominent in driving a scientific, medical and political transformation. Their dual tactics of working both against the system and inside it paid dividends, and offer a model for successful social change that others could usefully learn from.

Imaginative, daring and often necessarily provocative, Act Up protests were a call to arms. They highlighted official culpability through mass civil disobedience at the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health over delayed drug releases; at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York against the Catholic church’s opposition to condom protection; and by wrapping the home of Senator Helms in a giant condom in protest at his scuppering of HIV funding.

‘Drugs into bodies’ became the activist battle cry against government and pharmaceutical bureaucracies that demanded prolonged drug research and trials. And they succeeded. The Food and Drug Administration was forced to relax its protocols for new drug approvals, speeding access to life-saving treatments. This revolution in drug trialling is now the template for dealing with emerging deadly diseases.

What is astonishing is that none of the lead activists began with any medical knowledge or experience. They read scientific and medical papers voraciously and became self-taught experts in immunology. Lay people rivalled scientists. People with HIV educated medical staff, turning upside down the traditional active-doctor, passive-patient relationship.

However, it wasn’t a simple series of triumphs, as David France reveals. Great hope was held out for the drug AZT. Desperate for some drug — any drug — that might save lives, activists pushed for its availability. Sadly, its efficacy was illusory and its toxicity alarming.

I have only two caveats about this stupendous volume. First, it is American-centric, not giving sufficient attention to the contribution of non-US doctors, scientists and activists. Second, it neglects to expose the tens of millions of dollars wasted on futile lab experiments with chimpanzees, macaques, dogs, cats and rats. These were always less likely to produce useful results, given the different physiology of humans and other species. In fact, animal research may have actively harmed the development of HIV treatments. This appears to have happened at the drug giant Merck in 1989, when they abandoned the first promising protease inhibitor because it proved to be fatal to non-human animals. However, it may have been safe for humans, as later versions turned out to be. For several more years, until 1995 when other protease inhibitors became available, thousands of people with HIV continued to die, perhaps unnecessarily, as in the case of my friend the film-maker Derek Jarman. Animal-based research was bad science and the one orthodoxy that most radical activists, doctors and scientists failed to question.

Toronto police apologize for ‘you’re going to get AIDS’ comment caught on video

Monday, February 6th, 2017

cbc

Toronto police issued an official apology Wednesday regarding the conduct of an officer who made an inaccurate comment about the transmission of HIV/AIDS in a controversial arrest caught on video earlier this week.

The apology came through a series of tweets, noting that the service would hire an HIV/AIDS expert to educate its staff about the virus.

 

“It was the right thing to do,” police spokesman Const. Victor Kwong said of the apology. “What was done was wrong and when you do something wrong you have to make amends for it.”

The apology appeared to refer only to a male officer saying “he’s going to spit in your face and you’re going to get AIDS” — apparently referring to the suspect — and said nothing about the use of a Taser on the suspect while he appears to be restrained on the ground in the footage.

Police have launched an internal investigation into what’s seen in the video, filmed by Waseem Khan Tuesday morning after he spotted an altercation between officers and a man in the back of a cruiser near Ryerson University.

“Two officers grabbed him out of the drivers’ side rear door, he was placed on the ground, and this is where it really disturbed me — he was kicked and stomped in the head by police officers,” Khan said.

At the time, Khan said the man appeared to be restrained, with his hands behind his back.

“As soon as I saw this, I told my wife ‘I’ve got to jump out and record this.'”

‘You’re going to get AIDS’

The resulting video appears to show police officers using a stun gun on the man as he lies on the ground near Dundas Street East and Church Street. An officer is also seen in the video kicking the man while he is on the ground surrounded by officers.

Another male officer, wearing a tuque, can be heard on the video speaking to bystanders and makes the comment about the suspect transmitting HIV/AIDS.

“From what I could see, he was completely unresponsive,” Khan recalled, adding the incident was “disturbing” to witness.

He also slammed the officer’s threatening language about AIDS.

“You don’t get HIV from someone spitting on you … I think this speaks to the way this officer or these officers look toward certain demographics of people,” he said.

Khan added he was about nine metres away from the incident while recording the video, and was “taken aback” when two officers told him that if he was witnessing the incident they would have to seize his phone.

Mark Pugash, a spokesman for Toronto Police Services, previously told CBC that police “don’t have that authority.”

“We’ve told our people, life in 2017 is people will be filming you, and provided they’re not obstructing or interfering in any way — and it doesn’t look like that’s happening in this case — then they’re entitled to keep on filming,” he said.

Police association ‘disturbed’ by aspects of incident

Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said he’s “disturbed” by some of the comments officers made during the incident and that those involved will have to answer for their actions.

McCormack said the comments came amid a “dynamic” situation where a female officer was injured and hospitalized, and several construction workers were also hurt. The video, he said, doesn’t show everything that was going on.

“There may be other circumstances the video didn’t capture,” he said, noting several other people captured footage of the arrest.

Police say incident began at downtown shelter

Police have painted a different picture of what happened before and during the filmed incident.

Toronto police Taser

Toronto police restrain a man who allegedly assaulted a female police officer near a downtown homeless shelter. A police spokesperson said officers had to remove the man from a police cruiser near Dundas Street East and Church Street after he kicked out a window. (Alanna Rizza/The Eyeopener )

Pugash said police were called to Seaton House homeless shelter for an assault, and arrested a man.

“He then spat at a police officer (and) punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground,” Pugash said. “Some construction workers came to her assistance — one of whom was bitten by the man.”

Pugash said police put the man in the back of a police car but had to remove him after he kicked out the window.

A first round of Tasering “didn’t work” because the man’s layers of clothing, he added. The man also continued to bite an officer, Pugash said.

“The man displayed continued, high-level violence… 90 per cent of what happened is not in the video,” he said.

The man arrested appeared in court Wednesday and has been charged with nine offences, including two counts of assault, three counts of assaulting a peace officer, and one count of assault with the intent to resist arrest.

Toronto police have said they are reviewing the incident.

Mayor Tory finds footage ‘disconcerting’

In a statement, the office of Mayor John Tory said he has seen the video and “finds it disconcerting.”

“It’s important to keep in mind that we do not know the full context of what happened before or after the video footage,” the statement continued. “The Mayor believes it is appropriate that the Toronto Police will be reviewing the matter internally.”

Toronto police Taser arrest

Toronto police used a stun gun twice on the suspect. A police spokesperson said the first blast wasn’t effective due to the man’s heavy clothing. (Alanna Rizza/The Eyeopener )

Khan said the officers trying to make him stop recording makes the officers look “guilty.”

“If they were doing their job properly, you would think they’d welcome any evidence,” he said.

He also maintained that the use of force seemed inappropriate.

“I can’t help but think this situation would’ve went completely different if this was some white guy in a suit in the financial district,” Khan said.

“I don’t think he would’ve been pulled out of the car, stomped on, and dragged over to the curb.”

‘Abolish private medical aid’

Monday, February 6th, 2017

iol

SA Health Professions Council president Dr Kgosi Letlape Kgosi Letlape Picture: Terry Haywood/The Mercury

Durban – Medical Aid Schemes are a “crime against humanity” and should be abolished because they cannot co-exist with the government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

SA Health Professions Council president Dr Kgosi Letlape told academics and medical professionals at a discussion on whether the NHI white paper meets human rights objectives of the constitution, that private medical aids and the Medical Schemes Act should be abolished if the NHI was to provide universal health care access for all citizens.

Letlape was speaking at a public discussion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban on Friday.

“There can be no national health if it is not for all of us. You try to engage about NHI with the privileged, and they say ‘don’t touch my medical aid’. Medical aid is a crime against humanity. It is an atrocity.”

Letlape said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi did not seem to have much support for NHI, and people such as parliamentarians and judges also had an attitude of “don’t touch my medical aid”.

However, he said it was possible to provide universal health care, which was not a new concept, as the country previously had one of the best health-care systems in the world under apartheid.

“South African whites had health for all. By 1967 they had a system that could give somebody a heart transplant for no payment. At the point of service, there were no deductibles, the doctor was on a salary and everyone could access health care.”

But when the Medical Schemes Act was created 50 years ago, the exodus of medical professionals from the public to the private sector began, Letlape said.

He estimated there were between 3000 and 4000 medical professionals working for medical schemes that could be redistributed to the health system if schemes were abolished.

Dr Mfowethu Zungu, deputy director-general for Macro Policy, Planning and NHI at the KZN Health Department said only 48% of expenditure on health in South Africa was spent in the public sector, which served 87% of the population.

The balance was spent in the private sector, which served medical aid members, who comprised around 17% of the population.

Dr Hanif Vally, deputy director of the Foundation for Human Rights SA, said medical aid created a divide, as 50% of the country’s doctors and an even greater number of specialists served around 18% of the country’s citizens, who had access to the private sector.

“Medical professionals are going into private practice, inequalities are being worsened and people are not realising their constitutional rights.”

Heath Department deputy director-general for Health Regulation and Compliance Management, Dr Anban Pillay, said the provision of universal health care for all citizens was critical.

“We currently have a system where people access care based on what they can afford. Clearly, there are a number of barriers to access, particularly in the lower socio-economic groups. NHI is a massive reorganisation of the public and private health-care system.”

Pillay said the poor were often most in need of health care, and funding for NHI would come from taxpayers based on a principal of social solidarity.

“Social solidarity means we all contribute to a fund, so that when I am sick I will have access to health care. But maybe I may never need to (access), but somebody else will.

“It’s not a concept South Africans are particularly used to in the current context. If you look at your medical scheme environment, which an individual contributes to as an insurance, you have a particular entitlement – it’s your money. This is very different to how the NHI works.”

In younger, healthier years, South Africans would contribute to the fund and were likely to derive benefits from that contribution only later in life.

“The young and healthy should subsidise the sick and old. This is not about investing in something where you are going to derive some profit. It’s investing in society so you can build society,” Pillay added.

Efforts on to improve quality of life for those with HIV/AIDS

Monday, February 6th, 2017

loopnewsbarbados

A number of strategic recommendations to improve the overall quality of life of People Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS have come out of the recently held Caribbean Faith Leaders Consultation, held earlier this month in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Consultation, was supported by the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and AIDS HealthCare Foundation and attracted 55 Religious Leaders from 14 Caribbean countries.

United Nations Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean, Dr Edward Greene, highlighted the imperatives for fast-tracking the response to AIDS. The issues reflected in the remarks of Dr. Kevin Harvey, Regional Director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), including focus of AHF on strengthening partnerships with special reference to supporting a coordinated approach to the implementation of the recommendations from the consultation.

In his Keynote address, Prof. Clive Landis, Deputy Principal, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, identified the major scientific developments leading to the conclusion that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) delivers a life-saving benefit to persons living with HIV by abolishing end-stage AIDS.

Two extended periods of working groups and discussions by religious and lay leaders resulted in some following recommendations, among them; Endorsing the Targets in the 2016 UN High Level Political Declaration to fast-track the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030; Promoting healthy living of people at all ages of the life cycle by placing emphasis on plugging the prevention gaps and  Facilitating best practices through the process for effective support and leadership in the area of treatment and care, paying particular attention to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets for 90% of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) to know their status.

At the conclusion of the Consultation, Faith Leaders agreed to establish a regional consultative group; discuss the recommendations for action with their national religious councils; and provide a progress report to the regional consultative group by July 1, 2017 and to share information on activities initially using the PANCAP website.

The Director of the PANCAP Coordinating Unit in his final remarks charged the religious leaders with upholding the recommendations of the Consultation and urged them to continue their efforts to engage People Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS.

A pathway controlling inflammatory responses aids recovery after heart attack

Monday, February 6th, 2017

medicalxpress

After a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, a patient’s long-term prognosis depends on the ability of the heart tissue to heal and remodel. Immune system activation and inflammatory responses that occur in the aftermath of a myocardial infarction can be detrimental to healing, so better understanding of the pathways that contribute to these processes may improve treatments in heart attack patients.

A study published this week in the JCI has identified a signaling pathway in cardiac tissue that suppresses after cardiac injury.

Work led by Jonathan Epstein at the University of Pennsylvania showed that in heart muscle, activation of the Hippo pathway leads to the recruitment of T regulatory cells, which in turn help control inflammation.

Mice lacking the Hippo pathway components YAP and TAZ displayed increased cardiac fibrosis as well as exacerbated inflammation around the heart. These observations were associated with reduced numbers of T regulatory cells and lower expression of the immune system signaling protein, IFN-γ.

When IFN-γ was delivered directly to the injured heart muscle, T regulatory cell levels were restored and fibrosis was ameliorated in these mice.

Together, these findings identify the Hippo signaling pathway and IFN-γ production as crucial control points for the immune response to heart injury and recovery.

China boosts anti-AIDS drive

Monday, February 6th, 2017

thebricspost

China’s State Council has embarked on a multi-tier strategy including education and awareness, prevention and treatment to deal with the growing numbers of HIV/AIDS patients.

The plan, which also targets illegal blood transfusions, mother to child transmission and needle sharing, is part of the 13th Five-Year Plan, the Council said.

Improving quality of life and reducing the number of deaths of HIV/AIDS patients is central to this plan.

It also falls within efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping that government and social institutions must do more toward the prevention and control of HIV/Aids.

Doing so, he said concerns people’s life and health, and social harmony and stability.

The Chinese President has previously said that the country must implement all legal and scientific methods and policies it has at its disposal, but also stressed that the Communist Party must work with the public to eliminate discrimination against HIV carriers and patients with Aids.

The current strategy focuses on increasing AIDS prevention awareness by employing publicity and education campaigns.

There will also be enhanced blood testing regulation and delivering proper medical assistance.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently marked an increase in the number of people contracting HIV/AIDS.

The CDC said that the number of people aged 15 to 24 testing positive for HIV/AIDS increased four-fold between 2010 and 2016.

Some 13,000 men aged above 60 tested positive for the disease in 2016, 3.6 times that of 2010, the CDC said.

More than 96,000 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in January to September 2016. More than 200,000 people have died of AIDS, but the CDC did not provide a time frame for this figure.

A total of 654,000 were known to be living with HIV/AIDS in China, the CDC said, and 94 per cent of those cases were contracted through sexual transmission.

The CDC has also reported a steady rise in HIV/AIDS among homosexuals.

According to the UN, there are currently 34 million people around the world who have HIV. Since 1984, when medical authorities began to tabulate HIV cases, some 35 million people have died of AIDS.

Claims of ‘Homosexual Agenda’ Help Kill Hate Crimes Laws in 5 States

Monday, February 6th, 2017

propublica

Some Christian groups have no problem protecting people from crimes driven by racial or religious hatred. They just draw the line at sexual orientation.


Police tape outside the Emanuel AME Church, after a shooting that killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 18, 2015 (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Last year, lawmakers in South Carolina introduced legislation that would have increased the standard penalties for anyone who assaults, intimidates or threatens another individual if they did so because of the victim’s “race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, or sexual orientation.”

Drafted by Democratic legislators after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African-American parishioners at a church in Charleston, the bill never even came up for a vote. It was a familiar fate. In recent years, at least a half-dozen other hate crimes proposals have died in the South Carolina statehouse.

Much the same story played out in Indiana, where Republican state Sen. Susan Glick authored similar legislation in 2016; Glick’s bill would have increased time behind bars for those convicted of harming or intimidating someone if the assailant’s motivation was driven by the victim’s gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion or immigration status

The legislation passed in the Senate by a vote of 34-16 but died in the House without so much as a hearing.

Since the 1980s, nearly every state in the union has enacted some sort of hate crimes law, as have Washington, D.C., and the federal government. While the laws vary from state to state, they generally bolster penalties for those who commit crimes — assault, vandalism, credible threats of physical violence, among others — because of some sort of bias against the victim.

South Carolina and Indiana are among a small handful of states that have failed to pass such laws. Wyoming, Arkansas and Georgia are the other hold-outs.

Much of the opposition to creating hate-crime legislation in these states has come from well-organized groups of Christian fundamentalists who on religious grounds disapprove of any sort of legal protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people. For these critics, the primary concern is legal language stepping up punishment for crimes motivated by contempt for the LGBT populace, measures they view as a small but dangerous part of a broader “homosexual agenda.”

One of the Christian groups is the Family Research Council. Contacted by ProPublica, the FRC’s national office directed questions about hate crimes to Ryan McCann, an Indiana activist and lobbyist who works with the organization.

McCann views hate crimes laws as a sort of Trojan Horse: If Indiana adopts such a law, McCann said, LGBT advocates will use the precedent to argue for further legal safeguards, including anti-discrimination statutes, which he opposes.

Christian conservatives such as McCann have become potent activists against hate-crime legislation — lobbying, organizing their followers to petition statehouse lawmakers, and providing many of the key arguments against the laws.

“Homophobia and resistance to providing protections for LGBT people obviously play a role in the push back,” said Robin Maril, associate legal director for Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT advocacy organization.

Documenting Hate

Hate crimes and bias incidents are a national problem, but there’s no reliable data on their nature or prevalence. We’re collecting reports to create a national database for use by journalists and civil-rights organizations.

Statehouse experts are quick to point out that Christian conservatives aren’t the only people who can be hostile to hate crimes laws.

Jeannine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, said some legislators in that state believe the laws will create an inequitable justice system that “serves particular groups and not others.” (Bell, who has studied the laws, disagrees: “That is a misunderstanding. Everyone has a race.”)

Lynne Bowman of Human Rights Campaign noted that, in general, Republican-controlled legislatures have not been supportive of hate crimes bills regardless of the language.

The range of concerns can include worries about limiting free speech or doubts that police and prosecutors can truly know a perpetrator’s state of mind or motivations at any given moment. There have even been some expressions of misgiving among civil rights advocates that the legal hurdles created by hate-crime laws — establishing with certainty, for instance, someone’s specific motivations — can be counter-productive.

Decades ago, in a landmark 1993 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court examined the fundamental fairness of hate-crime legislation. The court held that carefully crafted hate crimes laws do not infringe on the free exercise of speech, a finding that resolved the major constitutional questions on the matter. The case centered on a racially motivated incident in Wisconsin in which an African-American man assaulted a white teen, leaving the victim in a coma.

In the five states without hate-crime laws, however, there is little question that Christian activists have had an impact.

Bowman, a senior field director with Human Rights Campaign, said “homophobia” gives lawmakers “an easy excuse to stand up against these bills.”


For the past two decades, much of the resistance to hate crimes legislation has been orchestrated by a trio of intertwined conservative Christian groups.

The oldest and most prominent is Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based ministry founded by James Dobson. The sprawling organization, which produces a vast array of media on biblical topics and funds anti-abortion counseling centers for pregnant women, operated on a budget of nearly $90 million in 2013, the last year for which full tax records are available.

Focus on the Family portrays hate crimes laws as part of a plot to marginalize Christians and ban them “from the public arena.”

Dobson’s ministry helped to spawn the Alliance Defending Freedom, a network of fundamentalist Christian lawyers who have argued that the laws infringe on religion while “creating additional legal protections for those engaged in homosexual behavior that are not available to everyone else.”

But it is the FRC, a third offshoot based in Washington, D.C., that has emerged as perhaps the most effective foe of hate crimes legislation.

When Congress took up the issue in 1999, an FRC leader told the Senate Judiciary Committee that revising the federal code to cover hate crimes could lead to the prosecution of “people who merely oppose homosexual activism.” Ten years later, as Congress debated the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the FRC decried the act as a “thought crimes” bill.

Since then, the “thought crime” claim has become a common talking point in conservative Christian circles and the FRC’s regional chapters have sought to halt hate crimes legislation at the state level.

In 2007, the FRC chapter in Arkansas urged lawmakers there to vote against hate crimes legislation authored by a veteran Democratic legislator. The bill failed. In a blog post, chapter leader Jerry Cox proudly touted the group’s accomplishments, saying it had spent years fighting “to make sure Arkansas’ civil rights and hate-crimes laws are not used to promote a homosexual agenda.”

McCann of the FRC is straightforwardly explicit about the group’s thinking.

“The gay-rights groups and the folks on the left only want to get the terms ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ into the law,” said McCann. “Unfortunately, that’s all they care about — their agenda.”

In Indiana, groups affiliated with the FRC have enjoyed great success in killing hate crimes bills over the past decade. The Republican Party currently enjoys a super-majority in the state, controlling both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. But “even under Democrat rule these hate crimes bills didn’t get a hearing,” said McCann, who helps to lead the Indiana Family Institute, a group associated with the FRC and Focus on the Family.

Currently McCann is pushing legislators to stop five different hate crimes bills pending in the statehouse.

Though the FRC describes its mission as the advancement of “faith, family and freedom in public policy,” critics take a very different view: The Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed it an anti-gay “hate group.”

The FRC has vigorously denied the characterization. The allegations are “an attempt to discredit FRC’s work and cut us out of public policy debates and media coverage over homosexuality and same-sex ‘marriage,’” the organization said in a 2010 statement.

The FRC has cultivated powerful allies, some of them in the White House. As Wired recently reported, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the organization’s “Values Voter Summit,” while a range of current or pending administration officials — Reince Priebus, Mike Pompeo, Tom Price, Jeff Sessions — have all spoken at FRC events. Ed Prince, the father of Betsy DeVos, provided millions of dollars in funding to the FRC in the group’s early days. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, has been tapped by the Trump administration to serve as U.S. secretary of education.


While 45 states have enacted hate crimes laws, the statutes vary dramatically around the country. In 15 of those states, the laws do not cover gays and lesbians; in 28 they don’t cover gender identity or transgender individuals.

In Georgia, state Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat, said he has sponsored at least five bills that have been defeated largely because they covered sexual orientation. “Some people have said, ‘If you don’t include gay people, it might pass,’” he recalled. Still, he insists he’ll never support “any bill that excludes gay people. I’m not going to have anything to do with a hate crimes law that, in effect, is discriminatory. Wouldn’t that be ironic?”

Wendell Gilliard of South Carolina tells a similar tale. A Democrat from Charleston, Gilliard has introduced “four or five hate crimes bills” in the state House of Representatives — and all of them have come to nothing. The lawmaker, who is African-American, said he’s been barraged with angry emails and phone calls about his bills — not about race but from people “quoting biblical verses about homosexuality.”

Opponents of the bills under consideration in Indiana claim the legislation, if passed, could be used to prosecute preachers who portray homosexuality as a sin. “Let’s pray that silencing speech is not the next step in the ‘gay’ agenda that the media embraces and pushes in the statehouse,” wrote Micah Clarke, an Indiana lobbyist and leader of an FRC chapter, in a newsletter sent to his group’s members.

Clarke declined to be interviewed.

“There are gay-rights activists all over the country who are trying to silence those who don’t agree with them,” said McCann, the Indiana lobbyist. As far as he’s concerned, the bills provide special treatment to members of “favored political classes” and are likely to muzzle fundamentalist Christians.

“Those are ‘alternative facts,’” said one clearly frustrated lawmaker, Greg Taylor, a Democrat from Indianapolis who has authored two hate crimes bills currently pending in the state Senate. “It’s mind-boggling.”

Robin Maril of Human Rights Campaign describes the rhetoric coming from her political foes in Indiana as “irresponsible” fear-mongering.

“It’s absolutely not true. But it sounds scary and it plays into people’s fears,” Maril told us. “None of this legislation would ever impede an individual’s ability to speak out. … We are not policing ministers’ ability to give sermons.”

Venezuela is running short on HIV meds—and places to turn for help

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Sciencemag

On top of its currency being in free fall for 3 years running, empty shelves at supermarkets, and electricity rationing, Venezuela has aserious shortage of medicines, including life-saving anti-HIV drugs. This led a network of Venezuelans living with HIV to seek “urgent humanitarian aid” in June 2016 from the Geneva, Switzerland–based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But because the World Bank classifies Venezuela as a high-income nation, the Global Fund on 18 January denied the request. “As an agency relying itself on donations from multiple stakeholders, the Global Fund is not in a position to grant any exceptions from its rules,” wrote Executive Director Mark Dybul and chair of the board Norbert Hauser.

An estimated 110,000 people in 2015 were living with HIV in Venezuela, and at least 63,000 of them have started antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, says Feliciano Reyna Ganteaume, whose Caracas-based nonprofit Acción Solidaria supplies HIV-infected people with ARVs. “[The situation] is much worse than one can describe,” he says. When the government does take action, drug orders are placed late and not paid for on time, causing interruptions that have lasted more than 3 months. “There is not even 1 month without our receiving complaints of lack of one or more ARVs from one or more Venezuelan states,” he says. Reagents for the tests needed to monitor people on treatment also are in short supply.

A petition at change.org is urging the Global Fund to bend its policy toward high-income countries, given the extreme situation. The policy has previously led to cuts in HIV/AIDS funding to several Eastern European countries, a move heavily criticized by advocates in those countries. As international assistance for HIV/AIDS hassteadily dropped over the past few years, the Global Fund has pushed harder on governments to foot their own bills.

The petition notes that in addition to a “severe stockout of antiretroviral treatment,” Venezuela does not have enough condoms, HIV test kits, or basic supplies to diagnose and treat tuberculosis—a major risk for people living with the AIDS virus. “This is not a political petition and does not seek to establish a position on the current status of the government,” it says. “This is a humanitarian call to avoid the genocide of Venezuelans living with HIV.”

The Global Fund leaders—who notably took 6 months to reply to the original urgent request for help—wrote that they had “liaised with our partner network to see who might be in a position to help.”

‘I’m gay, disabled and still have sex’

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Irish Times

He stole the hearts of viewers on last night’s First Dates Ireland TV show and since then it’s been a bit emotional for Dubliner Paddy Smyth

“Last Christmas as a joke my friends got a jumper that said ‘I’m gay, disabled and still have sex’. I love it. They also got me one that says ‘Gorge’. Spot the gay right?’”

“Last Christmas as a joke my friends got a jumper that said ‘I’m gay, disabled and still have sex’. I love it. They also got me one that says ‘Gorge’. Spot the gay right?’”

It’s fair to say that Paddy Smyth stole the hearts of viewers on last night’s First Dates Ireland. After his date was broadcast, the Sutton born 28-year-old even trended on twitter. This morning he told us ‘I’ve had a little cry today too. I suppose dating has been hard because I’m afraid to show people my vulnerable side. Guys see my disability and automatically ‘friend-zone’ me. But today, for the first time in ages, I fee l quite attractive. I’ve even had a few date offers since I woke up, and a few ‘pics’ too’.

Smyth’s date with David (master’s student in UCC) got off to a bit of an awkward start, but as time went by the two relaxed into it. ‘It was so awkward at first. I mean, it’s a first date on TV. And I was nervous too. I’m such a messy eater, I’d make a mess of a Cobb salad, so I was worried I’d spill something and look all disabled in front of him.’

The new First Dates star has grown a large following on snapchat over the last year, documenting his day-to-day life living with cerebral palsy. His honest and often hilarious attitude towards his disability is a breath of fresh air, on a platform that is so often filled with picture-perfect, filtered lives.

‘On social media I’m pretty honest about what it’s like living with a disability. I show the good and the bad bits, like I get to skip queues and make people carry my tea, but yeah, dating can be tough. One of the reasons I went on First Dates was to highlight the stigma surrounding being gay and disabled.’

‘My friends always joke that all I talk about is sex, being gay and being disabled. I even call my followers on social media my ‘disablers’ (like my ‘beliebers’) so last Christmas as a joke they got a jumper made for me that said ‘I’m gay, disabled and still have sex’. I love it. They also got me one that says ‘Gorge’. Spot the gay right?’

Despite the initial nerves, the first date continued on to The George once the cameras were off. ‘We had a little kiss. He’s a lovely guy. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t attraction.’ And will they be seeing each other again? ‘Well you never know- when I watched last night I remembered how much we got on, so maybe. And we’re still texting. But for now I’m still single- so if anyone is interested- get in touch!’

Port case prompts special police training on gay chemsex crime

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Guardian

Scotland Yard has adopted measures to increase knowledge of chemsex crime in the gay community after the police watchdog launched an investigation into “missed opportunities” to catch the serial killer Stephen Port.

In the wake of Port’s conviction, frontline officers were undergoing special training to deal with rape and sex crimes against males.

The measures were announced on Friday as the family of Jack Taylor, Port’s final victim, claimed their concerns over the initial investigation went unheeded because he had been dismissed as “a gay and a druggie and that was it”.

Port, 41, was given a whole life sentence without release for the murders of four gay men: Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Taylor, 25. Port had surreptitiously given them fatal doses of the drug GHB to satisfy his fetish for sex with drugged, unconscious boyish-looking males.

Stephen Port’s victims (L to R): Daniel Whitworth, 21, Jack Taylor, 25, Anthony Walgate, 23, and Gabriel Kovari, 22.
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Stephen Port’s victims (L to R): Daniel Whitworth, 21, Jack Taylor, 25, Anthony Walgate, 23, and Gabriel Kovari, 22. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA

Cdr Stuart Cundy, of the Met’s specialist crime and operations command, said the measures were “to enhance the knowledge and understanding of our officers about drugs-facilitated sexual assault, or sexual assault following chemsex”.

Frontline and specialist officers who investigated these offences were being trained with the help of the anti-violence charity Galop and other LGBT organisations. A toolkit and a checklist document had been created to provide guidance for officers on how best to respond to allegations.

A pilot study was launched by the Met in September to increase knowledge of the kind of drugs used to facilitate the sexual assault of men, Cundy said. Victims were being asked to provide a urine sample to test for GHB – also known as G or liquid ecstasy – which is the drug most commonly used in such cases.

As part of the study, tests for GHB were also being carried out on males who had died and there was evidence of sexual assault or the death was unexplained, he said.

The Met has already announced it is reviewing the deaths from GHB poisoning of 58 people in London over the last four years as a result of the Port case.

An anaesthetic, GHB is popular on the dance and club scene. At low doses, it is reported to produce euphoria, lowering social inhibition and increasing libido. At higher doses, euphoria gives way to sedation. Still larger doses can induce coma. In some cases, death can arise as a result of respiratory depression or the inhalation of vomit.

The Met has faced criticism in the past over its handling of the murders of members of the LGBT community. In 2007, a review of 10 murders of gay men or transgender people said in some cases police inquiries were hampered by a lack of knowledge, reliance on unfounded stereotypes and personal prejudices.

The report, written by the independent Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender advisory group, did acknowledge the force had substantially improved its dealings with the communities, but said more radical steps were needed.

Investigations of high-profile cases to have attracted criticism in the past include those of the serial killers Dennis Nilsen, Michael Lupo and Colin Ireland.

UK issues posthumous pardons for thousands of gay men

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Guardian

Thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalised homosexuality but are no longer on the statute book have been posthumously pardoned under a new law.

A clause in the policing and crime bill, which received royal assent on Tuesday, extends to those who are dead the existing process of purging past criminal records.

Welcoming the legislation, the justice minister Sam Gyimah said: “This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs. I am immensely proud that ‘Turing’s law’ has become a reality under this government.”

There is already a procedure in place for the living to apply to the Home Office to have their past convictions, relating to same-sex relationships, expunged from their criminal records.

Under what is known as the disregard process, anyone previously found guilty of past sexual offences that are no longer criminal matters can ask to have them removed.

A disregard can be granted only if the past offence was a consensual relationship and both men were over 16. The conduct must also not constitute what remains an offence of sexual activity in a public lavatory.

Sam Gyimah, justice minister

Each disregard application is checked to prevent people from claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes. Those granted a disregard will also be pardoned.

No lists of past pardons will be published but the new law will allow future historians to point out that those imprisoned or fined for consensual gay relationships would not under modern legislation have committed a crime.

Rewriting history will not be easy. The complexity of the evidence, for example, that led to Oscar Wilde’s conviction in 1895 for gross indecency – including evidence of procuring male prostitutes – would make it difficult to assess.

The gay rights organisation Stonewall has suggested the playwright and author, who was sentenced to two years hard labour in Reading jail, should be entitled to a pardon.

The Ministry of Justice said there would be no historical limit in relation to past offences. It declined, however, to say whether Wilde would be among those deemed posthumously pardoned.

The amendments to the bill were tabled by Lord Sharkey, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden with government support.

A private member’s bill with a similar aim and a blanket pardon, brought forward by the SNP MP John Nicolson, was not supported by the government. It would have backdated pardons only to 1919.

A Stonewall spokesperson said: “This is significant. And it’s as important to the whole lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, as it is for the gay and bi men affected.

“The more equality is enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become.

“This month the government issued a clear and powerful apology to every gay and bi man who had been unjustly criminalised for being who they are. This is not just equality for gay and bi men; the passing of this law is justice.

“We’re working to ensure that this new process is brought quickly and correctly, and to ensure all gay and bi men unjustly persecuted and prosecuted can finally receive the justice they deserve.”

Welcoming the new law, the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This pardon is an important, valuable advance that will remedy the grave injustices suffered by many of the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men who were convicted under discriminatory anti-gay laws between 1885 and 2003 – the latter being the year when all homophobic sexual offences legislation was finally repealed in England and Wales.

“A pardon has connotations of forgiveness for a wrong done. These men and the wider LGBT community believe they did no wrong.

“The legislation has a few omissions. It does not explicitly allow for the pardoning of men convicted of soliciting and procuring homosexual relations under the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts. Nor does it pardon those people, including some lesbians, convicted for same-sex kissing and cuddling under laws such as the Public Order Act 1986, the common law offence of outraging public decency, the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 and the army, navy and air force acts and other diverse statutes.

“However, agreements secured by Lord Cashman mean that people convicted under these other laws can also apply for a pardon.”

The last men who were executed for homosexuality in England were James Pratt and John Smith who were hanged in 1835.

Sharkey, the Liberal Democrat peer who drafted the amendment to the bill, said: “This is a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK who have been campaigning on this issue for decades.

“It is a wonderful thing that we have been able to build on the pardon granted to Alan Turing and extend it to thousands of men unjustly convicted for sexual offences that would not be crimes today.”

Gay Games 2022: It’s Time to Go to Asia

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Unicorn Booty

When Daniel Ou moved from New York City to Hong Kong in 2009, one of the first things he did was seek out the city’s gay sports teams. He had grown up playing tennis and ice hockey in a family full of athletes, and he’d competed around the world with the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance. But after finding a small gay tennis group in Hong Kong and becoming captain of the city’s first gay ice hockey team, he noticed a difference between his Hong Kong teammates and those in New York.“The word ‘gay’ was not easily spoken among my local gay friends,” Ou says. “They would instead divert the conversation or use the term ‘PLU’ or ‘people like us,’ which I felt was somewhat cowardly. I remember thinking, ‘What do they mean “people like us”? Do they mean people who are Asian?!’”

Ou, who is Korean-American, was surprised. While many of his American and European pals had come out without much trouble, he hadn’t realized just how many of his Hong Kong associates remained closeted in a sort of self-imposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Many worried about being fired or shunned by their families for coming out, and Ou wanted to help his closeted teammates.

“Gay sports had given me so much joy, a sense of belonging and camaraderie,” he says. “I felt like it was time to give back.”

Eight years later, Ou has joined a group of sports-minded activists who want to advance queer culture in Hong Kong through a simple yet ambitious undertaking: They want to make Hong Kong the first Asian city to host the Gay Games.

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The opening ceremony of the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, Ohio

The Gay Games: More Than a Rainbow-Colored Olympics

The Gay Games are a quadrennial sporting event that invites straight and queer athletes of all nationalities, ages, abilities and skill levels to participate on a world stage. Unlike the Olympics, the Gay Games aren’t fixated on nationalist competition and medal counts. Participants represent their home cities rather than countries, and the competition emphasizes unity, inclusion, participation and personal growth. The games also feature 10 days of related cultural programs and educational panels meant to change public attitudes about LGBTQ people and challengequeerphobia in athletics.

The Games have proven quite popular. Competitors at the 1994 Games in New York City outnumbered the number of competitors in the 1992 Summer Olympics. The 2014 Games in Cleveland brought in 8,800 athletes from 30 different countries and generated $65 million for the local economy. The 2018 Games in Paris are expected to draw 15,000 participants and up to 10,000 more related visitors.

Since its premiere in 1982, North America has hosted six out of nine Gay Games; Europe has hosted two, Australia one, but Asia has never yet hosted.

Last year, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) included Hong Kong on a list of nine potential host cities for 2022. In March, the FGG will announce its three finalist cities; they’ll make evaluation visits to each one over the following months and then announce a final pick in November.

After the FGG reached out to him in March 2014, local activist and athlete Dennis Philipse began the bidding process for Hong Kong by assembling a small team to raise the funds and public support they’d need for an attractive bid. But immediately they ran into several challenges.

Unlike most major U.S. cities, Hong Kong had no central LGBT sports organization to lead the bidding process, which takes years and costs tens of thousands of dollars. Luckily, Philipse had recently founded Out in Hong Kong, a group that coordinates LGBTQ athletic events around the city, so that helped. But with an LGBTQ athletic community so new and underdeveloped, Hong Kong lacked immediate funding and infrastructure.

Furthermore, most LGBTQ athletes in Hong Kong were closeted and didn’t want to be outed or seen supporting a queer sports organization. After Out in Hong Kong posted several pictures from one of its events on a closed Facebook group, some of the people in the photos asked the group to remove the pics for fear of being outed. The same thing happened after Out in Hong Kong held a bodybuilding event to promote the Gay Games.

Philipse’s team had an immense challenge facing them: They needed to dismantle Hong Kong’s closet and get queer Hong Kongers to publicly endorse an event that could potentially out them to the entire world. Without their support, Hong Kong had no chance of ever hosting the Games.

gay games hong kong 2

Hong Kong Pride marchers (Photo via Wendy Tang)

Hong Kong: A Modern City in an Ancient Closet

One might wonder how such an irrepressibly modern city widely regarded as friendly to international queer visitors can have such a widely closeted population. After all, the region repealed its colonial era laws criminalizing homosexuality in 1991; it currently has laws forbidding anti-gay discrimination by the government and has had virtually no instances of anti-LGBTQ violence.

The city also hosts a queer chorale, several queer bars, an LGBTQ walking tour and numerous annual events, including a gay and lesbian film festival, a queer literary and cultural festival, the Mr. Gay Hong Kong competition, a pride parade, an annual Pink Dot celebration and Pink Season, a five-week LGBTQ festival with citywide events celebrating openness, diversity, acceptance and love.

And yet, as China’s neighboring stepchild, Hong Kong remains hampered by a widespread view of homosexuality as antithetical to traditional family structure. In Hong Kong, as in many other Asian countries, children are expected to wed, raise kids and eventually care for their parents in an unending cycle of filial piety; because LGBTQ people threaten that cycle, they’re often regarded as selfish and shameful. Businesses reinforce this cultural stigma by commonly refusing to promote unmarried employees.

As a result, a 2012 study found 80% of openly LGBTQ Hong Kongers experiencing queerphobic abuse at work, while 42% worried about losing social connections or personal relationships over coming out. Thus, many queer Hong Kongers remain closeted or marry someone of the opposite sex just to fulfill societal expectations.

Hong Kong also lags behind Western countries in terms of legal rights. The region lacks comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in housing, employment and public accommodations; it offers neither legal recognition of same-sex couples nor any rights for adoption or raising children. Worse yet, government policy requires transgender citizens to undergo full gender reassignment surgery before changing any gender markers on ID. It’s a costly procedure that renders patients sterile, and it’s a policy the United Nations denounces as a form of torture.

While activists in Hong Kong can push for LGBTQ rights with impunity (unlike in neighboring China, where activists get harassed, surveilled and imprisoned), a rising tide of Christian and conservative anti-LGBTQ activists have become more vocal in their opposition to pro-LGBTQ policies. Just last year, anti-LGBTQ activists protested Hong Kong University for placing rainbow-colored logos upon its gender-inclusive restrooms, and HSBC for displaying two rainbow-colored lion statues outside their building as part of a month-long campaign for LGBTQ rights. Neither organization removed those colorful emblems.

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Scene from a Hong Kong gay bar

2022: The Year That Could Transform Asia’s LGBTQ Culture

“The U.S. is far more advanced and evolved than Asia in gay rights,” Philipse says. “In the U.S. everyone knows what the Gay Games are; here they don’t. People here are not out. The number of depressed LGBTQ people in Asia is about 20 or 30 percent, and this effects everything; it effects HIV cases.”

He’s right. A 2016 study of 580 LGBTQ Hong Kongers showed that 30% had either seriously considered or attempted suicide, and in 2015, Hong Kong’s HIV rate reached its highest levels since 1984. Though a lead researcher for the city’s HIV prevention efforts couldn’t say whether anti-gay stigma contributed to gay men not getting tested, the region’s non-existent sex education likely does.

If Hong Kong gets the Games, Philipse says, the 40,000 LGBTQ visitors from around the world could provide positive role models, help change cultural perceptions about being LGBTQ and get the region thinking and talking about LGBTQ issues in entirely new ways.

Peter Reading, legal counsel at Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC)—the office responsible for implementing the region’s non-discrimination ordinances—echoes Philipse’s hopes.

“Generally, [the Games would bring]greater understanding about LGBTQI people because there’s still generally a lack of understanding, so that’s a big thing,” Reading says. “Better social interaction is key to people’s greater tolerance, and respect for people in general. It is as important for Hong Kong as it is for anywhere.”

In addition to the spectators, Philipse says, the Games would also bring the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Asia for the first time, as well as many Americans and Europeans, providing educational cultural experiences for new visitors and natives alike.

His team’s bid book calls 2022 “a perfect time to bring the Gay Games to Hong Kong” because “Beijing will host the winter Olympics that year and Hangzhou will hold the Asian Games.” It may also be an ideal time politically. In just the last year, the Taiwanese government took steps towards legalizing same-sex marriage, while several Japanese cities begun issuing certificates legally recognizing same-sex couples. In 2018, China will compete for the first time ever in the Gay Games.

These changes across Asia coincide with changing public attitudes in Hong Kong. While a 2006 survey showed only 28.7% of all Hong Kongers supporting anti-discrimination laws, a 2015 survey showed that support nearly doubling to 55.7%. The same survey showed that 91.8% of Hong Kongers ages 18 to 24 support LGBTQ legal protections, as do 48.9% of people with religious beliefs.

Hong Kong could also have anti-discrimination protections in place for its LGBTQ citizens by 2022. An EOC study released in 2016, the first of its kind, reviewed all the research on LGBTQ discrimination in Hong Kong and suggested that the government develop anti-discrimination legislation while fostering talks between the LGBTQ and religious communities.

While the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 team (GGHK 2022) would need to invest $7.3 million over the next five years to make the Games a success, the event could inject up to $1 billion into the local economy. Any money that GGHK 2022 makes in the process would be distributed to help fund sport, health and diversity initiatives within Hong Kong, meaning the Games could make positive long-term impacts on Hong Kong’s overall well-being as well as LGBTQ rights long after the games have ended.

hong_kong_skyline

The Hong Kong skyline

In Stride: How GGHK 2022 Cleared Its Initial Hurdles

Before the FGG even reached out to Philipse for a bid, he had spent four months talking with advisors about the best ways to approach government officials and sponsors for support. After a key local figure joined Out in Hong Kong, Philipse quickly found himself connecting with a network of queer Hong Kongers, all of whom loved the idea of hosting the Games.

“From there it was a snowball,” Philipse says. “Hong Kong is like a small village, and people connected us to other people.”

One of the eventual members of the GGHK 2022 bidding team worked for a commercial sports company and promised to ask his employer for a letter of support, even though he wasn’t out at work. He came out to his boss and got the letter. Since then, Philipse says, he has changed, seeming more open and happier than ever.

“Even if we do not win the bid this time,” Philipse says, “we’re already making change by having this type of conversation. Normally when the gay community goes to the government, they talk about gay marriage and equality. This time, we talk about sports events and gay sports, so with this conversation, things have already taken a different dimension.”

Another breakthrough moment came when GGHK 2022 received letters of support from the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the Constitutional Mainland Affairs Bureau. The Hong Kong government now considers the Gay Games to be a normal sporting event, supporting it the same way they would a rugby sevens or Formula E race car event. Since then, the GGHK 2022 team has spent its time raising awareness of Gay Games at other sporting and social events.

The GGHK 2022 team now has 132 letters of support from different political, commercial, sports, arts and culture, queer and non-governmental organizations in Hong Kong and around the world, as well as the support of groups like the city of Amsterdam, LUSH Australia, Lloyd’s of London, Air Canada and Hornet, the international gay social network that funds this site. If Hong Kong gets the Games, these groups would all add funds and marketing efforts to help make it successful and as widely known as possible.

“I’m a firm believer that sports in any capacity does both the body and mind good, enabling us to live richer, healthier and more fulfilling lives,” says Ou, the athlete mentioned at the beginning of our story. As a child, Ou and his brother dreamed of one day competing at a global sports event, and Ou achieved that dream when he played tennis at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany. Since then, he has begun sharing his story as a way to build support for Hong Kong’s bid.

“The gay community is a lot more diverse than people may stereotype us as, and sports is one the world’s most common expressions of inclusion and empowerment,” he says. “By showing people that you are just like them—or even better than them—it’s an effective way to combat homophobia. Once the trust and respect is there, anything is possible.”

Review: Hot Gay Time Machine

Monday, February 6th, 2017

varsity

Thomas O’Connor thoroughly enjoyed this “glittering gem of a show” and was impressed by both the timing and well-seasoned magnetism of double-act, Toby Marlow and Zak Ghazi-Torbati
StarStarStarStarHalf star

It is always refreshing when the title of a show sets you up somewhat for what may be in store, and Hot Gay Time Machine was never going to be a quiet evening of polite politically correct reflections on life. This glittering gem of a show bursts onto the stage with way more energy and excitement than anyone could hope for. If the aim is to grab the attention of the audience from the opening moments and reduce them to tears of laughter for an hour, then Toby Marlow and Zak Ghazi-Torbati have most definitely succeeded.

It is rather impossible to define what these two actually do. On the face of it they dance around, camp it up, make relentless puns on the word ‘gay’ and sing their hearts out. This high-octane, fast-paced hour zooms by and takes no prisoners – if you missed the line that had the girl beside you screaming in laughter, you needn’t worry – there will be an even bigger laugh again within a few seconds. If you didn’t quite catch that outrageous throw-away innuendo, again, don’t worry – they come thick and fast. There isn’t time to stop and think during this show. It just carries you along on a sea of ridiculousness and flamboyance.

“If you missed the line that had the girl beside you screaming in laughter, you needn’t worry – there will be an even bigger laugh again within a few seconds”

But in parallel with all the glitter, the high heels and the extravagance, the real achievement of this pair is to present a very honest exploration of their own identity. Subtly woven into the sledge-hammer of giggles is the time machine of reflection on their lives and their gayness. They avoid any clumsiness in this navel-gazing by their sheer confidence and pace. They can work the crowd and deliver a killer line, even when there is no line to be delivered. Marlow can floor the audience with just the flick of a (well-plucked) eyebrow and they have the timing and magnetism of a seasoned double-act.

The audience are very much part of the evening and particular mention this evening goes to Jane, for reasons which I won’t reveal. Let this be a warning to you. If you’re not the interactive type, then you might want to sit a little further back. But even then, you won’t be safe from the infectious invasion of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga – musically, metaphorically and physically. The set, lighting and sound have a very definite disco feel, and the atmosphere is of a slightly out of control party.

“This is a show which appears to be ripening towards an inevitable triumph in Edinburgh. Move over, Frisky and Mannish, Marlow and Ghazi-Torbati have arrived”

The content of the show is a curious mix of gags, genitals, naughty words, smutty songs, impossible costume changes, satire, human rights, coming of age and general defiance. They dare the audience to be offended, but we are always in on the joke. In the long tradition of drag acts and queer comedians, the idea of being offended is subverted and used to challenge us as much as make us laugh. Their approach is underground and edgy, and the speed of their improvised interactions is riveting. This is a show which appears to be ripening towards an inevitable triumph in Edinburgh. Move over, Frisky and Mannish, Marlow and Ghazi-Torbati have arrived.

Hot Gay Time Machine may not be a politically sensitive work of theatrical protest, but this rough diamond has a huge heart, and an even bigger sense of craziness and enjoyment. It’s main flaw is in its title, though. They need to add one word: fabulous

Gay comedy series Please Like Me has ended, creator confirms

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Pink News

Gay comedy series Please Like Me has been cancelled, its creator has confirmed.

The show, which was created by and stars gay Australian comedian Josh Thomas, has won praise for its portrayal of gay millennial life and its focus on mental health issues.

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The show’s future was left up in the air after its recent fourth season following the closure of US TV network Pivot, which funded the production alongside ABC Australia.

Though online streaming giant Hulu stepped up as the show’s new US home for the fourth season, it has now been confirmed that it will not be returning for a fifth.

Thomas, who based the show on his own real-life experiences, confirmed it would not be coming back in a statement – suggesting the decision was taken for creative reasons.

He wrote: “The other producers and I have decided that Season 4 of PLEASE LIKE ME is the last.

“We decided this because we are really happy with what we’ve made and feel like it is complete.

“I want to thank everyone who has watched the show and sent me a friendly note. This show is so intensely personal, it recreates the most intimate moments of my life and lays them out for anyone to watch.

“Seeing how people have connected with this show has been tremendously confidence building for me and I’m really grateful for that. Thank you. “

He added: “I want to thank Mum and Dad… they made me and then kept me alive which is really cool. They’ve been incredibly supportive of this show even though at times it makes them look like t**ts.

“This show has brought me so much joy and I’m sad it’s over but also things have to end. I’m focussing now on what’s next, I hope to see you there.”

The show has previously been nominated for a string of LGBT filmmaking awards, including a nomination for a Dorian Award and three
GLAAD Media Awards.

It airs on Amazon Instant Video in the UK.

Warner Bros. Reboots Snagglepuss As A Gay Playwright Being Hunted By The U.S. Government

Monday, February 6th, 2017

cartoonbrew

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Warner Bros., which owns the entire Hanna-Barbera libary, is rebooting the late-1950s character Snagglepuss as “a gay Southern Gothic playwright.”

The eight-page story will debut this March in the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1, before turning into a regular DC series this fall. “I envision him like a tragic Tennessee Williams figure,” writer Marc Russell told HiLoBrow.com. “Huckleberry Hound is sort of a William Faulkner guy, they’re in New York in the 1950s, Marlon Brando shows up, Dorothy Parker, these socialites of New York from that era come and go.”

The sexual orientation was never affirmed in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but Russell, who has also done an updated take on The Flintstones for DC Comics, is making Snagglepuss’ sexuality a key part of the story, in which the pink mountain lion is dragged before the Communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He’s accused of being a pinko, get it?

“It’s obviously ignored in the cartoons ’cuz they were made at a time when you couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of such a thing, but it’s still so obvious,” Russell said. “So it’s natural to present it in a context where everybody knows, but it’s still closeted. And dealing with the cultural scene of the 1950s, especially on Broadway, where everybody’s gay, or is working with someone who’s gay, but nobody can talk about it — and what it’s like to have to try to create culture out of silence.”

Here’s a page from the comic, with artwork of Snagglepuss and Augie Doggie by Howard Porter. Steve Buccellato is the colorist and Dave Sharpe does lettering.

snagglepuss_comic_mainRussell said that he pitched the comic “half as a joke,” and “they kinda called my bluff, and now I’ve gotta write a Snagglepuss comic.” The announcement has not gone without notice, and has already generated fan art:

But the best reaction might be from Snagglepuss himself:
snagglepuss

Fire at gay sauna in Berlin kills 3 men, injures 1

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Fox News

German officials say three men have died and one was seriously injured in a fire at a gay sauna in Berlin.

The fire broke out late Sunday at the Steam Works club in the German capital’s Schoeneberg district. Berlin’s fire department said in a statement Monday that 25 people were able to escape the fire on their own.

Emergency workers searched the club, which has dozens of rooms, and found the three bodies. One 48-year-old man was taken to the hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire wasn’t yet known.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Changed My Gay Life!

Monday, February 6th, 2017
Out

In 1973, I was a 17-year-old student who spent weekends with my parents in Brooklyn and looked forward to the wonders of The Mary Tyler Moore Show every Saturday night. Famous from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary played Mary Richards, an all-around perfect person and liberated woman who came, without a man, to Minnesota and proceeded to become the central force at WJM TV’s news room. In the process, she emerged as a favorite of boss Mr. Grant (Ed Asner), best friend to the amusingly feisty Rhoda (Valerie Harper), and foil to narcissistic anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), his ditzy girlfriend, Georgette (Georgia Engel), and Mary’s haughty landlord, Phyllis (Cloris Leachman).

The show brought flawed, but lovable characters together into a nouveau family fraught with wit, warmth, and zingers, the cast as perfectly chosen as their words were. And as Mary Richards grew in confidence at the newsroom and in her personal life, so did Mary Tyler Moore develop as an actress, playing each episode with what seemed like increasingly effortless elan. Various supporting players won acting Emmy awards before Mary did because they had flashier, funnier roles, but once everyone realized MTM was the glue on screen (like at WJM), she started copping trophies and increased national acclaim too.

The show’s seven-year run only faltered when Harper left for her own sitcom (in 1974) and they tried to pair Mary with Georgette; while girl-next-door Mary and caustic Rhoda were magic together, Mary and addled-brained Georgette just seemed too nice of a duo to be interesting. The show also slipped when tackling serious subjects in a heavy handed manner (like the 1972 episode about Mary battling an anti-Semite), but when it did so with subtlety, the result was devastatingly powerful and game-changing.

Let me explain that at this point, I knew I was gay, but I didn’t have any idea what to do about it. Most of the representation I’d seen about gays presented them as grimacing psycho killers, woefully sad victims, or closeted dandies. What’s more, a textbook I found had decreed that homosexuality was a mental disorder, making me extra ashamed and nervous about my plight. This was post-Stonewall, but the world still had a long way to go in recognizing any kind of LGBT equality or humanity, and open LGBT representation was severely lacking in volume and scope. There were glimmers of hope, of course. In 1972, I saw commercials for a TV movie called That Certain Summer, with Hal Holbrook as a divorced father exploring his homosexuality, and it seemed sort of positive, presenting a complicated, intelligent adult. Still, I didn’t get up the nerve to watch the movie, not convinced it wouldn’t show I was heading toward a very dark future.

But since I watched MTM religiously every Saturday, I was a captive audience as they laid the gay on me. And the episode that changed my life in 1973 was called “My Brother’s Keeper.” I should have known it was going to be even more interesting than usual on learning that the guest star was Robert Moore, who had directed the landmark gay play The Boys in the Band and had costarred with Liza Minnelli in the 1970 film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, in which he played a disabled gay man.

In the episode, Moore played Phyllis’s composer brother Ben, who came to town for a visit, prompting Phyllis to hope he and Mary would hit it off. But it’s Rhoda that he has chemistry with, and they end up spending a lot of time together, as Phyllis fumes, since she thinks Rhoda is a coarse New York vulgarian and not nearly good enough for her cultured bro. It all leads up to a pressure-cooker party at Mary’s house, where Phyllis gets worked up into a frenzy, convinced that Ben is going to marry Rhoda. Rhoda assures Phyllis, “Ben and I aren’t getting married. He isn’t my type.” Her pride wounded, Phyllis replies, “What do you mean, he isn’t your type? He’s witty, attractive, he’s successful, he’s single…” Responds Rhoda, “He’s gay!”

I was floored. I almost plotzed right then and there. It hadn’t occurred to me that the guy could be gay—or that if he was, someone would actually say it! Not to mention the fact that it was said in a gleeful, matter of fact, nothing’s-wrong-with-this kind of way that was stunning for its time! Even better was Phyllis’ reaction: “Oh, what a relief!” Yes, she was thrilled that her brother was gay because it meant he wouldn’t marry Rhoda, but still…she was thrilled that her brother was gay!

As the closing credits rolled, I knew I had just seen a half hour that had galvanized me by telling me that gays can be personable, sophisticated people who even divulge their sexuality to others and are still well liked. It said that someone’s gay sexuality can be spoken about in public without causing riots, horror, and recriminations. It said it was OK! Those few moments at the end of the episode succeeded in instantly washing away all the warped portrayals of gays that I’d seen, all the crap I’d read, and all the hate I’d heard from people in the neighborhood. I knew I had a future, thanks to Mary Tyler Moore. And ever since then, I’ve fantasized about throwing my beret in the air as someone sings, “You’re gonna make it after all.”

A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE

Another positive role model for me in the gay realm was two-time Tony winning actor George Rose—or so it seemed. The British thesp was a witty dandy who gave sublimely winning performances in shows like The Pirates of Penzance andThe Mystery of Edwin Drood. When he played Alfred P. Doolittle in a 1976 My Fair Lady revival, he was so sublime, he was nominated for Best Actor—and won! But there was a dark side to the genius of George Rose. He openly liked “coffee colored boys”—and he did mean boys. Rose was reported to have died in a car accident in 1988, but it was later revealed that he was killed by the Dominican boy he’d adopted (and romanced), along with the kid’s father and two others. Rose had been funding the father and son—he basically bought the kid—but when they became anxious for the money promised in Rose’s will, they bludgeoned him with a baseball bat for hours, then put him in a vehicle and tried to make it look like a car accident. Still admire and/or envy George Rose?

In a remarkable one-man play, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, in the Loft at the Davenport Theatre, actor/writer Ed Dixon does a brilliant job of talking about his friendship with the “unabashed homosexual” Rose, starting with their working together in a show, and continuing through the years, as Rose introduced Dixon to the two mountain lions he kept in his Village apartment; regaled him with hilarious anecdotes and witticisms; and finally, showed him the dark side.

Dixon is priceless as he acts out Rose’s assessments of people (“Richard Burton would fuck a snake if he could keep its mouth open […] I may be the oldest white woman, but Rex Harrison is a fucking cunt”). He also performs snippets of Rose’s most joyous stage appearances, lavishing extra praise on the man’s Doolittle, which was so joyous (with a flash of rage) that it did manage to make the classic musical all about him.

But the tone changes dramatically when Dixon visits Rose in the Dominican Republic and notices a 12-year-old boy in the back of the car. It was Rose’s son/paramour, and Dixon is sick to his stomach as he realizes that. The last part of the show details Dixon’s revulsion at the reality behind the witty façade, and his own pangs of guilt for not dredging up the courage to try and intervene.

Dixon holds you in his thrall for the entire 90-minutes and proves not only a great interpreter of Rose’s life and work, but a worthy successor to his stage presence. Oh, what a relief!

AND THE CROWN GOES TO…

Screen Shot 2017 02 06 At 10.59.23 Am

Photo via @CharlieHidesTV

Let’s now celebrate our current icons, who are psychologically healthier, thank Goddess. Remember when I predicted last year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race winner to win even before they were cast? Well, listen to mama when I say that this time, I’d put my money on Charlie Hides to go all the way; the celebrity impersonator is that talented and hilarious. And of course, I love the NYC entrants too, like belter Alexis Michelleand good-time gal Peppermint. There have been rumors that Peppermint has been transitioning, and when I asked her about it last year, she wouldn’t confirm or deny. But Pep did run a photo on Instagram of her holding a silicone breast implant. Hmm. Should they change the name of the show to RuPaul’s LGBT Race? Maybe—since, as you’ll recall, Carmen Carrerawas a drag queen who realized she was a woman. (After filming the show, she started transitioning.) And Sonique—who is now Kylie Sonique Love—came out as trans after being eliminated. The show is so good, it’s transformative.

SOMETHING APPEALING, A ”COMEDY” TONIGHT

Also having transitioned, Ken Ludwig’s 1989 Lend Me a Tenor—a door-slamming farce about opera divo antics gone awry—has spawned a sequel, Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. This time, a “three tenors” show in 1930s Paris falls apart due to various mistaken identities, and the comedy depends upon the main tenor (John Treacy Egan) thinking his younger rival (Ryan Silverman) is boffing his wife (Judy Blazer), not his daughter; and also on the arrival of a bellhop who happens to look and sound exactly like…Well, let me not give it away. It’s a real stretch, studded with implausibilities, which makes the play threaten to come off like a full-length Here’s Lucy episode. But laughs are there, director Don Stephenson never lets the giddy pace lag, and the cast—the original Paper Mill actors reunited—is spirited, especially Egan, who does fabulously with his complex role. Again, I’m so relieved.

UN Gay Rights Envoy: Religious Freedom ‘Not an Absolute Right’

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Breitbart

The United Nations envoy for gay rights has declared that when there is a clash between homosexual rights and religious liberty it must be recalled that “freedom of expression and religious freedom are not absolute rights and may be limited if necessary.”

In a recent public consultation, the UN’s newly appointed “independent expert” on the defense of LGTB rights, Vitit Muntarbhorn, said that negative moral judgments on homosexual activity were a recent phenomenon, stemming from “colonial law.”

“More recently, in colonial law, or remnants of colonial law, gays were criminalized, are criminalized, even though beforehand they were not criminalized,” he claimed during the Jan. 25 conference.

When challenged about the clash between LGBT rights and religious freedom by Henk Jan van Schothorst of the Transatlantic Christian Council, Muntarbhorn said that religious freedom is not absolute and must yield to homosexual rights.

“There are some absolute rights,” he said in apparent reference to LGBT rights, “but there are some that are not absolute.” He went on to explain that “freedom of expression and expression of religion” are not absolute rights and that they can be curtailed when necessary.

While praising a desire to engage with the “heart of religion,” Muntarbhorn said this should be done “without the mythology overriding the heart of the religion.”

The independent expert also emphasized the role of education so children can be “born and bred from a young age” with the right attitudes toward sexual orientation and identity, a practice that some have denounced as indoctrination or even “genderideology” or “ideological colonization.”

Last summer, the UN Human Rights Council approved the appointment of an independent expert on the defense of the LGTB collective, and in October the Council chose Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand to fill the post.

The following month, a coalition of 54 African states challenged the legality of the appointment, asking that his mandate be put on hold. They submitted a resolution calling for the suspension of the UN’s LGBT investigator, noting that gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in international human rights instruments.

While Muntarbhorn has been tasked with assessing implementations of existing international human rights law and raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), critics suggest that his very mandate will constitute interference with the laws of many UN countries.

Seventy-three countries worldwide, and almost 40 percent of all UN member states, currently have anti-sodomy laws on their books. In Africa alone, 33 states have laws making homosexual acts a crime, including Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan and Mauritania.

Speaking on behalf of the African nations, Botswana’s ambassador told a General Assembly human rights committee in November that African nations “are alarmed” that the Human Rights Council is delving into national matters and attempting to focus on people “on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors.”

Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae said that the Council had no business looking into “sexual orientation and gender identity,” which are notoriously absent from the United Nations charter document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments,” said Ntwaagae. The UN has never adopted an official position regarding putative rights of gender identity or sexual orientation, though it does guarantee the rights of life, liberty, security, property and equal protection to all persons without distinction.

“We therefore call for the suspension of the activities of the appointed independent expert pending the determination of this issue,” said Ntwaagae.

The Africa group claimed that a focus on homosexual rights also takes attention away from other issues of “paramount importance,” such as racism and the right to development.

Before Straight and Gay

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Even by the formidable standards of eminent Victorian families, the Bensons were an intimidating lot. Edward Benson, the family’s patriarch, had vaulted up the clerical hierarchy, awing superiors with his ferocious work habits and cowing subordinates with his reforming zeal. Queen Victoria appointed him the archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church, in 1883. Edward’s wife, Minnie, was to all appearances a perfect match. Tender where he was severe, she was a warmhearted hostess renowned for her conversation. Most important, she was Edward’s equal in religious devotion. As a friend daringly pronounced, Minnie was “as good as God and as clever as the Devil.”

All five of Edward and Minnie Benson’s adult offspring distinguished themselves in public life. Arthur Benson served as the master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University, wrote the lyrics to Edward Elgar’s hymn “Land of Hope and Glory,” and was entrusted with the delicate task of co-editing Queen Victoria’s letters for publication. His brother Fred was a best-selling writer, well known today for the series of satirical Lucia novels (televised for the second time in 2014, on the BBC), which poked good-natured fun at the pomposities of English provincial life. Their sister Margaret became a pioneering Egyptologist, the first woman to lead an archaeological dig in the country and to publish her findings. Even the family’s apostate, the youngest brother, Hugh, a convert to Roman Catholicism, was considered a magnetic preacher and, like his brothers, was an irrepressible author of briskly selling books. All told, the family published more than 200 volumes.

University of Chicago Press

An exemplary Victorian family, or so it seems. But let us borrow one of Charles Dickens’s favorite literary devices and pull the roof off the Benson home to take a peek inside. It is 1853. Edward is 23 years old, handsome, determined, and already embarked on a promising career. Perched on his knee is his cousin Minnie, a pleasingly childish 12-year-old. Edward has just kissed Minnie to seal their engagement. Wait 40-odd years, lift the roof again, and we find grown-up Minnie tucked in her marital bed with Lucy Tait, the daughter of the previous archbishop, who has been living with the Bensons at Edward’s invitation. At the Sussex home where Minnie and Lucy moved three years after Edward’s death, they were joined by Minnie’s daughter Margaret, the Egyptologist, cohabiting with her intimate lady friend. As for the Benson boys, well, none of the three married, and contemporaries in the know had a pretty good understanding of their romantic feelings for men, in all likelihood never acted upon. The Bensons were, as Simon Goldhill writes in his subtle, smart book, a very queer family indeed.

Wresting the Victorians from the prison of dour, prudish stereotypes to which their children and grandchildren consigned them is a project that has occupied scholars for more than a few decades now. Goldhill, a professor at Cambridge, has produced an insightful contribution to that effort. But even more resonant for our own times of sexual and gender heterodoxy—when ambiguity is the new frontier—is what the Bensons can tell us about the prehistory. As a great deal of queer history has by now demonstrated, the strictly defined categories of “homosexual” and “heterosexual” are relatively new: bright lines drawn across the late-20th-century sexual landscape that made “coming out” a dichotomous choice.

For the Victorians, the situation was much more fluid. A woman’s romantic interest in another woman could be seen as excellent preparation for marriage. Though sex between men was a criminal offense (in Britain, lesbianism was invisible before the law), there was, as yet, hardly a homosexual identity defined by same-sex desire. Until the early 1950s, a man could have sex with another man without thinking himself in any respect “abnormal”—as long as he steered clear of the feminine dress or behavior that marked a so-called pouf or queen. To pry off the Benson roof is to ask the question: What was it like to live before and during the invention of modern sexuality.

Of all the doings in the Benson household, the most discomfiting to our own sensibilities is Edward’s romance with Minnie. She was just 11 when Edward decided to make her his wife, though at her mother’s insistence, he agreed to delay the wedding until Minnie turned 18. In opting for a child bride, Edward was calculating as well as passionate: It would be a few years before he had enough money to marry, and here was an opportunity to mold his future wife to suit his own pious requirements. For her part, Minnie was girlishly eager to please.

Domineering, moody, given to fits of displeasure, a fiend for detail, Edward was a cartoonish Victorian patriarch. His children were frightened of him. “He brought too heavy guns to bear on positions so lightly fortified as children’s hearts,” his son Fred wrote. Minnie put up with Edward’s bullying, accommodated his ambitions, soothed him when he was depressed, entertained the hordes of guests that high clerical office entailed, and only occasionally lapsed into bouts of ill health.

But there was much more going on in the archbishop’s marriage than a simple story of feminine acquiescence. Minnie’s intimate friendships with other ladies frequently tipped into romances, one of which—with a Miss Hall—caused her to prolong a trip to Germany, away from her husband and six children (ages seven months to 11 years) for half a year. Even allowing for the extravagant language in which Victorian women conducted their female friendships, Minnie’s letters to her favorites were unremittingly romantic: “Did you possess me, or I you, my Heart’s Beloved, as we sat there together on Thursday and Friday—as we held each other close, as we kissed.” Another letter to the same woman closed with equal rapture: “My true lover, my true love, see, I am your true lover, your true love.”

Edward Benson clearly understood, and to a certain degree accepted, his wife’s longings for other women. The subject was discussed by the couple, not hidden. Edward took Minnie on his knee to pray together about these stirrings. “Ah, my husband’s pain, what he bore, & how lovingly, how gently,” she wrote years later in a journal. And it was of course Edward who invited Lucy Tait, 15 years younger than his wife, to live with the Benson family. Paying homage to Edward’s generosity and to the “fullness and strength of married love,” Minnie worked to reconcile her sexual and spiritual longings. If “Love is God,” as she came to believe, then passion could exist without physical expression—though, as she acknowledged, with Miss Tait lying beside her, the bed continued to be their “own region of mistake.”

If all of this sounds bewildering, that, for Goldhill, is precisely the point. Absolute as Victorian moral certainties appeared to be, they nonetheless permitted a great deal of ambiguity in matters romantic and sexual, even in the most respectable of families. The marriage of Minnie and Edward—“intricate, sensitive, caring, and deeply committed,” as Goldhill describes it—ran alongside her love for women. True, the complications of the Benson marriage caused some anguish on both sides and undeniably left their children confused as to the state of their parents’ feelings for each other. But to his credit, Goldhill doesn’t attempt to tidy up the Bensons’ complexities.

Like the best writers working in a biographical vein recently (many of whom eschew the conventions and certainties of biography), he uses the inner conflicts of his subjects to immerse his readers in an unfamiliar and disorienting world. He doesn’t diagnose the Bensons retrospectively and anachronistically as a family of repressed homosexuals. Instead, he dwells on the equivocations and the accommodations that could be made “within the tramlines and travails of a very conventional life.” Not least, Goldhill appreciates the Bensons’ own feat of simultaneously probing and withholding as they churned out all those books, many of them devoted to their family relations.The Bensons’ memoiristic zeal was phenomenal—from Arthur’s two-volume, 1,000-page biography of his forbidding father, to Fred’s three volumes of memoirs and book about his mother’s life after his father’s death, to Hugh’s autobiographical musings. And that is merely a sampling of the family’s output (Arthur’s diaries ran to 180 volumes), and leaves out the novels in which they most freely worked over the incidents of family life. Yet the Bensons’ loquacity was remarkable chiefly, as Goldhill notes, for its reserve.

Arthur’s biographical avalanche gave away almost nothing about how he felt about his august parent: “His heart and mind remained, and still remain, a good deal of mystery to me.” In one of Arthur’s novels, by contrast, a small boy named Arthur writes “I hate papa” on a scrap of paper, which he buries in the garden. About the vexed marriage of the elder Bensons, Arthur and Fred were equally inscrutable. Fred managed the feat of making Minnie and Edward sound almost ordinary, describing his father’s courtship of the 11-year-old girl as a “little authentic Victorian love story.” Arthur, while acknowledging marital tensions, took refuge in constrained understatement. After Minnie got married, he wrote, she “began to experience a certain fear as to whether she could give my father exactly the quality of affection which he claimed.”

Above all else, Arthur and Fred, the two main memoirists of the family, were cagey about sex. Today, we name sexual orientations and gender identities in order to live freely; confession is the mode of liberation. By contrast, the Bensons cultivated what Goldhill terms a “highly articulate indirectness.” One way of understanding their reticence is as a queerness that was writing itself, falteringly, into being. In Arthur’s case, that seems an apt description of discretion exercised, paradoxically enough, at great length and over many volumes.

“Anyone might think they could get a good picture of my life from these pages, but it is not so,” Arthur mused in his diaries, noting (without naming) the subjects he kept in his “carefully locked and guarded strong room.” Although he dilated on the pleasures of sentimental friendships with the boys in his care, he studiously policed their platonic boundaries, rejoicing in the bronzed bodies at the swimming bath but skirting anything that smacked of lust. Was it possible, Arthur wondered, that he had “the soul of a woman in the body of a man”? Even though the term homosexual was coming into currency, he did not use it until 1924, the year before he died. And when he did use it, after a theoretical conversation on the subject with Fred, he wrote the word out—“the homo sexual question”—in a way that suggested unfamiliarity.

There’s another way of understanding reticence, though, which Fred, Arthur’s sunnier brother, supplies. Although Fred lived to see the new mores of the post–World War I world (he was the last of the family to go, in 1940), in a curious fashion he clung to his Victorian inheritance. He saw the virtue—and, perhaps more important, the utility—of reserve. It laid the groundwork for a person’s privacy. What wasn’t said and couldn’t be named allowed a latitude for action.

Fred’s enigmatic judgment about his mother’s marriage was characteristic: “If her marriage was a mistake, what marriage since the world began was a success?” Writing in 1930, Fred thought the much-deplored “Victorian reticences and secrecies” needed defending in an increasingly confessional era. They were “profitable as well as prudish.” The same year, Virginia Woolf (who had both a husband and a female lover) lamented the erosion of sexual ambiguity. Unlike Fred Benson, she was unsentimental about her Victorian upbringing, yet as the dichotomy between homosexual and heterosexual solidified, she could see what had been lost: “Where people mistake, as I think, is in perpetually narrowing and naming these immensely composite and wide flung passions—driving stakes through them, herding them between screens.”As ambiguity and in-betweenness have rolled around again, they inevitably look different than they did to the Victorians. The Bensons expended millions of words questing after the building blocks of identity. Today, Edward, Minnie, and the kids would log on to Facebook, make their choice from an extensive ready-made menu—everything from pangender to the plain-vanilla cis man—and share the result with an army of “friends.” The irony of all this is something that no gay liberationist would have thought possible when the campaign for homosexual rights was regarded as a grave threat to the social order. Sandwiched between the fluidity of the Victorian years and the proliferating sexual and gender identities of the new millennium, the late 20th century’s straight-gay paradigm looks decidedly old-fashioned—maybe even a little stodgy.

Lady Gaga’s Super Gay Super Bowl Halftime Show Came When We Needed It Most

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Daily Beast

Lady Gaga put on one helluva Super Bowl halftime show. More, she made a pointed political statement about equality and LGBT acceptance at a time when fear and divisiveness rule.

In bedazzled hot pants, looking like some sort of sequined alien elf, and perched in genderqueer androgynous glory on the roof of a football stadium, Lady Gaga belted out “God Bless America,” sang a few phrases of “This Land Is Your Land,” and recited the unity statement: “one nation under God…” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Then she jumped off the damn building.

This is Lady Gaga’s America. And it’s the one I’d like to think I live in.

Rumors flew ahead of Gaga’s psychedelic extravaganza of pyrotechnics, athletic dancing, messages of acceptance, aerial stunts, drone choreography, and even a keytar.

Beyoncé might come! (She did not, thus making Gaga’s choice of “Telephone” in the medley a cruel tease.) She’ll enter from the roof! (She did, descending suspended from wires that continued to whisk her through the sky like the star of the best drag queen production of Peter Pan you’ll ever see.)

She’ll get political! (She sort of did.) She won’t get political. (She also sort of didn’t.) And, my favorite, she’ll perform a satanic ritual. (Unless you count the witchcraft required for her to dance like that in those fabulous high-heeled boots, sorry, Alex Jones, she did not.)

What did happen was a high-energy one-woman show that soared on the star power and conviction of its tireless performer, whose vocals somehow never sounded better than during what amounted to one of the most athletic Super Bowl halftime shows we’ve seen.

More, the performance was akin to Gaga, nearly a decade after her debut with “Just Dance,” planting her rainbow flag atop the mountain she’s spent her career climbing, leading her parade of fans—the outcasts, the outsiders, the rebels, and, yes, the gays—on the march up.

On the biggest stage any performer—any human, really—can have, at a traditionally conservative showcase in front of a traditionally conservative audience, at a time when our culture is careening down a spiral of divisiveness, exclusion, fear, and hate, Lady Gaga very pointedly used her own position as a cultural lightning rod to electrify a message that was pro-gay, pro-unity, pro-feminist, pro-weirdo, and pro-fabulous. At a time when we need it the most.

Did Lady Gaga keep politics out of her performance, or was the spectacle’s entire existence its own political act?

As we brace for what we assume will be the inevitable Fox News backlash to whatever “dangerous” or unpatriotic messages they might parse out of Gaga’s halftime show, it’s clear that everything on a public stage is now also political.

The political climate has cast storm clouds of thunderous conversation over the entire country. Anyone who steps out in it is basically a political storm chaser. And Lady Gaga? She’s typically leading the charge.

Like everything Lady Gaga does, the political undertones to her performance were admirably earnest and annoyingly heavy-handed. Having light-up drones move into an American flag formation while you recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Powerful, if schlocky.

Knowing how polarizing even just her image tends to be made the opening its own baiting—and perhaps even confrontational—act. The insinuation that she, dressed like that, purports to represent America is enough to blow gaskets through certain parts of the country. You almost couldn’t hear the chorus of “Yaaas!” from gay bars around the nation through the whistles of steam coming out the ears, Fred Flintstone-style, of traditionalists.

But yet there she was, her hair teased, her thigh-highs sparkling, and her troop of background dancers in unison behind her as she belted with unbridled glee the lyrics to “Born This Way”: “No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to survive / No matter black, white or beige / Chola or orient-made / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to be brave.”

At a time when gay rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, minority rights, and civil rights at large are at risk, when LGBT struggles and queer violence, depression, suicide rates, and acceptance continue to dominate political and cultural conversations, it meant something for Lady Gaga to sing those words on that stage in front of so many eyeballs.

It made some of us feel seen, and, even if briefly, safe. Empowered, perhaps. Maybe it made some of us angry to hear those words in this venue, a venue that some believe should be stripped of political statements. Maybe it made some of us annoyed that Lady Gaga just singing that song was going to inspire insufferable “What Does It Mean?” critical dissections like this one, and maybe it annoyed some of us that Lady Gaga didn’t do more with her platform.

Perhaps, but Lady Gaga, both with her National Anthem last year and Super Bowl performance on Sunday night, is a vital reminder that all those people listed in her song are also patriots. That patriots can wear bedazzled hot pants and theatrical-as-hell makeup. That you can like dancing to Lady Gaga’s music in thigh-highs and also enjoy football, and our country.

It was a quietly subversive performance that made a loud impression. Lady Gaga’s biggest political statement was simply being herself, and a reminder for us all to keep, at all costs, doing the same.

But beyond “saying something,” Lady Gaga put on a show—and a helluva one at that.

A reminder of just how unrivaled she’s been this past decade in terms of pop music excellence, she breezed through a medley of her best hits: “Poker Face,” “Born This Way,” “Telephone,” “Just Dance,” “Million Reasons,” and “Bad Romance.”

She attacked each with the fatigueless ferociousness that has defined her career, transitioning between aerial tricks and complicated choreography to playing the piano and the keytar, all while letting it rip with full-throated clarity.

She staged one of the most artistically cohesive halftime shows, too, with a clear aesthetic—part rock concert, part underground alien dance party—that unified the entire set, building to a “Bad Romance” finale that had flames billowing behind her as she unleashed her own fire vocals from atop a rising platform.

We’d all be lucky to have half the conviction for anything as Lady Gaga has when she’s tackling a live performance, a confidence that translates almost to a hunger when she begins sinking her teeth into a set. It’s contagious and energizing, perhaps explaining why we were somewhat breathless by the time she didn’t just drop the mic at the end of the show, but literally throw it down. Such a showboating gesture has never been more earned.

It was actually rather inspiring to listen to Lady Gaga talk about the goals she had for the performance at a press conference last week.

“Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us, so this performance is for everyone. I want to, more than anything, create a moment that everybody who’s watching will never forget—not for me, but for themselves,” she said.

This whole political statement debate? “The only statements I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I have been consistently making throughout my career,” she said. “I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality, and [I believe] the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness, so my performance will uphold those philosophies.”

It’s one thing to hear that, and another to watch it unfold over the course of 13 minutes on TV, fatigued from another week of horrifying headlines and cultural frustration that’s long passed its boiling point. Who knew how much we’d need Lady Gaga right now?

“Essentially, that kid that couldn’t get a seat at the cool kids table and that kid who was kicked out of the house because his mom and dad didn’t accept him for who he was? That kid is going to have the stage for 13 minutes,” she said. “And I’m excited to give it to them.”

And we needed to receive it.

Gay elected to Frandsen Bank & Trust Board of Directors

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Pine Journal

Frandsen Financial Corporation (“FFC”) CEO Rich Hoban announces the FFC Board of Directors elected Mike Gay to the Frandsen Bank & Trust Board of Directors during their Jan. 24 board meeting. Gay currently serves as the president of the Frandsen Bank & Trust office in Cloquet and has been with the Frandsen organization since 2009. Gay will commence his duties on the Board of Directors at the Feb. 27 meeting.

“Mike has shown great leadership in the Cloquet market as it is consistently among Frandsen Bank’s top performing offices,” said Hoban. “Mike’s ability to grow his office’s loans significantly, team building aptitude, and strategic vision will serve him well in his new board position.”

“I am honored to have been elected to the board of directors and I am eager to contribute,” said Gay. “Additionally, I’m excited to be a part of the team that helps us move towards our goal of growing to $2 billion.”

Gay is as an active community leader having served on the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank Board as chair and treasurer, the Cloquet Community Hospital Foundation Board as chair, and the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce Board as the current chair. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance with a minor in economics from St. Cloud State University.

Gay and his wife, Monica, have three children. In his free time, he enjoys golfing, hunting, riding horses, and being involved with local politics.

WATCH: Liza delivers lines in gay lingo

Monday, February 6th, 2017

ABS-CBN News

MANILA – A video of Liza Soberano delivering her lines in the movie “My Ex and Whys” using gay lingo is now making the rounds online.

Uploaded by Star Magic on Instagram, the clip shows the 19-year-old actress gamely taking on the challenge that had netizens laughing.

The lines Soberano delivered were all part of the “My Ex and Whys” trailer.

Also starring Soberano’s love team partner Enrique Gil, “My Ex and Whys” follows the story of how a former playboy tries to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he is a changed man.

The new romantic comedy movie will show how its lead characters struggle to find the answer to the question, “Why do you still love someone who has hurt you?”

Directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, “My Ex and Whys” will open in cinemas on February 15.

Preacher locked up for hate crime after quoting the Bible to gay teenager

Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Telegraph

Christian evangelist was accused of a hate crime and locked up in a cell after preaching from the Bible to a gay teenager.

Gordon Larmour, 42, was charged by police after telling the story of Adam and Eve to a 19-year-old who asked him about God’s views on homosexuality.

The street preacher referred to the Book of Genesis and stated that God created Adam and Eve to produce children.

Within minutes he was frogmarched to a police van, accused of threatening or abusive behaviour ‘aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation’ – despite not swearing or using any form of offensive language.

The father-of-one spent a night in custody and faced a six-month ordeal before a sheriff cleared him of any blame.

The incident, which occurred in his home town of Irvine in Ayrshire, has become a rallying point for Christian campaigners who are concerned that freedom of speech is being stifled by political correctness.

Mr Larmour told the Scottish Mail on Sunday: “I can’t see why I was arrested in the first place – it was a massive overreaction and a waste of everyone’s time. The police didn’t listen to me. They took the young homosexual guy’s side straight away and read me my rights.

“I feel they try so hard to appear like they are protecting minorities, they go too far the other way. I want to be able to tell people the good word of the Gospel and think I should be free to do so. I wasn’t speaking my opinions – I was quoting from the Bible.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is a great relief that the judge ruled in favour of Gordon, because the case simply did not stand up to scrutiny.”

Mr Larmour is a born-again Christian who has been street preaching for seven years. At around 7.30pm on July 17 last year he was handing out leaflets on Irvine’s High Street when a group of young men passed him.

He told them: “Don’t forget Jesus loves you and He died for your sins.” One asked Mr Larmour, “What does your God say about homosexuals?”

The two argued and Mr Larmour claimed he was chased by the young man. However, he was the one arrested when the police arrived.

He said: “I think the police should have handled it differently and listened to what I had to say. They should have calmed the boy down and left it at that.

“In court the boy’s friend told the truth – that I hadn’t assaulted him or called him homophobic names. I had simply answered his question and told him about Adam and Eve and Heaven and Hell. Preaching from the Bible is not a crime.”

At Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last month, Sheriff Alistair Watson ruled there was no case to answer and acquitted Mr Larmour of threatening or abusive behaviour, aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation.

The sheriff also found him not guilty of a second charge of assault aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation.

From Sean Connery to Harrison Ford: actors who secretly played roles gay

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

The Guardian

The sexual orientation of film characters isn’t always what it first seems – some leading men have reinterpreted their parts as they move from page to screen

Gus van Sant’s feel-good drama Finding Forrester, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this month, has been forgotten with good reason. It recycles from his earlier film Good Will Hunting the story of a wayward teenage genius nurtured by an older mentor, only this time the boy’s talents are literary, not mathematical. But it does have some curiosity value thanks to its title character.

The reclusive novelist William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, has a secret that is never mentioned on screen. I discovered it by accident when I met Van Sant in 2008 while he was editing Milk, his film about the openly gay politician Harvey Milk. It was odd, I suggested, that despite being out himself, Van Sant hadn’t made a picture with gay characters since My Own Private Idaho 15 years earlier. He looked mildly startled. “Wow … uh … I guess you’re right.” Then he put me straight: “Well, there was Finding Forrester.” I wracked my brains. Who was gay in that? “Sean,” he said, matter-of-factly. “It wasn’t in the script. The studio didn’t want us to advertise it. But Sean wanted to play that part as gay.”

Performers routinely give their characters histories to which audiences are oblivious. But this feels particularly intriguing in the case of Connery, who has never knowingly deviated on screen from staunch heterosexuality. Interviews he gave to promote the film don’t provide much clarity. “I suppose there could be undercurrents that my character is closeted,” he said. Either he is playing extremely hard-to-get, or his decision to make the character gay was so secret that even he forgot about it. There are clues in the film itself, which seems to present Forrester initially as a gay voyeur. When we first meet him, he is standing in his apartment, squinting through his binoculars. “What we have here is an adult male,” he purrs. “Quite pretty.” But the joke is on us: it’s only a Connecticut warbler. Forrester is a watcher of birds, not men.

When 16-year-old Jamal (Rob Brown) breaks into Forrester’s apartment as a dare, he accidentally leaves behind his rucksack, and the novelist later hangs the bag in his window as a taunt to the intruder. You might say it’s the first of their primitive courtship rituals. The youngster comes to retrieve his bag and finds the notebooks inside daubed with encouragements. Submitting an essay to Forrester, he places it tentatively on the writer’s doorstep like raw meat to coax a bear out of hiding.

If Connery really did play the part as secretly gay, he wouldn’t be the first actor to keep a character in the closet. Early in his career, Harrison Ford was the mildly sinister corporate PA in Francis Ford Coppola’s thriller The Conversation. “I played a character who was gay so nobody would recognise me from American Graffiti,” he said, referring to the George Lucas comedy in which he had appeared the previous year. “There was no role there until I decided to make him a homosexual.”

Whatever stories Ford told himself in order to bring the role to life were plainly successful. It’s a brief but effective performance, though one in which sexual orientation remains a private matter between actor and character. Unless, that is, you count the home-baked Christmas cookies he has brought into the office, which may be as much of a giveaway cliche as that incriminating bottle of Perrierin the black comedy Heathers.

Cary Grant and Martin Landau in North By Northwest.
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Cary Grant and Martin Landau in North By Northwest. Photograph: MGM/REX/Shutterstock

Gay characters have always been siphoned off into the area of villainy, so it was nothing new for Ernest Lehman to write in his screenplay for North by Northwestthat the menacing Leonard, played by Martin Landau, displays “unmistakably effeminate” behaviour. But it is Landau who now claims the credit for bringing layers of sexual jealousy to the role. “I decided to play him as a homosexual, very subtly, because otherwise he would have been just a henchman,” he told me. “He wasn’t a bad guy; he was just trying to keep a relationship alive by getting rid of the woman who had usurped him. I realised that all of this would make him very dangerous – it made his grievance personal. The only person who didn’t like this was James Mason because it cast aspersions on his character; it basically turned him into a bisexual.” Landau also claims that Lehman supplied an extra line (“Call it my woman’s intuition, if you will,” says Leonard at one point) to support his interpretation.

Arthur Laurents recalls prospective stars being scared off by the gay overtones in another Hitchcock thriller, Rope, which he co-wrote with Hume Cronyn. “We’d wanted Cary Grant for the teacher and Montgomery Clift for one of the boys, and they both turned it down for the same reason – their image. They felt they couldn’t risk it. Eventually John Dall and Farley Granger played the boys, and they were very aware of what they were doing. Jimmy Stewart, however, who played the teacher, wasn’t at all.”

Love interest … Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur
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Love interest … Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/MGM

Charlton Heston was just as oblivious to the subtext of Ben-Hur, which had been arrived at through the collusion of the writer Gore Vidal, the director William Wyler and Heston’s co-star, Stephen Boyd, who played Ben-Hur’s friend Messala. The two characters’ rivalry lacked weight so Vidal suggested that Messala hoped secretly to rekindle a boyhood romance between them. “Don’t tell Chuck,” said Wyler. However, Vidal did tip off Boyd. “He agreed to play the frustrated lover,” Vidal said. “Study his face in the reaction shots in that scene, and you will see that he plays it like a man starving.”

Adrien Brody, Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line
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Adrien Brody, Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line Photograph: Merie W Wallace/Associated Press

Actors are always developing interior lives for their characters: it’s what they do. The difference in the case of sexuality is that those choices are often regarded as commercially risky. After all, characters such as Corporal Fife (Adrien Brody) inThe Thin Red Line and Paul Varjak (George Peppard) in Breakfast at Tiffany’swere straightened out en route from page to screen. A gay encounter in a prison shower in Midnight Express was altered on film to make it seem as though one man was rebuffing the other. “I wish that they’d let the steam in the shower come up and obscure the act itself instead of showing a rejection,” complained Billy Hayes, with some justification: he lived through the real-life version and knew what really happened.

‘All my characters are gay’ … Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
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‘All my characters are gay’ … Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Photograph: Allstar/Disney/Sportsphoto Ltd.

When audiences at test screenings reacted negatively to two lesbian characters in the Steve Martin comedy LA Story, the studio responded by removing all references to their sexuality. So no wonder Disney executives were aghast when they clapped eyes on dailies showing Johnny Depp camping it up deliciously as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. “They couldn’t stand him,” Depp said in 2010. “They just couldn’t stand him. I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, ‘He’s ruining the movie.’ Upper-echelon Disney-ites were going, ‘What’s wrong with him? Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?’ And so I actually told this woman who was the Disney-ite: ‘But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?’ Which really made her nervous.”

Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro in The Score.
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Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro in The Score. Photograph: Reuters

In an ideal world, the subject of sexuality would be made visible without being promoted to the status of defining characteristic. For James Gandolfini in The Mexican and Laurie Metcalf in Internal Affairs, sexual preference is just one detail, alluded to in each case by a giveaway glance at someone of the same sex. The ageing criminal played by Marlon Brando in The Score was written as gay, although no explicit mention of it is made on screen. Sexuality asserts itself instead solely in the area of flamboyant costume design. Brando exhibits a fondness for silk ascots and kimonos. (No, not at the same time. He may be a crook but he’s no monster.) Critics got the hint well enough; Variety described the character as “an underworld Truman Capote.”

The gay viewer has traditionally been so severely starved of onscreen visibility that even slim pickings and burnt offerings can be rustled up into a banquet of sorts. A romance between a suicidal man and a corpse, which is what occurs in the recent Swiss Army Man, may not smack of positive representation but it is touchingly played by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe with all the sincerity ofBrokeback Mountain. (“We just kept rewriting and rewriting, until we allowed them to fall in love,” said the co-director Daniel Kwan.)

And is Casey Affleck really playing a closeted engineer in the Disney disaster movie The Finest Hours? He has no family to speak of and one colleague describes him as “a single man who’s always hiding down below”. Case closed, I’d say.

Finding Forrester is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 20 February

No, Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t being offensive by saying that people ‘chose’ to be gay

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

The Independent

There is a general assumption among liberal thinkers that everything is now fine for people in the LGBT community. But having been called obscene names and subject to looks of disgust after daring to kiss my partner in public, I have no doubt many still wish we would stay in the closet

Despite all the furore surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s latest gaffe,that people “chose” to be gay, the argument that the Labour leader is somehow an ignorant homophobe is nonsense.

The truth is, I have no idea why I’m gay, and while it would be nice to think that I was “born this way”, and genetic studies strongly suggest this may well be the case, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a “lifestyle choice”, to borrow a phrase that’s been thrown at me by religious friends.

Denying that it cannot be a choice devalues the experiences of those that have made such a decision, and adds an extra layer of discrimination that the LGBT community does not need. I’ve never met anyone that claims to have consciously decided to be gay, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

But what did Corbyn really mean when he said, at an LGBTHistory Month launch event, that he stood by those who choose to be LGBT in any form? Well, the key word he probably meant to include was “openly”. And quite frankly, being openly gay can still be an absolute chore. From spending your whole life coming out, to not being able to hold hands with your partner in public without fear of verbal and physical abuse, and, yes, death. While the laws of this country are on our side, there is always the fear that these laws can be rescinded.

There is a general assumption among liberal thinkers that everything is now fine for people in the LGBT community, but having been called a “faggot”, “sick f***”, and been subject to looks of disgust after daring to kiss my partner in public, I have no doubt many still wish we would stay in the closet.

I understand the mere suggestion that it’s a choice can be troubling, especially as this reasoning is used to justify unethical practices such as gay conversion therapy. I also spent many years challenging this rhetoric, as I sought to justify who I was to myself and others around me. But trying to promote some one-size-fits-all reasoning for our existence so straight people can understand it, reinforces the idea that we have to socially manage ourselves to be accepted.

Crowd of people hold LGBT dance party outside Mike Pence’s house

I am proud of being gay. It gives me a perspective on life that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I understand what it’s like to have to worry about whether it’s safe to visit certain countries, whether your career will be hindered because of an aspect of your identity and I understand what it’s like to feel the buck of tiresome, cliché jokes that diminish your very being. But if we get up in arms every time someone dares to suggest that it is a choice (for some) and accidentally as appears to have been the case with Corbyn this week, we imply that if given the option we would choose to be straight.

Corbyn’s parliamentary record speaks for itself. Time and time again he has voted to enhance the rights of LGBT people in this country. The same cannot be said of Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, who abstained at the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and voted against regulations to prevent people from being denied goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. So before we all start rushing to join the Lib Dems, please consider this old cliché: actions speak louder than words. Corbyn will never be the greatest orator, but he backs gay rights. I have no doubt about that.

 

New HIV infections in gay men have dropped by a third in England

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

New Scientist

New HIV infections in gay men have fallen by nearly a third since 2015 across England, New Scientist can reveal. And it may be down to people buying medicines online, against mainstream medical advice.

A similar fall was reported by four London sexual health clinics in December. The new results, which are preliminary figures from all sexual health clinics in England for 2016, show the trend is happening across the country.

This data was presented on Wednesday at the HepHIV conference in Malta byValerie Delpech of Public Health England. “Provisional data suggests that HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in England has fallen, although it is not possible to confirm this at a national level until all data for 2016 have been received,” she told New Scientist

Until last year just over half of new HIV infections were in gay men in the UK, so a fall in this group will have a big impact on the course of the epidemic.

 

(New Scientist has confirmed that this slide refers to STI clinics in England only, not the whole UK as indicated).

One explanation is that the drop is down to people taking medicines that slash their chances of catching HIV, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.

But these drugs aren’t available on the NHS and generally cost around £400 a month if prescribed privately. So growing numbers of gay men are buying generic versions from online pharmacies in India and elsewhere.

Buying abroad

Official NHS advice is that this is dangerous. “Medicines purchased in this way could have the wrong active ingredient, no active ingredient, or an incorrect dosage,” says a spokesperson for the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. “Prescription medicines are “prescription only” for good reason.”

But many are buying their generics through a website called I Want PrEP Now, which works with NHS clinics to check the drugs are genuine. Doctors also provide the generics users with urine tests, to check the medicine isn’t causing kidney damage, as this is a possible side-effect.

There are other explanations for the fall, however, including wider testing and encouraging people to start taking HIV medicines as soon as they’re diagnosed. This makes them much less likely to pass on the infection because it cuts the amount of virus in their genital fluids.

Whether it’s PrEP or more treatment that’s causing the fall is important, because the NHS is currently working out how to make the medicine available as part of a 10,000-person trial in gay and straight people.

The new figures for England are “great news” says Gus Cairns of the HIV information charity, NAM, who attended the conference. “Something is working.”

Being gay, being in the military: ‘You couldn’t be who you wanted to be’

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Lincoln Journal Star

He had to lie when he joined the Marines in 1980.

Gregory Smith was still in high school in Pocatello, Idaho, when he enlisted, and he would report for boot camp two days after graduation.

He chose the Marines because his parents didn’t think he could handle it, he said, and he was a little rebellious when he was 17.

But not rebellious enough to answer the recruiter honestly.

“I can remember being asked when I went in if I was gay. And you couldn’t be gay.”

He had to keep quiet when he joined the Nebraska Army National Guard more than two decades later. He’d ended up in Lincoln, and with those eight years in the Marines, needed just a dozen more to qualify for active-duty retirement benefits.

He was almost 40 and openly gay. But now he had to be careful again, especially after moving in with his partner, John Burns.

“Everybody knew me, but they didn’t know about my private life. With Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they could ask, but only if they had suspicions. They had to have evidence, concrete stuff.”

He could finally be himself in 2011, when the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed, when being gay was no longer grounds for termination from the military.

Gregory was a married man that same day. He and John wasted no time traveling to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to stand before a judge, then return to Nebraska with the same last names.

And without the need to hide publicly who they were privately.

“It felt really good,” Gregory Smith-Burns said. “I could be out and open.”

* * *

Gregory Smith-Burns retired last week after serving the National Guard full-time since 2003. The master sergeant and his husband were the first active-duty military couple in Nebraska to be married, and now they’re likely the first to retire.

He served for a total of nearly 22 years, but with a 15-year break between stints. So he can remember what it was like to wear a uniform long before the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, during a time when President Ronald Reagan declared that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”

And it was tough. He couldn’t be himself as a young Marine. Not at boot camp in San Diego, or at Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms or Okinawa.

“You couldn’t be who you wanted to be, not if you wanted a career in the military. You couldn’t date anybody or see anybody or really have any kind of romantic and meaningful life like anyone else could.”

He knew other gay Marines and he’d see them off the base, at parties or at bars.

“But the minute we were at work, they didn’t know me, they didn’t know who I was.”

The years under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell weren’t necessarily easier. Under the 1993 policy, the military stopped asking if recruits were gay, but soldiers and sailors could be kicked out if they came out.

Gregory would get to work on Mondays at Camp Ashland and listen to other soldiers talk about what they did over the weekend with their wives and families. He couldn’t share.

“I could never say my partner or my husband or my spouse; no one knew about that aspect in my life because I couldn’t talk about it. I had to watch what I said.”

But he had another life.

He met John Burns at a party in Omaha in late 2007.

“Afterward, he looked me up,” John said, “and we started chatting.”

Then they started dating. They moved in together in 2008.

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John, who works on the rail car line at Kawasaki, said he understood what Gregory was facing, why his partner would look over his shoulder when they were in public, why it could be dangerous to even hold hands.

They lived like that — quietly, with their guard up — for nearly four years.

“I had already been out for years prior to that, but when you’re with someone in the military, you can’t openly express that,” John said. “You never know if you were going to see some of his fellow soldiers.”

* * *

The policy prohibiting homosexuality in the armed forces disappeared at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

Gregory and John were married before lunch.

They were on the front page of the newspaper the next day.

And they learned they hadn’t been as effective hiding their relationship as they thought they’d been.

“I don’t know how many phone calls I got that said, ‘Congratulations, but we always knew you were gay,’” Gregory said.

He returned to work to find hundreds of emails and a full voicemail box. He estimated 90 percent of the messages were positive, encouraging.

“And I had a couple of run-ins with higher-ups who congratulated me. I never got the feeling that any of it was not sincere.”

But there was backlash. Some soldiers accused him of seeking attention. Some said he wasn’t right in the head, and they didn’t want him showering in the same locker room.

Some even complained to his superiors, saying they couldn’t serve with Gregory — and if he didn’t go, they wanted to.

His sergeant major supported him.

“He told those people if they wanted to transfer, he would honor their request.”

And he remembers friends stepping up, telling his critics to shut up and to grow up.

Mellessa Dasenbrock served with Gregory before and after he married John. The change in her friend was remarkable, she said, a 180-degree turn.

“I saw a lot less stress. He seemed to joke around a lot more and have more fun, and he really started to enjoy his life. Before, he was really uptight, and I did tell him he was bitchy.”

She also saw the “manly men” in the Guard who were unable to accept Gregory. She’d tell them: “He’s got that right now. The military made that right.”

John’s life changed, too, in the wake of the repeal. He was eligible for benefits. More than that, though, he could play a more complete role in Gregory’s world.

“I was able to go out to the base and got to meet a bunch of people. I was able to become part of his military life, officially.”

After they were married, John was asked to serve on a panel discussion for the National Guard on LGBT issues. He said it was important to him to let people know it wasn’t just those in the military making sacrifices.

“It was actually kind of cool to be part of that, so people can know what it’s like to be the person in the relationship with the soldier, to have to be careful about who you talk to and what you do in public.”

Gregory hasn’t decided what’s next for him. He’s applying for jobs. He’s looking back at his military career, and he knows younger soldiers will never know what it’s like to have to hide who they are.

But he also knows there’s still work to be done. There are still chaplains who won’t support gay soldiers. Still progress to be made on transgender issues. Still people to convince that being gay doesn’t diminish the ability to do the job.

“Gay people are who they are. And I think everybody needs to accept people for the way they are.”

Casey Cizikas: Islanders would welcome a gay player

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Newsday

On a night the Islanders dedicated to raising awareness for the LGBTQ community, their You Can Play ambassador said the NHL and the Isles were ready to embrace an openly gay player.

“I think so,” said Casey Cizikas, the Isles’ representative for You Can Play Awareness night. “We’re a big family. Whoever it is, we’re going to welcome them with open arms. Every team is a family, and it takes every single person to bring that family together. It would definitely be big for the sport.”

Saturday’s event was part of a league-wide initiative that included naming LGBTQ ambassadors on each of the 30 teams. Andrew Shaw, the Canadiens’ ambassador, was suspended one game last season for using a homophobic slur towards an official and said his reason for volunteering to be the team representative was part of his learning process after the suspension and fairly large public outcry.

“It’s become a real big issue and a lot of people are realizing what they can and can’t say,” Cizikas said. “It’s very serious. To bring the NHL family and the community together, it’s big for everybody.”

Cizikas said he has “friends of friends and family friends” from the LGBTQ community. “It definitely wasn’t easy for them growing up,” he said. “But the way the world is now, we’ve come a long way. It’s definitely exciting.”

The You Can Play project started with close ties to the NHL. Brendan Burke, son of Flames president Brian Burke and brother of NHL player safety director Patrick, came out the year before he was killed in a car accident in 2010. The following year Patrick Burke helped found the You Can Play project to promote acceptance for LGBTQ athletes at all levels.

Could NHGOP drop opposition to gay marriage?

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Seacoastonline

After outgoing state GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn called on her party to drop opposition to gay marriage from its platform last weekend, experts said Granite State Republicans are historically more accepting of gay marriage than GOP voters in other parts of the country.

Horn made the call to her party members at the New Hampshire Republican Committee annual meeting Jan. 28 in Derry. In an interview this week, she said the state’s platform contradicts itself and that the party cannot continue to be “the party of the Bill of Rights except for this one small group in one small way.”

Horn would not predict if the party will vote to change the platform when it meets at its next convention in 2018. However, party members said last week they agreed with Horn and hope the change is made. Horn said she was met by about three people who booed when she made the call, while others gave a standing ovation.

Dan Innis, a Republican state senator from New Castle who is gay and married, said last week he has not felt discrimination in the Statehouse and believes the party has become increasingly inclusive. He also said both parties will likely look much different in a couple years from how they now look.

Former Republican state Sen. Nancy Stiles, of Hampton, who Innis replaced, was in the Statehouse when New Hampshire legalized gay marriage. She believes more Granite State Republicans accept gay marriage than don’t. “I can only say I hope it will,” Stiles said. “Those that believe they should will have a louder voice within the party.”

Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, said the New Hampshire GOP has always been made up of “Rockefeller Republicans,” who are less concerned with social issues than fiscal ones. He said that is partly to do with the Granite State being less religious than other regions of the country where Republicans hold a stronger line on issues like gay marriage and abortion. He cited a recent Gallup poll that showed New Hampshire is statistically the least religious state in the country.

Former Republican state Rep. Fred Rice of Hampton said the issue of gay marriage has become less controversial, but he believes the religious Republicans, who believe it violates their beliefs, still have a voice. He described religious Republicans against the LGBT community as “an unstoppable force versus an immovable object.”

Rice believes the state should separate itself from marriage and instead require all couples to apply for civil licenses rather than marriage licenses, removing gay marriage as a political football. The idea was proposed in the Statehouse when New Hampshire was legalizing gay marriage, he said, but it did not gain support.

Horn said religious and sexual freedom are not incompatible, though, and believes picking a side is not the party’s responsibility. “I think it’s appropriate that we are sensitive of (religious freedom), but at the same time, the Republican Party is not a religious entity,” she said. “We are a political entity that advocates for everyone, equal rights under the law.”

Innis’s husband Doug Palardy, who helped run his campaign last year, said there are major misconceptions about the GOP and its relationship with the LGBT community. He believes many on the left wrongly assume the majority of Republicans are discriminatory against gay people and need to take a closer look at what conservatives stand for.

When Palardy was younger, he said he was more inclined to vote Democrat because there were more Democrats than Republicans who openly supported the LGBT community. Still, he said, there were Democrats who were late to support gay marriage, as well, including Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. As he got older, he said he found Republican values did not clash with his identity as a gay man, and believes he has generally not faced discrimination.

“It’s kind of like it’s become training that you just believe the GOP is not supportive of gay rights, period,” Palardy said. “I think it’s become very easy for the gay communities to not do as much homework, read a headline on an article that makes the GOP look poor… It took me a while of delving deeper into the news, doing research, meeting a lot of Republicans, realizing they’re not what people make them out to be.”

Horn said Democrats have been effective in painting the GOP as discriminatory against the LGBT community, and they have used the issue to advance the idea that Republicans are intolerant.

State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said while many Republicans are not opposed to gay marriage, it is still hard to forget that New Hampshire GOP’s platform states it recognizes “marriage as the legal and sacred union between one man and one woman.” “I know that it’s blanket, but it’s the official policy to oppose marriage equality,” he said.

Smith said those who still oppose gay marriage are likely much smaller in number than those who are indifferent or proponents of gay marriage in the GOP. He said opposition to gay marriage appears to be connected to age with younger Republicans having no problem with gay marriage.

Smith said religion is not the only historical driver behind opposition to gay marriage, but it is the one that appears to remain.

“The religious opposition, it’s the last organized opposition to not just gay marriage but homosexuality in general,” Smith said. “Because New Hampshire doesn’t have any strong religious tradition, certainly not now, the opposition to these things was less to start.”

‘This is HORRIFIC’ Fury as trainee priests refer to Jesus as ‘Josie’ in gay slang service

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Express

TRAINEE priests from a leading British theological college have sparked outrage by hurling gay slang into their service.

Cambridge University students have come under fire for labelling God “Gloria”, Jesus “Josie” and the Lord as the “Duchess”.

They tailored the Church of England teachings for a special service to mark lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender month.

The decision has sparked a major row and criticism for “subverting the teaching of Christ.”

Student priests at Westcott House littered their sermons with gay slang from comedians including Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddock on BBC radio’s Round the Horne.

A note about the service told the congregation it was an “attempt in queering the liturgy of Evening Prayer, locating the queer with the compass of faith”.

Members of the gay activist group – the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – have created a version of the Bible in the gay subculture slang of Polari.

Throughout its pages, Jesus is referred to as “she” and the Holy Spirit has been labelled “Fantabulosa Fairy”.

Devout worshippers were left stunned by the nature of the service.

”As a former Westcott ordinand, I’m appalled”

-Reverend Tom Lilley

Reverend Canon Chris Chivers said the type of service had not been approved beforehand and he described it as “hugely regrettable”.

He added: “The service… was completely at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England.

“People found themselves in a situation they hadn’t expected.”

He was forced to give a dressing down to those responsible for the service in front of all at Westcott House.

“Theological colleges are a place where experiments are important and mistakes can be made, because hopefully that means they won’t be made in public ministry,” he said.

“But it can’t be a place where we subvert the doctrine and teaching of the church.”

Reverend Tom Lilley hit out about the service on Twitter and said: “This is horrific. As a former Westcott ordinand, I’m appalled.”

Reverend Andrew Symes, executive secretary of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream, said the service “brings the Church into disrepute”.

Josh Frydenberg: Labor will allow plebiscite on gay marriage

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

The Australian

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists the Coalition’s policy on same-sex marriage remains unchanged amid calls for a free vote in parliament which sits for the first time in 2017 this week.

“I’ve got no doubt all these matters will be discussed in the party room,” Mr Turnbull told the Nine Network.

“But I’m the prime minister and the government’s position is that which we took to the election — which is that this issue should be determined by a vote of every Australian in a plebiscite.”

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne says the Labor Party stood in the way of giving people a vote on same sex marriage by opposing the plebiscite.

“This Saturday coming up we could have been having a vote on marriage equality in Australia, and if that vote had been a yes vote for marriage equality, which I anticipate it would have been, we could have had marriage equality in Australia within a matter of weeks,” Mr Pyne said.

He said it was Labor’s fault that there was currently no Coalition bill before the parliament to address marriage equality.

“Whether there is down the track will be a matter for the government and for my colleagues, but right now we don’t have an option for marriage equality because of Labor’s actions in the Senate,” Mr Pyne said.

Asked whether he would support Liberal colleagues including Warren Entsch, Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Trevor Evans pushing for a free vote in the party room, Mr Pyne said he was in favour of marriage equality but there was currently no bill before the parliament from the Coalition to deal with the issue.

“What happens down the track is a matter for the Prime Minister, for the Cabinet, for the party room,” he said.

Asked whether Tony Abbott should be less outspoken, Mr Pyne said the Liberals did not run a “Stalinist” party.

“We welcome backbenchers’ views,” Mr Pyne said.

“He is allowed to put his view, which is entirely consistent with what he said in the past, and what the government’s position is.”

Earlier, Coalition frontbencher Josh Frydenberg responded to calls from colleagues to abandon a national plebiscite and allow a free vote in parliament by saying that he expects Labor to succumb to pressure and allow the plebiscite, because it is the only way to achieve same sex marriage in this term of government.

Mr Frydenberg said the government had gone to the last election promising a plebiscite and that policy had not changed, despite its failure to pass the Senate.

“That is our policy. It is the Labor Party that has stood in the way of allowing people to marry,” he told Sky News.

“I actually do think that the Labor Party will inevitably blink on this issue because if they’re serious about giving people of the same sex the opportunity to marry, then the best way to do that is through a plebiscite to allow people of all political persuasions and of all differing views on this issue an opportunity to have their say, and then that outcome will make its way through the parliament.”

Labor frontbencher Mark Butler said there was “not a single sign” that the Opposition would change its policy on a same-sex marriage plebiscite.

“Bill Shorten in particular, but the Labor team more broadly went out and talked to the community, particularly talked to groups at the centre of this debate, LGBTI groups, and the overwhelming response, particularly from those groups, is they do not support the community plebiscite,” Mr Butler told Sky News.

“They want a free vote in the parliament. That is Labor’s unshakable position.”

Tony Abbott has warned against abandoning a plebiscite, saying it would break a key election promise.

“Malcolm Turnbull made a clear election commitment that the marriage law would only change by way of people’s plebiscite, not free vote of the parliament,” the former prime minister told Fairfax Media.

“I’m sure he’ll honour that commitment. This isn’t about same-sex marriage, it’s about keeping faith with the people.”

Sydney Liberal MP Craig Kelly also argued that allowing a free vote on the issue would be a “betrayal” of the Coalition’s election commitment to hold a plebiscite.

“To back track and reverse on such a clear election promise during this parliamentary term would be a betrayal of the voting public,” he told AAP.

Mr Entsch, one of the coalition’s leading advocates of same-sex marriage, said he would negotiate privately with colleagues to deal with the issue “once and for all”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has urged Mr Turnbull to “get on with it” and support a free vote on same-sex marriage.

Mr Wilson said it was not news he wanted a change in the law but he had stuck to his party’s commitment for a plebiscite.

He said a Senate inquiry into same sex-marriage draft laws had yet to report back.

“When that committee reports, when that inquiry is concluded, obviously there is going to have to be a discussion,” Mr Wilson told ABC television on Sunday.

“Nothing to do with me pushing for anything or anybody else.”

Labor marriage equality spokeswoman Terri Butler said that if the reports of calls within the Liberal Party to abandon a plebiscite were true, Mr Turnbull should allow a free vote as soon as possible.

“Given that we have the will, we have the power, we have the support for marriage equality, why wouldn’t the parliament vote to pass marriage equality?” Ms Butler said.

“Why would we keep this going? Why wouldn’t we just get this done?”

She said Mr Frydenberg’s view that Labor would succumb to pressure and allow a plebiscite was “wishful thinking”.

“The Liberals have already brought a bill on a plebiscite. It didn’t pass,” she said.

“What we haven’t had a vote on is a bill to amend the marriage act to allow for marriage equality. Let’s have that vote. It’s pretty simple.”

LGBT protest at Stonewall Inn takes on edge amid possible blow to gay right

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

The Guardian

Crowds head to the gay rights landmark as fears mounts over a leaked executive order draft that would enable discrimination in the name of religious freedom

Australia Kimbrough planned to go to the Stonewall Inn in New York twice this weekend.

The first time was Friday night for a casual drink with her girlfriend as it is, after all, a bar.

The second will be on Saturday afternoon when this reliably-shabby little watering hole transforms into its other role as a US national monument, the most famous landmark for the gay rights movement in the world and a rallying point for what could be as many as 20,000 demonstrators protesting against the policies of Donald Trump.

The stated goal of the event outside the Stonewall Inn on Saturday afternoon is to be a solidarity rally for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers outraged by the president’s executive order banning refugees and travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

But the protest is likely to gain a new edge and several thousand extra participants from the emergence into the public domain this week of a leaked draft of an executive order revealing what would be a sweeping federal authorization of discrimination against gays in the name of religious freedom.

While the White House has declined to say when and whether it would sign such an order, the document’s very existence within the administration’s inner circle has rattled many in the community.

“We are going to go there and fight about this, I’ve been trying to block out what Trump’s been doing because it’s so depressing, but they are trying to legalize discrimination and that really makes me sad and angry, there has been so much bad news when he has been in office for such a short time,” said Kimbrough, a 26-year-old New York-based clothing designer and assistant for an app company that provides services to entrepreneurs.

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Kimbrough first spoke to the Guardian last spring in celebration of the news that then-president Barack Obama planned to declare the Stonewall Inn a National Monument to mark it as the place where riots over a police raid on the gays, drag queens and transgender patrons gathering there in 1969 turned into a movement.

She had just met her girlfriend and the US had not long ago made same sex marriage legal nationwide.

“Now I’m so nervous about the next four years, even here in New York City I’m scared,” she said.

Still together, she and her girlfriend will attend Saturday’s rally, which starts at 2pm outside the Stonewall Inn.

It has been organized by a loose coalition of pro-immigration, refugee support and pro-gay groups. There has been talk on social media of smaller events provisionally taking place in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, but New York’s is so far billed as the leading event.

New York City council member Corey Johnson, whose district includes the neighborhoods of the West Village and Chelsea, is a key organizer and told the Guardian that he was shocked by the wording of the leaked draft of the executive order.

“He may not have come out yet and said he wants to persecute gay people but Trump has appointed senior people and cabinet members who are anti-gay and his collusion with the religious right is the equivalent of making a pact with the professional anti-gay forces,” Johnson said.

He added that if the draft order were to be signed by the president it would be “disastrous”.

The document seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations claiming religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and transgender identity, and it aims to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act, according to aversion leaked to the Nation.

The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s West Village.
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The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s West Village. Photograph: Alamy

Johnson said any such order would face strong legal claims to be unconstitutional, similar to the host of legal challenges to last week’s travel ban, which he described as “undemocratic and un-American”.

Floyd Rumohr, executive director of the city’s Brooklyn Community Pride Center, said he expected thousands of patrons of the center to turn out on Saturday and that the events, such as the large demonstrations against the travel ban last weekend and the women’s march were “galvanizing”.

But he added: “We have to be very specific about the greater goal of getting progressives elected at the mid-terms in 2018 and we need to be careful not to use up our limited resources in too many diffuse directions – the administration is aiming to distract us so we get lost in the chaos and exhaust ourselves.”

In another roller-coaster week in Washington, the day before the leak, the White House announced that the executive order protecting federal employees from anti-LGBT discrimination that was first signed in 2014 by Barack Obama wouldcontinue in place.

Then on Thursday Trump vowed to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, delighting evangelicals and the religious right.

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national Republican organization representing gay conservatives, praised Trump for continuing Obama’s anti-discrimination order and mocked Saturday’s protest event as a knee-jerk reaction from the left to a draft order that has yet show any sign of becoming an order.

“Donald Trump is the first Republican president to affirmatively mention the LGBT community. He’s attended a same-sex wedding, praised Elton John’s wedding, welcomed gay members to his Mar-a-Lago club when many minority groups were being denied admission to other prestigious private membership clubs in Florida, and his foundation has donated to LGBT and HIV/Aids causes – it’s historic for a GOP president,” he said.

Angelo said, however, that should the leaked draft order end up being signed by Trump: “We will certainly speak out against that.”

South Carolina elected its first openly gay lawmaker from a historically deep-red district

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

businessinsider

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s first openly gay legislator hails from the unlikeliest of places: an ultra-conservative part of the state that is home to the Christian fundamentalist school Bob Jones University.

Republican Rep. Jason Elliott, a 46-year-old divorce attorney, said his sexual orientation was not an issue in his campaign and is irrelevant to his job at the Statehouse, as his focus will be on improving education, increasing jobs and repairing the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. He expects his votes to align with his GOP colleagues.

“Every South Carolinian has equal rights, not special rights, and I believe each part of the constitution is equally important,” he said. “In South Carolina, that means respecting other people’s viewpoints and protecting religious freedom.”

Elliott ousted four-term GOP incumbent Rep. Wendy Nanney, a Bob Jones graduate and daughter of the university’s longtime academic dean.

Deeply Republican South Carolina is now the 43rd state to have an openly gay legislator. Elliott does not view his election as particularly significant.

“There are people who have a 100% opposite viewpoint from me on the orientation issue, and I respect that, and I understand that, and I’m not threatened by that,” the former prosecutor said. “I think what it says, though, is that we are accepting the fact that people are different from us and that we are a state that is moving toward being open to folks who aren’t exactly like us.”

Jeffery Croucher, 59, said when he moved to Greenville from Florida 16 years ago, he was shocked by the anti-gay signs in people’s yards. Now he sees rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride.

“This area was narrow-minded. They just wouldn’t entertain any other perspective,” said Croucher, adding that while change occurred slowly, it was most dramatic over the last five years.

Elliott’s sexual orientation “shouldn’t have any bearing” on his abilities, Croucher said recently while at a restaurant across from Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating until 2000 and expects students and employees to agree that sex is limited to married, heterosexual couples.

Voters attribute Greenville’s changing views at least partly to people moving into the area over the last two decades to work for BMW, Michelin, or their suppliers. According to the Greenville Area Development Corp., the county is now home to 150 international firms from 25 countries.

Martha McLeod, 88, said she’s often the only Greenville native at community functions. McLeod said she voted for Elliott because she decided it was time for a change. Her husband, George, said he did not, specifically because Elliott is gay.

Jason Elliott SCRep. Jason Elliott shares a laugh during a Ways and Means Subcommittee meeting on technical college funding at the state capitol. Sean Rayford/AP

Elliott, a Greenville native and Clemson University graduate, said he did not fully understand or “accept the reality” of his sexual orientation until about 15 years ago. Elliott, former state director for then-US Rep. Jim DeMint, is a divorced father of a high school senior.

Elliott’s victory over an incumbent was by itself significant, especially since Nanney scored a big win for social conservatives three weeks before the primary. After several years of debate, her bill to ban abortion at 20 weeks became law.

The challenger’s winning message against the former chair of the Greenville County Republican Party was largely old-fashioned constituent service. He hammered her for missing more than 30% of votes in the House over the last two years — absences she said were mostly due to illness. He also knocked on more than 2,500 doors, pledging to be accessible to voters.

Elliott said he also benefited from voters’ overall mood for change. He won with 58% of the vote.

Nanney said Elliott’s sexual orientation was never an issue because he didn’t tell voters he was gay.

No Democrat bothered to run, but Republican Brett Brocato launched a write-in campaign last fall, criticizing Elliott as “uniquely unqualified to defend the family.” He presented himself as an alternative for general election voters who may not have realized Elliott was gay.

Elliott scoffs at the notion people didn’t know.

“If it was a secret, if it was one of the worst-kept secrets I’ve ever known,” he said. But he acknowledges he did not make it part of his campaign.

“You’re not going to go to somebody’s door and say, ‘I’m a candidate for this and this is my sexual orientation.’ That would be an odd way to start a conversation,” he said. “When someone says, ‘What’s your agenda?’ My agenda is the South Carolina agenda.”

Lanneau Grant, 74, said she knew Elliott was gay when she voted for him last June.

“Who cares? I just liked his views. I don’t care what his sexual orientation is,” she said while picking up her grandchildren at a Baptist church in the district. “Greenville is changing. We’re getting more tolerant.”

The other states that have yet to elect an openly gay legislator are Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Tennessee, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund & Institute.

Church expresses ‘huge regret’ after Cambridge LGBT commemoration service held in gay slang language

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

independent

A service given by a trainee priest changed the wording of the liturgy without approval into Polari

The church has expressed huge regret after a service was held using gay slang words which caused “considerable upset”.

A Church of England theological college was forced to issue a statement after it was revealed trainee priests held a service in Polari, an outdated colloquial language used by homosexuals.

Held at the chapel of Westcott House, in Cambridge, the service was commemorating lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) history month.

But the principal of Westcott House, the Rev Canon Chris Chivers, later confirmed the language used had not been authorised, and was at odds with the teaching and doctrine of the church.

The congregation, which was also made up of trainees, was allegedly told the wording was an attempt to “queer the liturgy of evening prayer”.

One of those present confirmed it was led by an ordinand, a trainee priest, rather than a licenced minister.

The scripture and liturgy for the service was printed on to an order of service at the chapel, and used words from the antiquated slang language which fell out of use in the 1960s when homosexuality began to be decriminalised.

While receiving permission to hold the service, a source from the Church of England confirmed a college chaplain had not seen the wording of the service.

An Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel which says: “Rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God”, was changed into Polari to read: “Rend your thumping chest and not your frocks – and turn unto the Duchess your Gloria: for she is bona and merciful”.

And instead of “Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit”, the wording was printed as: “Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy”.

All services delivered by the Church of England legally must be held in the church’s approved liturgy.

Rev Canon Chivers confirmed procedures would be followed to ensure the incident was not repeated.

He said: “I fully recognise that the contents of the service are at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England and that is hugely regrettable.

“Inevitably for some members of the house this caused considerable upset and disquiet and I have spoken at length to those involved in organising the service.

“I will be reviewing and tightening the internal mechanisms of the house to ensure this never happens again.”

Polari, which dates back as far as the 19th century, was used by men to communicate with one another without fear of being discovered when homosexuality was still a crime.

It became part of mainstream culture in the 1960s when it was used on a BBC radio show, Round the Horne starring Kenneth Williams, which starred two Polari-speaking characters.

It slowly fell out of use with the passing and decriminalising of homosexuality in the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

‘Saturday Night Live’ Monologue: Kristen Stewart Drops F-Bomb, Calls Herself ‘So Gay’

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

usmagazine

Starting off on the right foot. Kristen Stewart kicked off Saturday Night Live with a bang on Saturday, February 4, addressing Donald Trump’s tweets, dropping the F-bomb and calling herself “so gay” at one point during her opening monologue.

Stewart then flashed back to 2012, when she made headlines for cheating on then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson with her married Snow White and the Huntsman director,Rupert Sanders. (Us Weekly had the exclusive photos.) At the time, the nation was atwitter over Stewart’s infidelity, and no one was more flustered than Trump.

“Four years ago I was dating this guy named Rob, um, Robert, and we broke up and we got back together, and for some reason, it made Donald Trump go insane,” the actress explained. “Here’s what he actually tweeted — and this is real — ‘Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again — just watch. He can do much better!’”

In total, Stewart said, the 70-year-old real estate mogul tweeted about the affair a total of 11 times, each time extending an olive branch out to Pattinson, 30.

“The president is not a huge fan of me, which is so OK, because Donald, if you didn’t like me then, you’re really probably not going to like me now,” Stewart concluded of the whole Twitter diatribe, “because I’m hosting SNL and I’m like, so gay, dude.”

The Come Swim actress was most recently spotted with girlfriendStella Maxwell at a theme park in Buena Park, California, last month, holding hands and enjoying a fun date night out. Prior to the Victoria’s Secret model, Stewart was also linked to musician St. Vincent, Stephanie “Soko” Sokolinski and Alicia Cargile.

After joshing around with cast members Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant onstage for a bit, Stewart was ready to finally start the show — but shocked the audience when she unexpectedly dropped an F-bomb in the process.

“We’ve got a good show and I totally care that I’m here because it’s the coolest f–king thing ever-,” Stewart said, before immediately realizing that she had just dropped an F-bomb on live TV. Watch the OMG moment in the clip above!

Montreal photographer allegedly refuses to shoot gay wedding

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

CTVNews.ca Staff and files from CTV Montreal

Mike Cerantola and his partner Victor thought they had found the perfect photographer for their November wedding.

“I sent (Victor) the quote, he agreed with it, so we were trying to set up a meeting,” Cerantola told CTV Montreal.

The photographer at Montreal’s Premiere Productions then asked for details about the bride, Cerantola said.

“I mentioned that there’s only going to be one house, since we already live with each other, and I said there is no bride: we’re two guys.”

The photographer’s reply shocked the couple.

“I regret that I cannot take this wedding because it is at odds with my personal religious beliefs,” the photographer allegedly responded in an e-mail to Cerantola.

“Wait — did that just happen?” Cerantola said. “I was with my friend and she was like, ‘Are we reading this right?’ So, obviously I was a little shocked to hear that, and this kind of thing had never happened to me before.”

According to Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, the response is not only shocking — it’s illegal.

“You cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation, especially in the case of commercial business services available to the public,” Niemi told CTV Montreal. “So, that’s on top of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”

CTV Montreal tried contacting the photography studio on more than one occasion. The company has yet to return CTV’s calls.

Following the incident, Cerantola’s colleagues posted the e-mail exchange on Facebook, generating messages of support for the couple and dozens of photographer recommendations.

“I have like 29 photographers to go through now, so it brought some good in it,” Cerantola said. In the meantime, he hopes that Premiere Productions will change their policies so such discrimination stops.

Niemi, however, believes the couple should take legal action.

“We have to stop this kind of use of religion as a proxy to promote anti-gay bias,” he said.

Carrie Fisher

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Wikipedia

Carrie Frances Fisher[1] (born October 21, 1956) is an American actress, screenwriter, singer-songwriter, author, producer and speaker. She is known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Fisher is also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge, and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play, and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show. Her other film roles include Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The ‘Burbs (1989), and When Harry Met Sally… (1989).

Contents

Early life

Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California, the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.[2] Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. Her mother was raised a Nazarene, and is of English and Scots-Irish ancestry.[3][4][5][6] Her younger brother is producer and actor Todd Fisher, and her half-sisters are actresses Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, whose mother is singer and actress Connie Stevens. When Fisher was two, her parents divorced after her father left Reynolds for her mother’s close friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, the widow of her father’s best friend Mike Todd.[7] The following year, her mother married Harry Karl, owner of a shoe-store chain, who secretly spent Reynolds’ life savings.[7]

Fisher “hid in books” as a child, becoming known in her family as “the bookworm”.[8] She spent her earliest years reading classic literature, and writing poetry. She attended Beverly Hills High School until, at the age of 15, she appeared as a debutante and singer in the hit Broadway revival Irene (1973), which starred her mother.[9] This activity interfered with her education, and she never graduated from high school.[10] In 1973, Fisher enrolled at London‘s Central School of Speech and Drama, which she attended for 18 months,[11] and in 1978, Fisher was accepted into Sarah Lawrence College, where she planned to study the arts. However, she left before graduating due to conflicts filming Star Wars.[12]

Career

1970s

Fisher with Wim Wenders in 1978

Fisher made her film debut in the Columbia Pictures comedy Shampoo (1975) starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn, with Lee Grant and Jack Warden as her character’s parents. In 1977, Fisher starred as Princess Leia in George Lucas‘ science-fiction film Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) opposite Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.[13] At the time, she believed the script for Star Wars was fantastic, but did not expect many people to agree with her, and though her fellow actors were not close at the time, they bonded after the commercial success of the film.[14] During filming, she had an affair with Ford (who was then married to Mary Marquardt), which she stated was “so intense … It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend.”[15][16]

In April 1978, she appeared as the love interest in Ringo Starr‘s 1978 TV special Ringo.[17][18] The next month, she appeared alongside John Ritter (who had also appeared in Ringo) in the ABC-TV film Leave Yesterday Behind, as a horse trainer who helps Ritter’s character after an accident leaves him a paraplegic. At this time, Fisher appeared with Laurence Olivier and Joanne Woodward in the anthology series Laurence Olivier Presents in a television version of the William Inge play Come Back, Little Sheba. That November, she appeared as Princess Leia in the 1978 TV production Star Wars Holiday Special, and sang in the last scene.

1980s

Fisher later appeared in The Blues Brothers film as Jake’s vengeful ex-lover; she is listed in the credits as “Mystery Woman”. While in Chicago filming the movie, her life was saved by Dan Aykroyd when she was choking on a Brussels sprout and he performed the Heimlich maneuver on her.[19] She appeared on Broadway in Censored Scenes from King Kong in 1980. That year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and appeared as herself with her Star Wars costars on the cover of the July 12, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film.[20] She also appeared in the Broadway production of Agnes of God in 1982.

In 1983, Fisher returned to the role of Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, and posed in the Princess Leia metal bikini on the cover of the Summer 1983 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film.[21][22] The iconic costume later achieved a following of its own.[23]

Fisher is one of the few actors or actresses to star in films with both John and James Belushi, later appearing with the latter in the film The Man with One Red Shoe. She appeared in the Woody Allen film Hannah and her Sisters in 1986.

In 1987, Fisher published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. The book was semi-autobiographical in the sense that she fictionalized and satirized real-life events such as her drug addiction of the late 1970s and her relationship with her mother. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Also during 1987, she was in the Australian film The Time Guardian. In 1989, Fisher played a major supporting role in When Harry Met Sally, and in the same year, she appeared with Tom Hanks as his wife in The ‘Burbs.

1990s

In 1990, Columbia Pictures released a film version of Postcards from the Edge, adapted for the screen by Fisher and starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid. Fisher appeared in the fantasy comedy film Drop Dead Fred in 1991, and played a therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). During the 1990s, Fisher also published the novels Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). Fisher also did uncredited script work for movies such as Lethal Weapon 3 (where she wrote some of Rene Russo‘s dialogue), Outbreak and The Wedding Singer.[24]

2000s

In the film Scream 3 (2000), Fisher played an actress mistaken for Carrie Fisher. In 2001, Fisher played a nun in the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She also co-wrote the TV comedy film These Old Broads (2001), of which she was also co-executive producer. It starred her mother, Debbie Reynolds, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, and Shirley MacLaine. In this, Taylor’s character, an agent, explains to Reynolds’ character, an actress, that she was in an alcoholic blackout when she married the actress’ husband, “Freddy”.

Besides acting and writing original works, Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood, working on the screenplays of other writers.[25][26] She did uncredited polishes on movies in a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2005,[25] and was hired by the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, to polish scripts for his 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as well as the dialogue for the Star Wars prequel scripts.[25] Her expertise in this area was the reason she was chosen as one of the interviewers for the screenwriting documentary Dreams on Spec in 2007. In an interview in 2004, Fisher said that she no longer did much script doctoring,[26] but during the height of her career as a script doctor and rewriter, she worked on Hook (1991), Lethal Weapon 3 and Sister Act (1992), Made in the US, Last Action Hero and So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), My Girl 2, Milk Money, The River Wild and Love Affair (1994), Outbreak (1995), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998), The Out-of-Towners and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Coyote Ugly and Scream 3 (2000), Kate & Leopold (2001), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Intolerable Cruelty (2003), which she had done a rewrite of in 1994 although it’s not known if any of her work remained after the Coen brothers rewrote it. Fisher also worked on Mr. and Mrs. Smith[27] and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).

In 2005, Women in Film & Video – DC recognized Fisher with the Women of Vision Award.

Fisher also voices Peter Griffin‘s boss, Angela, on the animated sitcom Family Guy and appeared in a book of photographs titled Hollywood Moms (2001) for which she wrote the introduction. Fisher published a sequel to Postcards, The Best Awful There Is, in 2004. In August 2006, Fisher appeared prominently in the audience of the Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner. In 2007, she was a full-time judge on FOX‘s filmmaking-competition reality television series On the Lot.

Fisher wrote and performed in her one-woman play Wishful Drinking at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles from November 7, 2006, to January 14, 2007.[28] Her show played at the Berkeley Repertory Theater through April 2008,[29] followed by performances in San Jose, California, in July 2008, Hartford Stage in August 2008[30] before moving on to the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in September 2008[31] and Boston[32] in October 2008. Fisher published her autobiographical book, also titled Wishful Drinking, based on her successful play in December 2008 and embarked on a media tour. On April 2, 2009, Fisher returned to the stage with her play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre with performances through May 9, 2009.[33] On October 4, 2009, Wishful Drinking then opened on Broadway in New York at Studio 54 and played an extended run until January 17, 2010.[34][35] In December 2009, Fisher’s audiobook recording of her best-selling memoir, Wishful Drinking, earned her a nomination for a 2009 Grammy Award in the Best Spoken Word Album category.[36]

Fisher joined Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne on Saturday evenings for The Essentials with informative and entertaining conversation on Hollywood’s best films. She guest-starred in the episode titled “Sex and Another City” from season 3 of Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica Parker. This episode also featured Vince Vaughn, Hugh Hefner, and Sam Seder in guest roles. On October 25, 2007, Fisher guest-starred as Rosemary Howard on the second-season episode of 30 Rock called “Rosemary’s Baby”, for which she received an Emmy Award[37] nomination. Her last line in the show was a spoof from Star Wars: “Help me Liz Lemon, You’re my only hope!” On April 28, 2008, she was a guest on Deal or No Deal. In 2008, she also had a cameo as a doctor in the Star Wars-related comedy Fanboys.

2010s

In 2010, HBO aired a feature-length documentary based on a special live performance of Fisher’s Wishful Drinking stage production.[38] Fisher also appeared on the seventh season of Entourage in the summer of 2010.[38]

In August 2013, she was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2013 Venice Film Festival.

In June 2014, she filmed an appearance on the UK comedy panel show QI. It was broadcast on December 25, 2014.[39] In 2015 she starred alongside Sharon Horgan and American comedian Rob Delaney in Catastrophe, a six-part comedy series for the British Channel 4[40] that aired in the UK from 19 January 2015.

Fisher’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, was released in November 2016. The book is based on diaries she kept while filming the original Star Wars trilogy in the late 70s and early 80s.[41][42]

Return to Star Wars

Fisher with fellow Star Wars actors Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.

In an interview posted March 2013, confirming she would reprise her role as Princess Leia in Episode VII of the series, she claimed Leia was “Elderly. She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home [laughs]. I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.”[43] After other media outlets reported this on March 6, 2013, her representative said the same day Fisher was joking and nothing has been announced.[44]

On January 21, 2014, in an interview with TV Guide, Carrie Fisher confirmed her involvement and the involvement of the original cast in the upcoming sequels by saying “as for the next Star Wars film, myself, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are expected to report to work in March or April. I’d like to wear my old cinnamon buns hairstyle again but with white hair. I think that would be funny.”[45]

In March 2014, Fisher stated that she was moving to London for six months because that was where filming would take place.[46]

On April 29, 2014, the cast for Star Wars Episode VII was officially announced, and Fisher, along with original trilogy castmates Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker, were all cast in their original roles for the film. New castmates include Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Max von Sydow. Star Wars Episode VII, subtitled The Force Awakens, was released worldwide on December 18, 2015. Fisher was nominated for a 2016 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.[47]

Personal life

In her 2016 autobiography, The Princess Diarist, Fisher alleged that she and Harrison Ford had a three-month affair during the filming of Star Wars in 1976.[48]

Fisher dated musician Paul Simon from 1977 until 1983. In 1980, she was briefly engaged to Canadian actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd, who proposed on the set of their film The Blues Brothers. She said: “We had rings, we got blood tests, the whole shot. But then I got back together with Paul Simon.”[49] Fisher was married to Simon from August 1983 to July 1984, and they dated again for a time after their divorce. During their marriage, she appeared in Simon’s music video for the song “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War“. Simon’s song “Hearts and Bones” is about their relationship.[50]

Subsequently, she had a relationship with Creative Artists Agency principal and talent agent Bryan Lourd. They had one child together, Billie Catherine Lourd (born July 17, 1992). Eddie Fisher states in his autobiography (Been There Done That) his granddaughter’s name is Catherine Fisher Lourd and her nickname is “Billy”. The couple’s relationship ended when Lourd left to be in a relationship with a man. Though Fisher has described Lourd as her second husband in interviews, according to a 2004 profile of the actress and writer, she and Lourd were never legally married.[51]

Fisher also had a close relationship with James Blunt. While working on his album Back to Bedlam in 2003, Blunt spent much of his time at Fisher’s residence. When Vanity Fair‘s George Wayne asked Fisher if their relationship was sexual, she replied: “Absolutely not, but I did become his therapist. He was a soldier. This boy has seen awful stuff. Every time James hears fireworks or anything like that, his heart beats faster, and he gets ‘fight or flight.’ You know, he comes from a long line of soldiers dating back to the 10th century. He would tell me these horrible stories. He was a captain, a reconnaissance soldier. I became James’ therapist. So it would have been unethical to sleep with my patient.”[13]

On February 26, 2005, R. Gregory “Greg” Stevens, a lobbyist, was found dead in Fisher’s California home. The final autopsy report lists the cause of death as “cocaine and oxycodone use” but adds chronic, and apparently previously undiagnosed, heart disease as contributing factors. Media coverage of an initial autopsy report used the word “overdose,” but that wording is not in the final report.[52] In an interview, Fisher claimed that Stevens’ ghost haunted her mansion, which unsettled her: “I was a nut for a year”, she explained, “and in that year I took drugs again.”[13]

Fisher has described herself as an “enthusiastic agnostic who would be happy to be shown that there is a God”.[53] She was raised Protestant,[4] but often attends Jewish services, the faith of her father, with Orthodox friends.[54] She was a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Inc. weight loss television ads that aired in January 2011.[55]

Health

Mental health

Fisher has publicly discussed her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and her addictions to cocaine and prescription medication, including an appearance on ABC‘s 20/20 and The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive with Stephen Fry for the BBC. She has said that her drug use was a form of self-medication, using pain medication such as Percodan to “dial down” the manic aspect of her bipolar disorder.[56] “Drugs made me feel normal,” she explained to Psychology Today in 2001. “They contained me.”[56] She discussed her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking and various topics in it with Matt Lauer on NBC‘s Today that same year, and also revealed that she would have turned down the role of Princess Leia had she realized it would give her the celebrity status that made her parents’ lives difficult.[57] This interview was followed by a similar appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on December 12, 2008, where she discussed her electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments.[58] At one point, she received ECT every six weeks to “blow apart the cement” in her brain.[59] In 2014, she told The Telegraph that she was no longer receiving the treatment.[60]

Fisher revealed in another interview that she took cocaine during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. “Slowly, I realized I was doing a bit more drugs than other people and losing my choice in the matter,” she noted.[61][62] In 1985, after months of sobriety, she accidentally overdosed on a combination of prescription medication and sleeping pills.[63] She was rushed to the hospital, creating the turn of events that led to much of the material in her novel and screenplay, Postcards from the Edge. Asked why she didn’t take on the role of her story’s protagonist, named Suzanne, in the film version, Fisher remarked, “I’ve already played Suzanne.”[64]

In 2016, Harvard College gave Fisher its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, noting that “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”[65]

2016 medical emergency

On December 23, 2016, Fisher experienced a medical emergency while on a flight from London to Los Angeles;[66][a] a fellow actor seated near Fisher reported that she had stopped breathing.[69] She received emergency treatment from passengers, and upon landing was treated by paramedics and taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.[70] Fisher was reported to have been stabilized while in the hospital,[67] but Todd Fisher later said he could not classify his sister’s condition, and that she was still in the intensive care unit.[71] On December 25, Debbie Reynolds said her daughter is stable, and any updates would be shared by the family.[72]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Shampoo Lorna Karpf
1977 Star Wars Princess Leia Organa
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Princess Leia Organa
1980 The Blues Brothers Mystery Woman
1981 Under the Rainbow Annie Clark
1983 Return of the Jedi Princess Leia Organa
1984 Garbo Talks Lisa Rolfe
1985 The Man with One Red Shoe Paula
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters April
1986 Hollywood Vice Squad Betty Melton
1987 Amazon Women on the Moon Mary Brown Segment: “Reckless Youth”
1987 The Time Guardian Petra
1988 Appointment with Death Nadine Boynton
1989 The ‘Burbs Carol Peterson
1989 Loverboy Monica Delancy
1989 She’s Back Beatrice
1989 When Harry Met Sally… Marie
1990 Sweet Revenge Linda
1990 Sibling Rivalry Iris Turner-Hunter
1991 Drop Dead Fred Janie
1991 Soapdish Betsy Faye Sharon
1991 Hook Woman kissing on bridge Uncredited cameo
1992 This Is My Life Claudia Curtis
1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Therapist Uncredited cameo
2000 Scream 3 Bianca Cameo
2000 Lisa Picard Is Famous Herself Cameo
2001 Heartbreakers Ms. Surpin
2001 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Nun Cameo
2002 A Midsummer Night’s Rave Mia’s Mom Cameo
2003 Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle Mother Superior Cameo
2003 Wonderland Sally Hansen
2004 Stateside Mrs. Dubois
2005 Undiscovered Carrie
2007 Suffering Man’s Charity Reporter
2007 Cougar Club Glady Goodbey
2008 The Women Bailey Smith
2009 Fanboys Doctor Cameo
2009 White Lightnin’ Cilla
2009 Sorority Row Mrs. Crenshaw
2010 Wishful Drinking Herself Documentary[73]
2014 Maps to the Stars Herself Cameo
2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens General Leia Organa[74]
2016 Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Herself Documentary
2017 Star Wars: Episode VIII General Leia Organa Post-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1969 Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children Girl Scout Television film
1977 Come Back, Little Sheba Marie Television film
1978 Ringo Marquine Television film
1978 Leave Yesterday Behind Marnie Clarkson Television film
1978 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: “Carrie Fisher/The Blues Brothers
1978 The Star Wars Holiday Special Princess Leia Television special
1982 Laverne & Shirley Cathy Episode: “The Playboy Show”
1984 Faerie Tale Theatre Thumbelina Episode: “Thumbelina”
1984 Frankenstein Elizabeth Television film
1985 From Here to Maternity Veronica Television short
1985 George Burns Comedy Week Episode: “The Couch”
1985 Happily Ever After Alice Conway (voice) Television film
1986 Liberty Emma Lazarus Television film
1986 Sunday Drive Franny Jessup Television film
1987 Amazing Stories Laurie McNamara Episode: “Gershwin’s Trunk”
1989 Two Daddies Alice Conway (voice) Television film
1989 Trying Times Enid Episode: “Hunger Chic”
1995 Present Tense, Past Perfect Television short
1995 Frasier Phyllis (voice) Episode: “She’s the Boss”
1995 Ellen Herself Episode: “The Movie Show”
1997 Gun Nancy Episode: “The Hole”
1998 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Roz Katz (voice) Episode: “Thanksgiving”
2000 Sex and the City Herself Episode: “Sex and Another City”
2001 These Old Broads Hooker Television film; also writer and co-executive producer
2002 A Nero Wolfe Mystery Ellen Tenzer Episode: “Motherhunt
2003 Good Morning, Miami Judy Silver Episode: “A Kiss Before Lying”
2004 Jack & Bobby Madison Skutcher Episode: “The First Lady”
2005 Smallville Pauline Kahn Episode: “Thirst”
2005 Romancing the Bride Edwina Television film
2005–present Family Guy Angela (voice) 20 episodes
2007 Odd Job Jack Dr. Finch Episode: “The Beauty Beast”
2007 Weeds Celia’s attorney Episode: “The Brick Dance”
2007 Side Order of Life Dr. Gilbert Episode: “Funeral for a Phone”
2007 30 Rock Rosemary Howard Episode: “Rosemary’s Baby
2008 Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II Princess Leia / Additional voices Television special
2008 Bring Back … Star Wars Herself Television documentary
2010 Wright vs. Wrong Joan Harrington Television film
2010 Entourage Anna Fowler Episode: “Tequila and Coke”
2012 It’s Christmas, Carol! Eve Television film
2014 The Big Bang Theory Herself Episode: “The Convention Conundrum
2014 Legit Angela McKinnon Episode: “Licked”
2014–2016 Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce Cat 2 episodes
2015 Catastrophe Mia 4 episodes

Video games

Year Title Voice role
1994 Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Princess Leia
2012 Dishonored Female Broadcaster
2016 Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Princess Leia

Bibliography

Novels
Non-fiction
Screenplays
Plays
  • Wishful Drinking, 2006
  • Wishful Drinking, 2008[76] 2008
  • A Spy in the House of Me, 2008

George Michael

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Wikipedia

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016), known professionally as George Michael, was an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham!. He was best known in the 1980s and 1990s with his style of post-disco dance-pop, with best-selling songs such as “Last Christmas” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go“.

Michael sold more than 100 million records worldwide. His 1987 debut solo album, Faith, sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Michael garnered seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, including “Careless Whisper” and “Freedom! ’90“. He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, with Billboard magazine ranking him the 40th-most successful artist to ever live. Michael won various music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations.

In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004. The documentary A Different Story, released in 2005, covered his career and personal life. In 2006, Michael announced his first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanning three individual tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007 and 2008). In 2016, Michael announced a second documentary on his life entitled Freedom, set to be released in March 2017. On 25 December 2016, Michael died at his Oxfordshire home at the age of 53.[3]

Contents

Early life

George Michael was born in East Finchley, London.[4][5] His father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, moved to England in the 1950s and changed his name to Jack Panos.[6] Michael’s mother, Lesley Angold (née Harrison; 1937–1997), was an English dancer; his maternal grandmother was Jewish.[7] Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth; he attended Kingsbury High School.[8][9]

While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire. There, Michael attended Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, where he befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. The two had the same career ambition of being musicians.[10] Michael would busk on the London Underground, performing songs such as “’39” by Queen.[11] His involvement in the music business began with his working as a DJ, playing at clubs and local schools around Bushey, Stanmore, and Watford. This was followed by the formation of a short-lived ska band called the Executive, with Ridgeley, Ridgeley’s brother Paul, Andrew Leaver, and David Mortimer (later known as David Austin).[12]

Musical career

1981–1986: Wham!

George Michael formed the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band’s first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983 and produced a series of top 10 singles including “Young Guns“, “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana“. Their second album, Make It Big, reached No. 1 on the charts in the US. Singles from that album included “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (No. 1 in the UK and US), “Freedom“, “Everything She Wants“, and “Careless Whisper” which reached No. 1 in nearly 25 countries, including the UK and US, and was Michael’s first solo effort as a single.[13][14]

Michael sang on the original Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (which became the UK Christmas number one) and donated the profits from “Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” to charity. He also contributed background vocals to David Cassidy‘s 1985 hit “The Last Kiss”, as well as Elton John’s 1985 successes “Nikita” and “Wrap Her Up“. Michael cited Cassidy as a major career influence and interviewed Cassidy for David Litchfield’s Ritz Newspaper.[15]

Wham!’s tour of China in April 1985, the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, generated worldwide media coverage, much of it centred on Michael.[16][17] Before Wham!’s appearance in China, many kinds of music in the country were forbidden.[16] The audience included members of the Chinese government, and Chinese television presenter, Kan Lijun, who was the on stage host, spoke of Wham!’s historic performance; “No-one had ever seen anything like that before. All the young people were amazed and everybody was tapping their feet. Of course the police weren’t happy and they were scared there would be riots.”[16] The tour was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Foreign Skies: Wham! In China.[18]

With the success of Michael’s solo singles, “Careless Whisper” (1984) and “A Different Corner” (1986), rumours of an impending break up of Wham! intensified. The duo officially separated in 1986, after releasing a farewell single, “The Edge of Heaven” and a singles compilation, The Final, plus a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium that included the world premiere of the China film. The Wham! partnership ended officially with the commercially successful single “The Edge of Heaven”, which reached No. 1 on the UK chart in June 1986.[19]

Solo career

The beginning of his solo career, during early 1987, was a duet with Aretha Franklin. “I Knew You Were Waiting” was a one-off project that helped Michael achieve an ambition by singing with one of his favourite artists, and it scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release.[20][21]

For Michael, it became his third consecutive solo number one in the UK from three releases, after 1984’s “Careless Whisper” (though the single was actually from the Wham! album Make It Big) and 1986’s “A Different Corner“. The single was also the first Michael had recorded as a solo artist which he had not written himself. The co-writer, Simon Climie, was unknown at the time, although he would have success as a performer with the band Climie Fisher in 1988. Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.[22]

1987–1989: Faith

In late 1987, Michael released his debut solo album, Faith. In addition to playing a large number of instruments on the album, he wrote and produced every track on the recording, except for one, which he co-wrote.[23]

The first single released from the album was “I Want Your Sex“, in mid-1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics.[24] MTV broadcast the video, featuring celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung in a basque and suspenders, only during the late night hours.[24] Michael argued that the act was beautiful if the sex was monogamous, and he recorded a brief prologue for the video in which he said: “This song is not about casual sex.”[25] One of the racier scenes involved Michael writing the words “explore monogamy” on his partner’s back in lipstick.[26] Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, “I Want Your Love”, with the word “love” replacing “sex”.[27]

When “I Want Your Sex” reached the US charts, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem refused to say the song’s title, referring to it only as “the new single by George Michael.”[27] In the US, the song was also sometimes listed as “I Want Your Sex (from Beverly Hills Cop II)”, since the song was featured on the soundtrack of the movie.[28] Despite censorship and radio play problems, “I Want Your Sex” reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK.[13][29]

The second single, “Faith“, was released in October 1987, a few weeks before the album. “Faith” became one of his most popular songs. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and maintained that position for four consecutive weeks.[14] It also reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart.[13] The video provided some definitive images of the 1980s music industry in the process—Michael in shades, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and Levi’s jeans, playing a guitar near a classic-design jukebox.[30]

On 30 October, Faith was released in the UK and in several markets worldwide.[28] In the United States, the album had 51 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Billboard 200, including 12 weeks at No. 1. Faith had many successes, with four singles (“Faith”, “Father Figure“, “One More Try“, and “Monkey“) reaching No. 1 in the US.[31] Faith was certified Diamond by the RIAA for sales of 10 million copies in the US.[32] To date, global sales of Faith are more than 25 million units.[33] The album was highly acclaimed by music critics, with AllMusic journalist Steve Huey describing it as a “superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece” and “one of the finest pop albums of the ’80s”.[34] In a review by Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Mark Coleman commended most of the songs on the album, which he said “displays Michael’s intuitive understanding of pop music and his increasingly intelligent use of his power to communicate to an ever-growing audience.”[35]

In 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour.[36] In Los Angeles, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for “I Knew You Were Waiting“. It was the second highest grossing event of 1988, earning $17.7 million.[37] In February 1989, Faith won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards.[38] At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September in Los Angeles, Michael received the Video Vanguard Award.[39]

According to Michael in his film, A Different Story, success did not make him happy and he started to think there was something wrong in being an idol for millions of teenage girls. The whole Faith process (promotion, videos, tour, awards) left him exhausted, lonely and frustrated, and far from his friends and family.[40] In 1990, he told his record company Sony that, for his second album, he did not want to do promotions like the one for Faith.[41]

1990–1992: Listen Without Prejudice

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. For this album, Michael tried to create a new reputation as a serious-minded artist; the title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter.[42] Michael refused to do any promotion for this album, including no music videos for the singles released.[41] The first single, “Praying for Time“, with lyrics concerning social ills and injustice, was released in August 1990. James Hunter of Rolling Stone magazine described the song as “a distraught look at the world’s astounding woundedness. Michael offers the healing passage of time as the only balm for physical and emotional hunger, poverty, hypocrisy and hatred.”[43] The song was an instant success, reaching No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 in the UK.[14] A video was released shortly thereafter, consisting of the lyrics on a dark background. Michael did not appear in this video or any subsequent videos for the album.[42]

The second single “Waiting for That Day” was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to “Praying For Time”. It reached No. 23 in the UK[13] and No. 27 in the US.[14] in October 1990. The album was released in Europe on 3 September 1990, and one week later in the US. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart[13] and peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200.[14] It spent a total of 88 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and was certified 4 times Platinum by the BPI.[44] The album produced 5 UK singles, which were released quickly, within an at eight-month period: “Praying for Time”, “Waiting for That Day”, “Freedom! ’90“, “Heal the Pain“, and “Cowboys and Angels” (the latter being his only single not to chart in the UK top 40).[13]

“Freedom ’90” was the second of only two of its singles to be supported by a music video (the other being the Michael-less “Praying for Time”).[45] The song alludes to his struggles with his artistic identity, and prophesied his efforts shortly thereafter to end his recording contract with Sony Music. As if to prove the song’s sentiment, Michael refused to appear in the video (directed by David Fincher), and instead recruited supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford to appear in and lip sync in his stead.[45] It also featured the reduction of his sex symbol status.[46] It had a No. 8 success on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US,[14] and No. 28 on the UK Singles Chart.[13]

“Mother’s Pride” gained significant radio play in the US during the first Persian Gulf War during 1991, often with radio stations mixing in callers’ tributes to soldiers with the music.[47] It reached No. 46 on Billboard Hot 100 with only airplay.[14] In the end, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 sold approximately 8 million copies.[48]

At the 1991 Brit Awards, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 won the award for Best British Album.[49] Later in 1991, Michael embarked on the “Cover to Cover tour” in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at Rock in Rio.[50] In the audience in Rio, he saw and later met Anselmo Feleppa, who later became his partner.[47] The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it was more about Michael singing his favourite cover songs.[50] Among his favourites was “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me“, a 1974 song by Elton John; Michael and John had performed the song together at the Live Aid concert in 1985, and again for Michael’s concert at London’s Wembley Arena on 25 March 1991, where the duet was recorded. The single was released at the end of 1991 and reached No. 1 in both the UK and US.[51]

In the meantime, the expected follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped due to Michael’s lawsuit with Sony.[52] Michael complained that Sony had not completely supported the release of his second album, resulting in its poor performance in the US as compared to Faith. Sony responded that Michael’s refusal to appear in promotional videos had caused the bad response.[53] Michael ended the idea for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, for the Red Hot Organization which raised money for AIDS awareness; a fourth track “Crazyman Dance” was the B-side of 1992’s “Too Funky“. Michael donated the royalties from “Too Funky” to the same cause.[54]

“Too Funky” reached No. 4 in the UK singles chart[13] and No. 10 in the US Billboard Hot 100.[14] It did not appear on any George Michael studio album, although later it was included on his solo collections Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael in 1998 and Twenty Five in 2006. The video featured Michael (sporadically) as a director filming supermodels Linda Evangelista, Beverly Peele, Tyra Banks, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show.[55]

1993: Five Live

George Michael was the best. There’s a certain note in his voice when he did “Somebody to Love” that was pure Freddie.

—Queen guitarist Brian May on Michael’s performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.[56]

George Michael performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium.[57] The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with the proceeds going to AIDS research.[58] In his last ever radio interview Mercury had praised Michael adding that he loved his track “Faith”.[56] Michael performed “’39“, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” with Lisa Stansfield and “Somebody to Love“. The performance of the latter was released on the “Five Live” EP.

Five Live, released in 1993 for Parlophone in the UK and Hollywood Records in the US, features five—and in some countries, six—tracks performed by George Michael, Queen, and Lisa Stansfield. “Somebody to Love” and “These Are the Days of Our Lives” were recorded at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. “Killer“, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone“, and “Calling You” were all live performances recorded during his “Cover to Cover Tour” from 1991. Michael’s performance of “Somebody to Love” was hailed as “one of the best performances of the tribute concert”.[59][60]

All proceeds from the sale of the EP benefited the Mercury Phoenix Trust.[61] Sales of the EP were very strong through Europe, where it debuted at number 1 in the UK and several European countries.[13] Chart success in the US was less spectacular, where it reached number 40 on the Billboard 200 (“Somebody to Love” reached No.30 on the US Billboard Hot 100).[14]

1994–1997: Older

During November 1994, after a long period of seclusion, George Michael appeared at the first MTV Europe Music Awards show, where he gave a performance of a brand-new song, “Jesus to a Child“.[62] The song was a melancholy tribute to his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died in March 1993.[63]

The song entered the UK singles chart at No. 1 and No. 7 on Billboard in the same month of release.[13][14] It was Michael’s longest UK Top 40 single, at almost seven minutes long. The exact identity of the song’s subject—and the nature of Michael’s relationship with Feleppa—was shrouded in innuendo and speculation, as Michael had not confirmed he was homosexual and did not do so until 1998. The video for “Jesus to a Child” was a picture of images recalling loss, pain and suffering. Michael consistently dedicated the song to Feleppa before performing it live.[64]

The second single, released in April 1996, was “Fastlove“, an energetic tune about wanting gratification and fulfilment without commitment. The song did not have a chorus and the single version was nearly five minutes long. “Fastlove” was supported by a futuristic virtual reality-related video. It reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart, spending three weeks at the top spot.[13] In the US, “Fastlove” peaked at No. 8, his most recent single to reach the top 10 on the US charts.[14] Following “Fastlove”, Michael released Older, his first studio album in six years and only the third in his ten-year solo career. The album’s US and Canada release was the first album released by David Geffen’s (now-defunct) DreamWorks Records.[65]

Older was particularly notable for the release of its six singles. Each of them reached the UK Top 3, a record for the most singles in the British Top 3 released from a single album.[66] At the time of release of the album’s fifth single, “Star People ’97“, chart specialist James Masterton noted George Michael’s success on the singles charts, writing: “George Michael nonetheless makes an impressive Top 3 entry with this single. The Older album has now proved itself to be far and away his most commercially successful recording ever. Five singles now lifted and every single one has been a Top 3 hit. Compare this with the two Top 3 hits produced by Faith and Listen Without Prejudice’s scant total of one Top Tenner and one single which missed the Top 40 altogether. This sustained single success has, of course, been achieved with a little help from marketing tricks such as remixes – or in this case a new recording of the album track which gives it a much-needed transformation into a deserved commercial smash.”[67]

In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male, at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards;[68][69] and at the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Awards, he was awarded the title of ‘Songwriter of The Year’ for the third time.[6] Michael performed a concert at Three Mills Studios, London, for MTV Unplugged.[70] It was his first long performance in years, and in the audience was Michael’s mother. The next year, she died of cancer.[71]

1998: Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was Michael’s first solo greatest hits collection released in 1998. The collection of 28 songs (29 songs are included on the European and Australian release) are separated into two halves, with each containing a particular theme and mood. The first CD, titled “For the Heart”, predominantly contains ballads; the second CD, “For the Feet”, consists mainly of dance tunes.[72] It was released through Sony Music Entertainment as a condition of severing contractual ties with the label.[73]

Ladies & Gentlemen was an instant success, peaking at number one on the UK Albums Chart for 8 weeks.[13] It has spent over 200 weeks in the UK Charts, and is the 38th best-selling album of all time in the UK.[74] It is certified 7 times platinum in the United Kingdom and multi-platinum in the United States, and is George Michael’s most commercially successful album in his homeland having sold more than 2.8 million copies.[44] To date, the album has reached worldwide sales of approximately 15 million copies.[75]

The first single of the album, “Outside” was a humorous song about his arrest for soliciting a policeman in a public restroom. “As“, his duet with Mary J. Blige, was released as the second single in many territories around the world. Both singles reached the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart.[13]

1999: Songs from the Last Century

Songs from the Last Century is a studio album of cover tracks. It was released in 1999 and was the final George Michael album to be released through Virgin Records. To date, the album has peaked the lowest of his solo effort. The album debuted at number 157 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart, which was also the album’s peak position.[14] It was also his lowest-charting album in the UK, becoming his only solo effort not to reach number 1. It peaked at number 2 in the UK Albums Chart.[13] It consists of old standards, plus new interpretations of more recent popular songs such as “Roxanne“, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face“; and the Frank Sinatra classic “Where or When“. Each of the 11 tracks was co-produced by Phil Ramone and George Michael.[76]

2000–2005: Patience

In 2000, Michael worked on the hit single “If I Told You That” with Whitney Houston, a song which was meant to feature Michael Jackson, initially.[77] Michael co-produced on the single along with American producer Rodney Jerkins.[78] Michael began working on what would be his fifth studio album, spending two years in the recording studio. His first single “Freeek!“, taken from the new album, was successful in Europe going to number one in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Denmark in 2002 and reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 5 in Australia.[79] It made 22 charts around the world. However, his next single “Shoot the Dog” proved to be highly controversial when released in July 2002. It was highly critical of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in the leadup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[80] It reached number one in Denmark and made the top 5 in most European charts.[81] However, in Britain it peaked at only number 12 in the UK Singles Chart.[13]

In February 2003, Michael unexpectedly recorded another song in protest against the looming Iraq war, Don McLean‘s “The Grave”. The original was written by McLean in 1971 and was a protest against the Vietnam War. Michael performed the song on numerous TV shows including Top of the Pops and So Graham Norton. His performance of the song on Top of the Pops on 7 March 2003 was his first studio appearance on the programme since 1986. He ran into conflict with the show’s producers for an anti-war, anti Blair T-shirt worn by some members of his band.[82] In response, Don McLean issued a statement, through his website, praising George Michael’s recording: “I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings. We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him. Good Luck George.”[83]

On 17 November 2003, George Michael re-signed with Sony Music, the company he had left in 1995 after a legal battle. When Michael’s fifth studio album, Patience, was released in 2004, it was critically acclaimed and went straight to number 1 on the UK Albums Chart,[13] and became one of the fastest selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone.[84] In Australia it reached number 2 on 22 March.[85] It reached the Top 5 on most European charts, and peaked at number 12 in the United States, selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA.[14] To date the album had sold around 7 million copies worldwide and spawned four (of six) new hit singles.[86]

Amazing“, the third single from the album, became a number one hit in Europe.[87] When Michael appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 26 May 2004, to promote the album, he performed “Amazing”, along with his classic songs “Father Figure” and “Faith“.[88] On the show Michael spoke of his arrest, revealing his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah’s crew inside his home outside London.[89] The fourth single taken off the album was “Flawless“, which used the sample of the Ones‘ original dance hit “Flawless”. It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching no.1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and became Michael’s last number one single on the United States Dance chart.[13]

In November 2004, Sony released the fifth single – “Round Here“. It was the least successful single taken from Patience when it stalled the UK charts at no. 32.[13] In 2005, “John and Elvis Are Dead” was released as the sixth and final single from the album; it was released as a download single and was therefore unable to chart in the United Kingdom.[90]

Michael told BBC Radio 1 on 10 March 2004 that future music that he puts out will be available for download, with fans encouraged to make a donation to charity.[91]

2005–2010: Twenty Five and concert tours

George Michael performing in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2006

Twenty Five was George Michael’s second greatest hits album, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career.[92] Released in November 2006 by Sony BMG, it debuted at no.1 in the UK.[93]

The album contains songs chiefly from George Michael’s solo career but also from his earlier days in Wham! It comes in two formats: two CDs or a limited edition three-CD set. The 2-CD set contained 26 tracks, including four recorded with Wham! and three new songs: “An Easier Affair“; “This Is Not Real Love” (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, which peaked at No.15 in the UK Charts); and a new version of “Heal the Pain” recorded with Paul McCartney. The limited edition three-CD version contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! and another completely new song, “Understand”.[94]

Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, two-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series Eli Stone)[95] in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career. To commemorate the Twenty Five album, George Michael toured North America for the first time in 17 years, playing large venues in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Tampa/St. Pete, Chicago and Dallas.[96] The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs, including seven with Wham!.[97]

George Michael on stage in Munich in 2006

During the 2005 Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, Michael joined Paul McCartney on stage, harmonising on The Beatles classic “Drive My Car“. In 2006, Michael started his first tour in 15 years, 25 Live. The tour began in Barcelona, Spain, on 23 September and finished in December at Wembley Arena in England. According to his website, the 80-show tour was seen by 1.3 million fans. On 12 May 2007 in Coimbra, Portugal, he began the European “25 Live Stadium Tour 2007”, including London and Athens, and ending on 4 August 2007 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were 29 tour dates (as of 21 April 2007) across Europe. On 9 June 2007 Michael became the first artist to perform live at the newly renovated Wembley Stadium in London, where he was later fined £130,000 for over-running the programme for 13 minutes.[98]

On 25 March 2008, a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America. This part included 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael’s first tour of North America in 17 years. Following news of Michael’s North American tour, Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, 2-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series, Eli Stone) in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career.

Michael made his American acting debut by playing a guardian angel to Jonny Lee Miller‘s character on Eli Stone, a US TV series. In addition to performing on the show as himself and as “visions”, each episode of the show’s first season was named after a song of his. Michael appeared on the 2008 finale show of American Idol on 21 May singing “Praying for Time”. When asked what he thought Simon will say of his performance, he replied “I think he’ll probably tell me I shouldn’t have done a George Michael song. He’s told plenty of people that in the past, so I think that’d be quite funny.”[99][100][101] On 1 December, Michael performed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day Celebrations.

On 25 December 2008, Michael released a new track “December Song” on his website for free. It was hoped that fans who download the song would donate money to charity. Though the song is not available any more on his website, it remains available on file sharing networks[102] and on 29 October 2009 the BBC said that George Michael was to join the race for the UK Christmas number one as a remastered version of “December Song” would go on sale on 13 December. The popularity of the single was boosted by a promotional appearance that Michael made on The X Factor, where he performed the song with David Austin playing piano.

At the end of 2009, Michael announced, after months of speculation, that he would be performing shows in the Australian cities of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, his first concerts in Australia since 1988.[103] On 20 February 2010, Michael performed his first show in Perth at the Burswood Dome to an audience of 15,000.[104]

On 5 March 2010, Michael confirmed that he would be a guest performer at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras After Party, where he performed at 1 am, followed by Kelly Rowland at 3 am.[105]

On 2 March 2011, Michael announced the release of his cover version of New Order‘s 1987 hit “True Faith” in aid of the charity Comic Relief.[106] On 15 April 2011, Michael released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song, “You and I“, as an MP3 gift to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their wedding on 29 April 2011. Although the MP3 was released for free download,[107] Michael appealed to those who do download the special track to make a contribution to “The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund”.[108]

2011–2016: Symphonica and concert tours

George Michael performing during his Symphonica tour in Nice in 2011

The Symphonica Tour began at the Prague State Opera House on 22 August 2011.[109] In October 2011, Michael was announced as one of the final nominees for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.[110] In November, he had to cancel the remainder of the tour as he became severely ill with pneumonia in Vienna, Austria.[111]

In February 2012, two months after leaving hospital, Michael made a surprise appearance at the 2012 BRIT Awards at London’s O2 Arena, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album.[112]

On 19 June 2012, Michael released a single “White Light” in order the celebrate the 30 years since the release of “Wham Rap”. The single also contains a cover version of “Song to the Siren“, and two remixes.[113]

Symphonica was released on 17 March 2014, and became Michael’s 7th solo number one album in the UK, and 9th overall including his Wham! chart-toppers. The album was produced by Phil Ramone (his last production credit) and Michael.[114]

In 2016, Michael announced that a second documentary on his life, entitled Freedom, was set to be released in March 2017.[115]

Personal life

Sexuality

At the age of 19, Michael told Andrew Ridgeley and close friends that he was bisexual.[116] Michael also told one of his two sisters, but he was advised by friends not to tell his parents about his sexuality.[117] In a 1999 interview with The Advocate, Michael told the Editor in Chief, Judy Wieder, that it was “falling in love with a man that ended his conflict over bisexuality”. “I never had a moral problem with being gay“, Michael told Wieder. “I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realized that none of those things had been love.”[118] In 2007, Michael said he had hidden the fact he was gay because of worries over what effect it might have on his mother.[117]

Speaking about his time with Wham! in the 1980s, Michael said: “I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn’t want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them.”[116] In 2009, Michael said: “My depression at the end of Wham! was because I was beginning to realize I was gay, not bisexual.”[119]

Relationships

George Michael established a relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, a Brazilian dress designer, whom he had met at the 1991 concert Rock in Rio. Six months into their relationship, Feleppa discovered that he had HIV. Michael later said: “It was terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too. I couldn’t go through it with my family because I didn’t know how to share it with them – they didn’t even know I was gay.”[119] In 1993, Feleppa died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage.[120]

George Michael’s single “Jesus to a Child” is a tribute to Feleppa (he consistently dedicated it to him before performing it live), as is his 1996 album Older.[121] In 2008, speaking about the loss of his partner Feleppa, Michael said: “It was a terribly depressing time. It took about three years to grieve, then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed.”[122]

In 1996, George Michael entered into a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, a former flight attendant, cheerleader coach[123] and sportswear executive from Dallas.[124] They had homes in Dallas[125] and an £8 million mansion in Highgate, North London.[120] In late November 2005, it was reported that Michael and Goss would register their relationship as a civil partnership in the UK,[126] but because of negative publicity and his upcoming tour, they postponed it to a later date.[127]

On 22 August 2011, the opening night of his Symphonica world tour, George Michael announced that he and Goss had split two years earlier.[128] Goss was present at Michael’s British sentencing for driving under the influence of cannabis on 14 September 2010.[129]

Anonymous sex

Questions of Michael’s sexual orientation persisted in public until 7 April 1998, when he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.[130][131] In 2007, Michael said “that hiding his sexuality made him feel ‘fraudulent’, and his eventual outing, when he was arrested […] in 1998, was a subconsciously deliberate act.”[132]

Michael was arrested by an undercover policeman named Marcelo Rodríguez, in a sting operation using so-called “pretty police”. In an MTV interview, Michael stated: “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop—I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously—he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick you!”[133]

After pleading “no contest” to the charge, Michael was fined US$810 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Soon afterwards, Michael made a video for his single “Outside“, which satirised the public toilet incident and featured men dressed as policemen kissing. Rodríguez claimed that this video “mocked” him, and that Michael had slandered him in interviews. In 1999, he brought a US$10 million court case in California against the singer. The court dismissed the case, but an appellate court reinstated the case on 3 December 2002.[134] The court then ruled Rodríguez, as a public official, could not legally recover damages for emotional distress.[135]

On 23 July 2006, Michael was again accused of engaging in anonymous public sex, this time at London’s Hampstead Heath.[136] The anonymous partner was stated (wrongly, as it turned out) to be 58-year-old Norman Kirtland,[137] an unemployed van driver.[138] Despite saying that he intended to sue both the News of the World tabloid who supposedly photographed the incident and Norman Kirtland for slander, Michael stated that he cruised for anonymous sex[139] and that this was not an issue in his relationship with partner Kenny Goss.[140]

Drugs

On 26 February 2006, Michael was arrested for possession of Class C drugs, an incident that he described as “my own stupid fault, as usual.” He was cautioned by the police and released.[141]

Michael was arrested in Cricklewood, North-West London, after motorists reported a car obstructing the road at traffic lights. He pleaded guilty on 8 May 2007 to driving while unfit through drugs.[142] He was banned from driving for two years