Monthly Archives: July 2012

Queer Conference at the College of Wooster

I would like to draw your attention to a queer conference that will be held at the College of Wooster from October 4-7, 2012.

“Global Queerness: Sexuality, Citizenship, and Human Rights in the 21st Century”

Cherrie Moraga will be giving our keynote address and we will have keynote performances by E. Patrick Johnson and Marga Gomez.Jimmy A. Noriega, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at The College of Wooster, requested that I help circulate the call-for-papers among my faculty and students, as well as anyone else you feel may be interested in attending and/or presenting at our conference. All of the events are free and open to the public and we hope that you will consider joining us for the proceedings. If you need any assistance or would like additional information, do not hesitate to contact Jimmy Noriega at jnoriega@wooster.edu.

The conference website is: http://globalqueerness.voices.wooster.edu/



I am considering presenting a paper myself, and since some of you are in academia as well, I encourage you to submit a paper as well.

Call for Papers

We invite the submission of proposals for a scholarly conference to be held at the College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio), from October 4-7, 2012. The interdisciplinary nature of this meeting will allow participants to engage with the themes of queer identity, belonging, race, gender, and human rights in an academic and social context. The conference will consist of a keynote address by Cherríe Moraga, keynote performances by E. Patrick Johnson and Marga Gomez, scholarly panels, roundtable discussions, a queer international film screening, a forum with queer athletes, and a celebration to end the gathering. An atmosphere of diversity and equality will engage all involved and promote acceptance and understanding between individuals of all backgrounds. With the growing number of LGBTQ students across U.S. campuses, we hope to use this conference as a way of putting the College of Wooster at the forefront of this important social dialogue.

This is a queer-focused conference designed for scholars, students, creative writers, human rights advocates, and performance artists to present and discuss their work and to exchange and encourage new ways of engaging with LGBTQ issues across disciplines and institutions.

Proposals from all disciplines are welcome. We are soliciting proposals that address topics including, but not limited to:

Queer theory and criticism
Queer images and media
Queer identities in global contexts
Queer theatre and performance
Queer health and wellbeing
Transgender identities and experiences
Queerness and the fine arts
Queerness and faith
Queer history
Queer literature
Queer issues in education
LGBTQ politics, law, and justice

Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a CV to aatay@wooster.edu andjnoriega@wooster.edu

Deadline: August 15, 2012.


The Official 2012 Olympic Poem

Breathe

From starting gun to finish line,
electric nerves before you dive,
you are the minute hand on the clock,
you are the doubt,
the second thoughts –
breathe.

You are the perfect parabola
of each envisioned leap,
the interlinking rings,
the ligaments, elastic lungs
Believe –

believe in the red-haired girl
with gold on her mind
one kiss chase and kicking leaves,
now a flame breathing to ignite another
Become

full of chance as the National Lottery,
become the ones who reaches
deep inside for sky,
fights gravity like paper planes
and breathes.

The winners of Britain’s National Lottery 12 Poets of 2012 Competition met in April from across the Britain in Birmingham to compile the poem, called Breathe, and was released on Tuesday 19th June 2012.

And now for a few more pictures of my favorite American gymnast, Jake Dalton:


The Ancient Olympics

ancient-olympics When I took my first history class in college, I did a research project on the Ancient Olympics. I had always been fascinated with the thought of athletes competing in the nude, but I also was in by the Summer Olympics that year, which were being held in Atlanta. My family and I actually went to the Olympics that year since it was close by and had a great time. I was thinking today about doing another history post and I was thinking about all the conversation we have been having about circumcision, and the idea of the Ancient Olympics came to me.

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One of the things I learned during that research project on the Ancient Olympics is that men were not allowed to compete if they were kynodesmecircumcised, which meant that during that time Greek Jews were not allowed to compete in the Ancient Olympics. I also learned that in order to protect their penis during wrestling matches and other contact sports, the men would tie a string around the tip of their foreskin enclosing their glans, thus keeping them safe. The kynodesme was tied tightly around the part of the foreskin that extended beyond the glans. The kynodesme could then either be attached to a waist band to expose the scrotum, or tied to the base of the penis so that the penis appeared to curl upwards.

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The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern Games. There were fewer events, and only free men who spoke Greek could compete, instead of athletes from any country. Also, the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different sites every time.

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Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. One young Athenian nobleman defended his political reputation by mentioning how he entered seven chariots in the Olympic chariot-race. This high number of entries made both the aristocrat and Athens look very wealthy and powerful.
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There are numerous myths about how the Olympics began. One myth says that the guardians of the infant god Zeus held the first footrace, or that Zeus himself started the Games to celebrate his victory over his father Cronus for control of the world. Another tradition states that after the Greek hero Pelops won a chariot race against King Oenomaus to marry Oenomaus’s daughter Hippodamia, he established the Games.

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Athletic games also were an important part of many religious festivals from early on in ancient Greek culture. In the Iliad, the famous warrior Achilles holds games as part of the funeral services for his best friend Patroclus. The events in them include a chariot race, a footrace, a discus match, boxing and wrestling.

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The footrace was the sole event for the first 13 Olympiads. Over time, the Greeks added longer footraces, and separate events. The pentathlon and wrestling events were the first new sports to be added, in the 18th Olympiad.
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Click on any of the event names to see a description of a particular sport:

olive-wreath-ancient-olympicsThe victorious olive branch. The Ancient Olympic Games didn’t have any medals or prizes. Winners of the competitions won olive wreaths, branches, as well as woolen ribbons. The victors returned home as heroes – and got showered with gifts by their fellow citizens.
Here are two videos the History Channel did about the Ancient Olympics. Too bad, they have them wearing modesty pouches.

By the way, for those interested, here is an explanation of women’s role in the Ancient Olympics:
Married women were banned at the Ancient Olympics on the penalty of death. The laws dictated that any adult married woman caught entering the Olympic grounds would be hurled to her death from a cliff! Maidens, however, could watch (probably to encourage gettin’ it on later). But this didn’t mean that the women were left out: they had their own games, which took place during Heraea, a festival worshipping the goddess Hera. The sport? Running – on a track that is 1/6th shorter than the length of a man’s track on the account that a woman’s stride is 1/6th shorter than that of a man’s! The female victors at the Heraea Games actually got better prizes: in addition to olive wreaths, they also got meat from an ox slaughtered for the patron deity on behalf of all participants! Overall, young girls in Ancient Greece weren’t encouraged to be athletes – with a notable exception of Spartan girls. The Spartans believed that athletic women would breed strong warriors, so they trained girls alongside boys in sports. In Sparta, girls also competed in the nude or wearing skimpy outfits, and boys were allowed to watch.
Another side note, Spartan marriage rituals are quite fascinating, if any one is interested I will do a straight post about Spartan sexuality and the marriage rituals. It will have some about gay sex, these were the Spartans after all.


"Just be yourself," but should you?

Being both gay and Christian, we often feel the pull of two very different cultures, each telling us how we should live.  And though we strive to live holy, Christ-centered lives, there are times when it seems impossible not to identify with the “me-first” mentality that permeates the mainstream gay community.

There is no question that gay people have been treated badly in our society, both in and out of the church.  It is in response to this treatment that we find ourselves wanting to say to the rest of the world, “I’m not going to care what you think of me anymore!  I’m going to live the way I want to live, and I’m going to have Pride in Myself!”  This is often the response of the secular gay community.

Essentially, the secular gay community says, “Be yourself in all situations.  Don’t worry about how anyone else feels about it.  If they’re offended, too bad.”

But as Christians, we are (as usual) called to something greater than this.  We are God’s abassadors to the world, and that means we must be willing to change and adapt ourselves to the different situations we find ourselves in.  We must be willing to put aside our own freedoms — although they are our freedoms — in order to reach others with the love of God, whether those “others” are strict fundamentalists or party-loving secular gays.

As you read the following passage, notice how the issues Paul dealt with almost 2000 years ago are remarkably similar to the ones we deal with today as gay Christians.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NASB)
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.


Moment of Zen: The Olympics


Gay Activists and the IOC

Despite broad worldwide gains for gay rights, homosexuality remains criminalized in many countries — a sore point for activists who hope the global stage of the Olympics can be a springboard for change.

Specifically, activists are asking why the International Olympic Committee — with a credo of “sport for all” — welcomes in its ranks scores of nations that ban gay sex. For the IOC, which has taken actions in the past to combat racism and sexism, it’s a new civil rights challenge likely to linger long after the upcoming Summer Games in London.

“The IOC needs to come out of the closet,” said prominent British human rights lawyer Mark Stephens. “Sport for all means all — irrespective of color, gender or sexual orientation. It’s a matter of human dignity.”

Stephens, in a recent public lecture and an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper, has called on the IOC to ban the roughly 75 countries — mostly from Africa, the Caribbean and the Islamic world — that outlaw homosexual activity. That demand has been embraced by Peter Tatchell, a leading British gay-rights campaigner, and has prompted several human rights organizations to say the IOC should at least speak out, even if a ban at this stage is unrealistic.

“The games would be badly depopulated if you exclude every government with a bad human rights record,” said Marianne Mollmann, a policy adviser with Amnesty International. “But we certainly feel the IOC should be more vocal about these issues and bring them up actively with governments where it’s clear there are serious violations.”

Along with proposing a ban, Stephens has urged still-in-the-closet gay and lesbian athletes to come out during the games, which start July 27. He says those who don’t feel safe in their home countries should apply for asylum while in Britain.

IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, asked about the appeals, noted that the Olympic Charter “clearly states that any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

Moreau gave no indication if the IOC would do anything to raise the particular issue of anti-gay laws and discrimination among its member nations.

“It’s absolute cowardice on the part of the IOC,” said John Amaechi, who came out as gay after ending a career in the National Basketball Association.

Amaechi, who is British and now runs a consulting firm there, has been serving on the diversity board of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. The committee, known as LOCOG, made diversity and inclusion a cornerstone of its bid to host the games.

Amaechi commends LOCOG for seeking to include gays, lesbians and transgender people on its staff, in its volunteer corps and among its small-business contractors. But he’s dismayed at the IOC’s hesitance to speak out on global gay-rights issues.

“They’re abdicating the responsibility that comes with the power they have,” he said, drawing a contrast with the IOC’s hardline stance in 1964 when it expelled South Africa over its racist apartheid policies.

“Where is that bold, progressive Olympic movement that sees great injustice in the world and says, ‘Whatever the risk, we won’t let people who violate our tenets join us,’ ” Amaechi said.

He depicted the IOC executive committee as “a bunch of older, straight men who still giggle when there’s mention of sexual orientation.”

The gay-rights issue is likely to entangle the IOC long past London.

Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, has a checkered record on gay rights, and a regional court — citing a potential threat to Russian society — has upheld Sochi officials’ rejection of a proposed “Pride House” to welcome gays and lesbians at the games.

Advocates, meanwhile, are coalescing around the Olympics in their push for gay rights.

Boris Dittrich, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said the IOC should be trying to convince individual countries with anti-gay laws that they need to be more tolerant.

“The IOC has been willing to condemn states for their racism, for the exclusion of women athletes,” said Jessica Stern of the New York-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “We have to call on them to take into account the safety and inclusion of LGBT athletes.”

Olympics aside, it’s an exciting time for gay-rights activists in both Britain and the United States as Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama each have thrown their support behind efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.

Yet even in those countries, and their Western partners, sports-related prejudice against gays persists. Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, a 2008 gold medalist in Beijing, is one of a tiny group of openly gay athletes expected to compete in London.

Sports leagues in Britain and elsewhere in Europe have been trying to combat anti-gay bias. In North America, there has never been an active player in the top four major league sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — who’s come out as gay.

Jim Buzinski of OutSports.com, which tracks the role of gays in sports, believes progress is being made as more straight athletes support the idea of gays competing openly and as anti-gay slurs become increasingly taboo.

As for the IOC, Buzinski described its current leadership as “a lost cause.”

“It’s an issue I don’t think these people feel comfortable talking about,” he said. “It’s a group that’s going to be one of the last to change.”

In London, spectators and athletes likely will glimpse some of the many rainbow-flag gay-pride pins that LOCOG has issued as part of its efforts to show solidarity with the gay community. LOCOG also has touted its efforts to recruit gay and transgender staff and volunteers, and include gay-run businesses among its contractors.

Nonetheless, some British activists are displeased.

Andy Wasley, media manager of the London-based gay rights group Stonewall, said there had been inadequate efforts to launch long-term initiatives aimed at increasing gay and transgender participation in amateur and pro sports.

“Given that the Olympics were won on a legacy of diversity and inclusion, it’s striking how little they have done,” he said.

He also expressed dismay that out of roughly 550 Britons slated to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics, only two — both Paralympians — are openly gay.

Tatchell said he had been meeting frequently with the London organizers to seek an extensive gay and transgender role in the games, and described the results thus far as “a huge disappointment.”

One step LOCOG did take was to train its volunteers on dealing with gays and lesbians. A workbook describes a complaint from a spectator made uncomfortable by two men holding hands next to him.

Among multiple-choice answers for volunteers are the options to tell him to “stop being a homophobic idiot” or “politely ask the couple to stop holding hands.”

The third answer is: “You explain that there is a huge diversity of people at the London 2012 Games, which includes gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals and couples.”

And now for a little bit of humor thrown in, just to lighten the mood.


Sparring erupts over military personnel in San Diego gay parade

Organizers of the military contingent in Saturday’s LGBT Pride parade in San Diego have accused congressional critics of trying to “bully the Pentagon into moving backwards” on the issue of gays in the military.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) criticized the Pentagon’s decision to let service members wear their uniforms while marching in the parade — the first time military personnel have been permitted to wear uniforms in a gay parade.
Forbes said the decision by a deputy assistant secretary of defense “was an outrageous and blatantly political determination issued solely to advance this administration’s social agenda.”
Inhofe demanded an explanation from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the decision to allow personnel to wear their uniforms in the parade violates a Department of Defense policy banning personnel from involvement “in a partisan political parade.”
In a letter to Panetta, Inhofe requested “a detailed explanation of the rationale you used to grant this ‘one time waiver’ of DOD policy, who requested the waiver, why this waiver was considered justified over other requests and whether you are considering other exceptions to current policy.”
Former sailor Sean Sala, a member of Servicemembers United Leadership Council and the organizer of the military contingent for the parade, issued a statement Wednesday reading, in part:
“Sen. Inhofe and his like-minded colleagues should spend some time actually meeting and talking with some of these gay troops and veterans instead of using their platform to try to bully the Pentagon into moving backwards.”
The San Diego parade and festival, Sala said, “are in the same category of non-partisan and non-political community events as are many other events and parades in which servicemembers are also allowed to participate in uniform.”
Upward of four dozen military personnel wore uniforms in the parade through the heavily gay neighborhood of Hillcrest. Other military members marched with them, many wearing T-shirts identifying their branch of service.
–Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: A Marine reservist and his civilian partner at Saturday’s LGBT Pride parade in San Diego.
Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

I Love This…

The American “Family” Association is going to boycott Google. YES! Just imagine all the rebellion that’s going to spawn from this when the school year starts again.
Mom: Sally, you can’t use Google anymore. They support homos having all kinds of rights, including marriage, and we’re against that. It’ll tear up the social fabric of our society and threaten our religious freedom.
Sally: How am I supposed to do my homework?
Mom: Just go straight to wikipedia, Sally.
Sally: But my teacher says I have to use a peer-reviewed article from a reputable academic journal.
Mom: Then go to the journal’s website.
Sally: How am I supposed to know what website that is without using Google?
Mom: You’ll have to use Bing.
Sally: But Microsoft donated money to marriage equality campaigns.
Mom: I’ll just take you to the library.
Sally: But my homework is due tomorrow, and, because of recent budget cuts, our library is closed on Mondays.
Mom: I’ll just go speak to your teacher and get you an extension.
Sally: And say what, Mom? “I wouldn’t let Sally do her homework because I’m afraid of what will happen if we treat people with respect and have that reflected in our legal system. I have this irrational fear that two consenting adults, who were willing to fight for the ability to love each other and have that represented in a legal and social contract that offers protection and stability for both them and whatever children they may have, may actually show up heterosexuals with our 50% divorce rate, because they clearly value what marriage is supposed to mean”? You can walk away now….Oh, and, by the way, we should probably quit paying the electric company as well. They had a float in the pride parade this year. Not to mention, it will help you achieve your fantasy of living in the Dark Ages.

Sent from my iPad


Idyll by Siegfried Sassoon


Idyll
by Siegfried Sassoon

In the grey summer garden I shall find you 
With day-break and the morning hills behind you. 
There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings; 
And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings. 
Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep
Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep: 
And I shall know the sense of life re-born 
From dreams into the mystery of morn 
Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there 
Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share
The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are 
Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.


The History of the Movement in One Man’s Life

Credit: Rink Foto / HBO

 

To LGBT people who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s, Vito Russo is an icon. But among younger generations, Russo is barely known — and that’s something Jeffrey Schwarz set out to change with his comprehensive, affecting documentary Vito, premiering tonight on HBO. 

“I felt like making a documentary could help introduce him to a new generation,” says Schwarz, producer and director of the film about the man who was author of The Celluloid Closet, a key player in ACT UP, and so much more.

Schwarz, 42, never met Russo, who died in 1990 at age 44, but the filmmaker has a long history with his subject nonetheless. “Vito has always been a beacon to me,” says Schwarz. “One of the first things I did when I was coming out was read The Celluloid Closet,” Russo’s landmark 1981 book about gay and lesbian images in film.

This was in the late 1980s, but Schwarz had been aware of Russo for several years before that. In 1982, when Schwarz was 12, he saw an episode of the movie-review show Sneak Previews, then hosted by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, about gay-themed films coming out that year, and the critics mentioned Russo and The Celluloid Closet.

Later, after Schwarz had been through film school and fallen in love with the documentary form, he heard that Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were making a movie of The Celluloid Closet, and he asked to work on it. That 1995 documentary, for which Schwarz was apprentice editor, was his first job in the movie business, and the gig gave him access to archives through which he got to know Russo well.

Vito, which Schwarz began planning about five years ago, will give audiences the opportunity to know Russo well. Through archival footage and interviews with family members, friends, and a veritable who’s who of the modern gay rights movement, the film traces his love of movies along with his anger over their negative portrayals of gays; his development as an activist; his outgoing, outsize personality; and his struggle with AIDS, which eventually took his life, but not before he fought tirelessly for awareness and treatment as a member of the direct-action group ACT UP. Russo’s life is essentially a history of the gay movement from Stonewall through ACT UP, says Schwarz.

In one piece of archival footage, Russo says, “Everything I’ve done I’ve chosen to do. This is the life I wanted. I’m one of the very few people I know who can say I never did anything I didn’t want to do, and I always did exactly what I pleased. Very few people can say that about their lives.”

Born in 1946, Russo spent his early life in New York City and developed a passion for film early on, often tagging along with his cousin Phyllis Antonellis on her movie dates, then recounting the plots to his family. He also developed a passion for men, and “never once for a second believed that it was wrong to be gay,” as he observes in the film, despite his Catholic upbringing. In 1961 his family moved to Lodi, N.J., a suburban town he hated for many reasons, including the bullying he received from high school jocks, but he discovered other gay kids and formed a support system.

He returned to New York as soon as he turned 18, and he was a witness to the Stonewall riots of 1969, but he didn’t become politicized until after a raid on another bar, the Snake Pit. He joined the Gay Activists Alliance, an early gay rights group, and participated in many protests, including one for marriage rights in 1971, with an “engagement party” for Russo and his then-lover, Steve Krotz, at the New York marriage bureau. He also started movie nights for the GAA, showing classic films with gay-beloved divas like Judy Garland and Bette Davis.

As the 1970s progressed, Russo made a living and a name as a journalist for The Advocate and other publications, interviewing celebrities such as Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, and worked in the film department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where he discovered many vintage movies with both coded and explicit gay and lesbian images. Out of this came “Celluloid Closet” lectures and eventually the book, documenting how gay characters were consistently either villains or objects of ridicule, and often died in the end.

“He was the first person to write about how Hollywood treated homosexuals,” says writer Bruce Vilanch in the film. Other well-known interviewees include Larry Kramer, Armistead Maupin, Malcolm Boyd, Gabriel Rotello, Jenni Olson, David Ehrenstein, former Advocate editor Mark Thompson, Tomlin, Epstein, and Friedman, along with many others who knew Russo, including members of his supportive family, such as Antonellis (everyone’s favorite, says Schwarz) and his brother Charlie.

“The film couldn’t have been made without Charlie Russo and other people in the family, like cousin ‘Perky’ [Antonellis],” Schwarz says. His first call when he decided to make the film, he says, was to Charlie. In the film, Charlie recalls the strong bond between Vito and their mother as well as the party atmosphere that reigned among the extended Russo family whenever Vito came to visit.

Other “angels” who helped make the film a reality include Bryan Singer, who came on as executive producer, and HBO executives such as Sheila Nevins. HBO got on board after Schwarz showed network officials a 20-minute sample of the film. “I’m still pinching myself that HBO is our partner in this,” Schwarz says. “It’s kind of a stamp of quality when a documentary airs on HBO.”

Schwarz, who has created many short documentaries used as bonuses on DVD releases, has also made feature-length ones on subjects including porn star Jack Wrangler and horror-film producer-director William Castle. By the end of the year, he hopes to finish I Am Divine, a doc about John Waters’s biggest star. Next up is a documentary on gay actor Tab Hunter, then one on antigay activist Anita Bryant and her infamous Save Our Children campaign.

Right now, he’s thrilled to be bringing Vito Russo to a new audience. In addition to making the film, he’s edited a two-volume collection of Russo’s writingsOut Spoken: A Vito Russo Reader,published by White Crane Books.

He was gratified, he notes, by the reception Vitoreceived as the opening-night attraction this month at Outfest, Los Angeles’s LGBT film festival. “The greatest thing about making this film is everyone is talking about Vito Russo,” he says. “It’s going to get people talking about our history. I hope it will inspire young people to go out there and live a life Vito would be proud of.”

Vito premieres tonight at 9 Eastern/Pacific on HBO. 


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