Τετάρτη, Φεβρουαρίου 21, 2007

Αναδρομή στα γεγονότα του 2006

Όπως αναφέρονται στο τεύχος του περιοδικού Advocate (1/16/2007 Issue 978, p13-25, 7p)


At the beginning of 2006, Brokeback Mountain (seems like years ago already, right?) was dominating the news when movie critic Gene Shalit--the supportive father of a gay son--trashed the film on the Today show, calling Jake Gyllenhaal's character a "sexual predator." (He later apologized.) But that story was quickly eclipsed by that of Oklahoma Baptist minister Lonnie Latham, who may not have been a sexual predator but was arrested for propositioning an undercover cop at an infamous gay cruising spot--and he preaches against same-sex marriage, natch. Speaking of which, that was the reason given by Virginia's Suffolk Christian Church for leaving the United Church of Christ. Meanwhile in Tanzania, sex was key in the BBC World Service Trust's decision to turn down U.S. funding for its AIDS prevention campaign there. Why? Because of a directive demanding that all beneficiaries sign a pledge opposing sex work. In happier news, Christine Quinn made history in New York City as the city council's first female and first openly gay speaker, a position considered the second-most powerful seat in the Big Apple's government.


As if Brokeback losing Best Picture to the shrill after-school special Crash wasn't irritating enough, the Bush administration continued to not be gay people's valentine with the appointment of antichoice, anti-gay rights Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito. Compounding our difficulties was the revelation that a new strain of chlamydia, LGV, was observed to be spreading among gay and bisexual men and increasing their chances of contracting HIV. In New Bedford, Mass., a frosty sort of justice was meted out when an 18-year-old man who attacked three gay bar patrons-as well as killing a woman traveling with him and a police officer--shot himself during a gunfight with authorities in Arkansas. But there were a few bright spots: Lesbian basketball star Latasha Byears settled her lawsuit with the Los Angeles Sparks, the WNBA team that Byears claimed had fired her because of her sexual orientation. And the University of Colorado's gay frat, Delta Lambda Phi, held a successful rush for the second year in a row.


In the immortal words of Stealers Wheel, it was clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right. For starters, the American Family Association promised to mount a boycott of Ford Motor Co. after it reneged on an alleged earlier promise to stop advertising in gay publications (including this one). At press time, Ford remained in business. President Bush, showing his usual tact and good taste in such matters, appointed five people to the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, among them a Baptist minister with no AIDS experience who loudly supports abstinence education and bans on same-sex marriage and adoption by gays, and two men with deep pharmaceutical industry ties. Also opposing adoption by gays was the archdiocese of San Francisco, which said it would explore ways to bar same-sex couples from adopting children (because the Lord apparently hates gays more than he loves giving children good homes). Sadly, San Francisco was merely following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, where newly minted homophobe, practicing Mormon, and would-be presidential contender Gov. Mitt "Mittens" Romney introduced a bill that would exempt Catholic Charities and other religious social services agencies from putting needy children in the loving clutches of icky gays. But the month wasn't entirely about thou-shalt-nots--the California supreme court ruled that the city of Berkeley had every right to start charging marina fees to the Boy Scouts of America because the organization violates the city's antidiscrimination policy.


Gay parents resisted the urge to throw jelly beans at Laura Bush at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, where some 200 queer families wearing rainbow leis made a dramatic appearance. Also being watched by government figures--without their knowledge--were gay groups who mounted protests against "don't ask, don't tell"; the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network obtained papers that confirmed the Pentagon carried out surveillance against gay activists at New York University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Department of Defense later acknowledged it acted "inappropriately"--no word on whether or not its spies were also dressed inappropriately. On other college campuses, the Equality Ride made its way to religious and military institutions, bringing students face-to-face with queer peers who are barred from attending such institutions. But they missed the Baptist-run University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., which expelled sophomore Jason Johnson after he wrote about his boyfriend in his MySpace profile. (Add that school to 2007's schedule, stat!) A veritable Kentucky Derby of controversy resulted, with out state senator Ernesto Scorsone telling colleagues that government funds shouldn't underwrite bigotry and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance filing suit against Republican governor Ernie Fletcher for not revoking $11 million in state funds earmarked for the university. Finally, in the "There will always be an England" file, London's Metropolitan Police asked its gay and lesbian officers to out themselves as part of a campaign to attract more queer recruits. No word on how well that went.


You know we're in trouble when figure skaters of the same sex--in Berkeley, no less--have to fight for their right to hoist each other in spangly unitards, as Gay Games--bound skating pair John Manzon-Santos and Alan Lessik did this month after their local rink forbade them to practice together. (Fortunately, the rink settled.) Even worse, you never know where the next hit is coming from: Howard Dean, who shepherded civil unions into existence as governor of Vermont, fired his gay outreach adviser at the Democratic National Committee under controversial circumstances. Of course, surprises run both ways: While a Senate panel approved the Federal Marriage Amendment, Laura Bush went on the record saying that the issue shouldn't be used for campaign purposes (does she know whom she's married to?). And a federal court struck down a vicious Oklahoma law that barred gay couples from adopting altogether--even many antigays thought that was too antigay. Probably not Episcopal minister Reverend Paul Zahl, though, who compared the possible election of an openly gay bishop to "a terrorist bomb which is timed to destroy a peace process." More literal violence could be found in Russia, where gay pride marchers found themselves attacked by egg-throwing mobs of religious conservatives and their unlikely allies: skinheads. Apparently, the end of Will & Grace wasn't enough to appease the forces of homophobia.


Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? In the latter category, Mary Cheney's autobiography, Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life, in which she justifies her dubious support of a political party that seeks to deprive her of equal rights, was published in May. In the former: The book tanked (serves her right). Bad: The Federal Marriage Amendment was voted on by the full Senate for the first time since 2004. Good: It failed again. Bad: Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called a Chicago Sun-Times reporter a "piece of shit…fucking fag." Good: He apologized and was fined. Bad: Spain saw its first same-sex divorce. Good: Spanish gays really are equal! Bad: Immigration rallies around the country prompted by pending immigration-reform legislation in Congress dredged up some ugly xenophobic reactions. Good: Discussion of the topic allowed gay activists to talk about inequality faced by queer U.S. citizens with foreign partners. Bad: Four Brigham Young University students were punished for joining with Equality Ride participants in protesting BYU's antigay policies. Good: Sticking it to "the Man" is always awesome. Not bad: Two male Canadian Mounties married each other. Even better: They looked super-cute in their uniforms.


It was a hot summer--and Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth exacerbated our discomfort--but lesbian tennis star Amélie Mauresmo proved (finally) she could handle the heat by winning Wimbledon, once and for all destroying her reputation for choking in big matches. (She also won the Australia Open, with her opponent retiring midway through the final.) In other summer surprises, the states of Oklahoma and Alabama elected their first openly gay legislators when Al McAffrey and Patricia Todd, respectively, won their Democratic primaries (they faced nominal Republican opposition in the general election), while Kathy Webb achieved a similar first in Arkansas earlier in the year. So not a surprise: Lance Bass coming out of the closet. Meanwhile, the Washington State supreme court rejected equal marriage rights for same-sex couples and was soon mimicked by New York's highest court. The government of Iran placed a five-year ban on a reporter for the crime of writing an article titled "Let's Make AIDS Public." Isn't it already, regardless of what the ayatollah and his radical-Islamist henchmen may like to think?


In a month when most of us were lounging poolside, it's no surprise that much of the news dealt with water. American swimmer Daniel Veatch set a world swimming record in his age category at Montrears Outgames, finishing a 200-meter backstroke in two minutes, 14.83 seconds. Less queer-friendly was the pool at California's Stanford University, which barred an all-male synchronized swimming team from performing an exhibition at a meet--the International Olympic Committee, in its infinite wisdom, declared the sport to be for ladies only. (Didn't they see the Speedo-clad chorus line of divers in Can't Stop the Music?) And as New Orleans marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it was good to see the queer scene recovering strongly, even as citizens, many of whom remained homeless or otherwise displaced, were still furious at local, state, and federal officials who dropped the ball before, during, and after the catastrophe. Up in New York State, West Point military academy gave an award to a cadet whose thesis argued for the end of "don't ask, don't tell."


Leave it to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to put a pall over back-to-school season by vetoing a bill that would have prohibited antigay language in state textbooks. Fortunately, other news this month was more positive. Another (former) governor--New Jersey "gay American" Jim McGreevey--published his autobiography, telling the story of his journey out of the closet to everyone from The Advocate to Oprah, and the Human Rights Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index showed that more major American corporations than ever are extending benefits and protections to their gay employees. One of Time Warner's employees--CNN Headline News anchor Thomas Roberts--came out while speaking on a panel at the annual National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in Miami. Martina Navratilova, a corporation unto herself, capped off her competitive career with a mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open, a victory that brought the lesbian icon her 59th Grand Slam title, while in August the very site of the tournament, the USTA National Tennis Center, was renamed for her mentor, Billie Jean King. And gay GOP poster boy Patrick Guerriero left his post as top dog at the Log Cabin Republicans.


Rep. Mark Foley united the nation--gay, straight, you name it--in giving us the collective creeps when the transcripts of his chat sessions with underage male congressional pages were made public, thanks in part to a Human Rights Campaign staffer who posted them on a blog (instead of being hailed, he was promptly canned). But while Foley bathed in ignominy, others were doing the right thing. California established a law letting domestic partners file joint state income taxes, and New Jersey's supreme court ruled in favor of full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples (though they left it up to the legislature to decide whether the title of marriage would be granted not so right). Overseas, the Dutch granted political asylum to Iranian gays who fled persecution, including death sentences, in their homeland (those damn radicals again), while in Canada, the first International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce was planned in Montreal. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center made a move that was not considered good business by some when it launched a campaign calling HIV a "gay disease." At least gay men were asked to "Own it. End it."


With the GOP still reeling over the Mark Foley scandal--oh, did we mention he was cochairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children?--another bomb dropped when Colorado escort Mike Jones revealed he'd had a long-term sexual relationship with--and provided crystal meth (!) to--National Association of Evangelicals president (and Jesus Camp costar) Ted Haggard. What impact Foley and Haggard had on the 2006 mid-term election will be up to historians to decide, but we do know that the Republican Party's reign of terror (or the reign of terror of the "war on terror") has met its end, with Democrats winning a majority in both the House and Senate. But then, these are changing times, and even the world of pro sports has to keep up with them ESPN, for instance, took color commentator Brian Kinchen off the air after he described a receiver's "caress" of a caught football as "kind of gay."

Tidings of great joy were brought to gay and lesbian couples in South Africa, to whom legal wedding ceremonies were officially extended in December following the signing into law of the Civil Union Act on November 30. (The country's constitutional congress had set a December 1 deadline for the government to enact legislation giving same-sex couples full marriage equality.) December 1 was also the 19th annual World AIDS Day and, to the surprise of no one, the Human Rights Campaign gave the Bush White House failing grades in prevention, research, and ending AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. (The C earned in global AIDS and the D in care and treatment more closely resembled W's academic record as a Yale undergrad.) But there was one beacon of light--literally--to be found: Bristol-Myers Squibb's "Light to Unite" campaign donated $1 to the National AIDS Fund for each virtual candle lit on its Web site--up to $100,000, that is, representing only a fraction of the total candles lit. Maybe next year they'll pick up the tab for all those candles and give us all a very happy holiday.

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