Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Awards Season: The Advocate's People of the Year

Before the Supreme Court took up its two marriage equality–related cases this year, everyone knew which vote would be the most pivotal: Justice Anthony Kennedy’s.  With four justices leaning liberal and four leaning conservative, Kennedy was the swing vote.

And he ruled in favor of equality, and then took it a step further, writing a majority opinion in the Windsor v The United States case, saying the federal Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] served no other purpose except discrimination.
"DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities."
Rap lyrics have long contained gay slurs and homophobic content — even the new release this year by Eminem was more of the same. Not so “Same Love.”

 “Same Love,” the fourth single from Seattle artist Macklemore, landed on the Billboard Hot 100 in February, rose to number 11 in August and number 2 on the Rap Chart in July. The song didn't make waves just in the U.S., but charted everywhere from New Zealand to Denmark.

“Same Love,” which featured out lesbian singer Mary Lambert, wasn’t a vague testament to loving everyone, but a personal declaration of support for gays and an indictment of right-wing activists, mean-spirited online commenters, the term “that’s so gay,” and “America the Brave,” which “still fears what we don't know.”

Growing up with two gay uncles, Macklemore — AKA Ben Haggerty — wrote the song in 2012 in support of Washington State’s proposed, and eventually passed, marriage equality law.  But Macklemore didn’t just release “Same Love” and wait to see what happened; he performed it everywhere, gave interviews about its impetus, donated proceeds to Music for Marriage Equality, and made an equally heartfelt video.

Eminem is the past, Macklemore is the musical future.
When the case to fight Proposition 8 first launched with the backing of the newly formed American Foundation for Equal Rights [AFER] and powerhouse lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, it was the subject of harsh debate among LGBT activists about whether this was the right time for a full press on marriage equality rather than civil unions. Much of that is now forgotten, and the plaintiffs in the case — Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — have not only won the argument, but they did it at the Supreme Court.

And then there's Edie Windsor, who made a point of noting that her case was also turned away by major LGBT rights organizations when she first tried fighting the Defense of Marriage Act. It was attorney Roberta Kaplan who recognized its potential.

Thanks to the perseverance of all of the plaintiffs and their lawyers, same-sex marriage had an important legal moment and an important cultural one. Social media was filled with supportive red equality signs, friends were given reason to talk about their beliefs, and news outlets paused to talk about LGBT equality. The immediate effect of these cases is marriage equality in California, plus the demise of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Same-sex marriages are being recognized, and many who refile taxes are getting money back from the government. Binational couples who were being split up because the federal government would not recognize their marriages are no longer facing that threat. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces finally can have their spouses considered part of the family. The effects are still being felt as the Supreme Court's ruling is referenced in cases going forward.

All good, all great, but let’s let Edie Windsor have the last word:
"Not only does a much larger portion of our country, and the straight members of our country, see us differently, as just people who live and love who bring up kids who will play with their kids, but our own community has come out and seen each other and loved each other in a way that makes me courageous and proud and joyous every day."
To feminists and female sports fans, ensuring the health of women's sports is crucial. While male athletes can concentrate on being athletes, women are too often are held to different standards: look like a Victoria's Secret model, but be able to dunk. You can't be butchy, because it gives away the secret that lesbians play sports. You can't be tough, either, so turn down that grunting, Williams sisters.

And then there’s Brittney Griner, the no-nonsense center on the Phoenix Mercury and the WNBA's number one draft pick. Not only was Griner unparalleled in college basketball, but she ended her career at Baylor by coming out in several interviews.

Griner is the lesbian athlete that women's sports needs — unabashedly comfortable with herself, charming, media-beloved, and can dunk like it's nobody's business. Her charm has gotten her an endorsement with Nike, the pinnacle of deals that every athlete on this planet craves. Griner may not have won Rookie of the Year — probably in part to a knee injury that curbed her season a bit — but she was unanimously voted onto the 2013 All-Rookie Team.

Most importantly, though, Griner should be considered the answer to the nagging question, Can a gay athlete come out, be accepted on a team, play magnificently, and still earn endorsements?
The Cannes Film Festival made an unprecedented move this year by awarding the Palme d'Or to not only the director of Blue Is the Warmest Color, a romantic drama based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Julie Maroh, but also to its leading actresses: Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.

 In the year France achieved marriage equality, the jurors’ recognition of actresses who depict two women passionately in love attracted international attention; Seydoux is 28 and Exarchopoulos, 20, are the only women other than Piano director Jane Campion to ever receive the coveted Palme d'Or. Official accolades are likely to continue, with the Golden Globes nominating Blue is the Warmest Color last week for Best Foreign Film.

Blue has made an indelible mark in cinema history for the raw honesty of love and loss so intimately captured by Seydoux and Exarchopoulos. Queer women in audiences around the world relate to the story of a French teenager and her sexual awakening, which is sparked by the arrival of a blue-haired artist who helps lead her on a journey of self-discovery. 

But thanks to the talents of Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, this tale becomes universal, a love story that is remarkable not because it involves two women, but because it shows two people braving the beautiful and brutal vicissitudes of l’amour.
As the Russian Parliament considered a ban on gay propaganda, with President Vladimir Putin expected to sign into law, it was already dangerous to talk publicly about being gay. Yet Russian TV anchor Anton Krasovsky dared to challenge what was happening by coming out — live on air.

On January 25, he looked into the camera and told viewers that he is gay and "as human as President Putin" and then said, "It's time; now it's time to be open."

Open, and unemployed; Krasovsky lost his job within hours of coming out, even though he knew it would happen. But he plans to stay in Russia, even though he still doesn’t have a job.

Krasovsky is perhaps the most prominent of LGBT Russians to take a stand, but if what's happened there is to be reversed, Krasovsky is a brave example of what it might take.
The fight over equal rights for transgender people is starting with young people. In California, where the Student Success and Opportunity Act to protect trans students in its schools was passed, right-wing groups made the bill a call to action and attempted to gather enough signatures to force a vote that would repeal it. So far, they've failed. In October, when the Pacific Justice Institute — a “Christian” group — set its sights on an innocent transgender teenager in Colorado.

"Jane Doe," a 16-year-old transgender girl at Florence High School, outside Colorado Springs, was first accused of "harassing" fellow female students in the bathroom. The district superintendent and local police confirmed no harassment took place, but PJI amended its claim to say that her mere presence in the bathroom was "inherently harassing." They even produced a video featuring cisgender (nontrans) schoolmates who claimed they'd "suffered" because they were forced to share a bathroom with someone who "doesn't have the same parts as [us]." Then some anti-trans activists published Doe's given name, and she was subjected to vile personal attacks online, some rising to the level of death threats; she was placed on suicide watch.

 Now it appears the Pacific Justice Institute has stepped back its harassment of “Jane Doe” though they have yet to apologize, but with the support of her moms, her school district, and recently reaffirmed Colorado state law on her side, “Jane Doe” is persevering.
"I want to be able to let people know I haven’t done anything to harm any being and I am a human with feelings too.  I just really hope from all of this comes good, and allows more minds to become accepting and open."
Most of us take our jobs seriously, but sometimes we put them in perspective by saying, “Well, it’s not like we’re curing cancer.”

Well, this gay science prodigy’s work may actually play a role in curing cancer, by aiding in early detection. At age 15, when most kids are focused on prom dates and video games, Jack Andraka developed a low-cost, sensitive dipstick-type test for quick and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. And all because of a close family friend’s death from cancer.
“What I found is that 85 percent of all cancers are diagnosed late, when someone has less than a 2 percent chance of survival, and our current method of detection costs $800, misses 30 percent of all cancers and is 60 years old. So then I decided to set out to change all this.”
Again, at fifteen years old. Now 16, Jack attends high school in Glen Burnie, Maryland., does scientific research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and is dedicated to being a “normal kid” who enjoys sports and socializing — but also to being visible as a gay scientist.
You’d be hard-pressed to name a year in American history in which bisexuals were more embraced by the public than 2013 — that despite the fact that many people who we might label bisexual — or who at least participate in bisexual activities or attractions — may prefer not to use that word at all.

Actress Zoe Saldana told Allure magazine that she had been with women, and could end up with a woman, married raising little Saldana babies. 

Prime Suspect star Maria Bello wrote an essay in The New York Times about being in a relationship with another woman.

British Olympic diver Tom Daley posted a YouTube video about being in love with another man.

Former American Idol star Crystal Bowersox released a song of LGBT support, and came out as bisexual.

So did 81-year-old music producer Clive Davis:
"Bisexuality is misunderstood; the adage is that you're either straight or gay or lying, but that's not my experience. To call me anything other than bisexual would be inaccurate."
All these folks are forging a new path where they don’t feel compelled either to identify with the acceptable label, or be forced to “choose” between gay and straight.
“The most influential person of 2013 doesn't come from our ongoing legal conflict but instead from our spiritual one — successes from which are harder to define. There has not been any vote cast or ruling issued, and still a significant and unprecedented shift took place this year in how LGBT people are considered by one of the world's largest faith communities.
Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference. Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion's rules about morality. There's a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope's capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the U.S. but globally.
Pope Francis is still not pro-gay by today's standard. He started his term by issuing a joint encyclical in July with Benedict, in which they reiterate that marriage should be a “stable union of man and woman.” It continues, “This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgement and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation.”
As Argentina's archbishop, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio opposed marriage equality's eventual passage there, saying in 2010 that it's a ”destructive attack on God’s plan.” When Bergoglio became pope, GLAAD was quick to point out that he'd once called adoption by same-sex couples a form of discrimination against children.
As Pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church. The moment that grabbed headlines was during a flight from Brazil to Rome. When asked about gay priests, Pope Francis told reporters, according to a translation from Italian, ‘If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?’”
Well, I’ll judge.

Has the Pope done some wonderful things? Sure he has. Has he made one single change to the Catholic Church for women or gays? No.

It’s all PR work done to battle the crumbling numbers of the Church; done to shore up their already filled-to-the-Vatican-rafters coffers.

But, if you believe in God, in the hereafter, Pope Francis is right; who is he to judge?
He isn’t; that job falls on the shoulders of God, and I don’t think she thinks Pope Frankie is being quite as pro-LGBT as The Advocate seems to think.

I think The Advocate blew it by not naming Edie Windsor its person of the year. Her agenda was equality; the Pope’s is not. When he makes actual, tangible inroads within the Catholic Church for The Gays, and women, and actively works to protect children from being raped, call me for my vote.

Until then ... just sayin’. 


the dogs' mother said...

All we heard about today was Pope Francis. Lots of other worthy folks.

Professor Chaos said...

Pacific "Justice" Institute? What a misnomer. Bunch of disgusting little bullies!

Helen Lashbrook said...

I think bravery award of the year should go to gays and lesbians who come out in today's Russia. It cannot be easy to set yourself up as a hate target in a repressed country like Russia, run by that homophobic egotist Vlad the Putrid.