Elena Kostyuchenko (in the yellow hat) at the pro-gay Day of Kisses protest.
On January 25, 2013 the Russian State Duma swiftly passed a bill banning the "promotion of homosexuality." The bill will have to undergo two more readings and be signed by the Russian president before it becomes law. If this happens, it will give the Russian government the right to fine publications and individuals up to half a million dollars for "promoting homosexuality." Meanwhile, the law does not define what constitutes "promoting" and conflates homosexuality with, among other things, pedophilia. LGBT rights activists speculate that the passage of this law will lead to the government shutting down organizations, websites, and print publications that support the already besieged Russian LGBT community.
Protests for LGBT rights in Russia have a history of violence. Along with those brave enough to participate in them, protests often attract thugs calling themselves Russian Orthodox activists who pelt the LGBT protesters with eggs and physically attack them. The thugs discuss their plans for the beatings in their online forums on V Kontakte (a Russian version of Facebook), and cover their faces with scarves and masks in order to avoid being identified. Although the police are always present at such protests, the Orthodox activists seems to have their tacit approval.
On a chilled-out weeknight in a chilled-out gay bar, you wouldn't be surprised to see clips of Designing Women or The Golden Girls playing on the big-screen TVs. That seems intuitive, right? Gay culture has long embraced these shows, to the point that seeing Rose and Blanche eat cheesecake while we sip a gin and tonic would barely register.
And yet these shows are not explicitly gay at all. They're about groups of empowered women, most of whom are over 40. They are, in fact, built upon relationships forged post-widowhood. What's the connection?
A gay character or two may have sauntered in on occasion (or a maybe-gay character, in the case of Meschach Taylor's Anthony on DW). Some episodes even tackled real gay issues, particularly Designing Women, which was known for its strident political bent. But that wasn't the crux of any of these shows. And gay rights plotlines don't feature in the clips I've seen gay men chanting along with—say, Dixie Carter's famous-among-fans rant about how her beauty-contestant sister's flaming baton-throwing caused "the night the lights went out in Georgia."
The BBC announced last week that Lip Service—its L Word knockoff drama about the lives and loves of a group of lesbians in Glasgow—would not be returning for a third season. The cancellation was almost certainly due to Lip Service's flagging ratings—its audience declined by half from the first season to its second—which makes sense from a business' perspective. The show was on, and people didn't watch it, so now the show is off. TV 101 right?
Well… maybe. Or perhaps it wasn't that people weren't watching the show. Maybe it was just that straight people weren't watching it.
This hypothesis is, I admit, held together by a mix of anecdotal evidence and educated guesswork (the blogosphere's superglue!). But allow me to explain:
I watched Lip Service. I watched Lip Service despite the fact that it was—let's face it—a terrible show. I watched Lip Service despite the winding, tangential storylines, and the often bizarre, uncomfortable sex scenes. I watched Lip Service, and my girlfriends all watched Lip Service, and my best (gay) friends watched Lip Service, and my favorite (gay) cousin watched Lip Service. We all watched Lip Service because, simply, it was about gay people, and we're gay people. Frankly, we're usually so starved for representations of queer women that that's enough. (Remember Tila Tequila? We watched that. South of Nowhere? Classic. The Real L Word? Every week.) As a group, we lesbians already have desperately low standards for viewership—despite our complaints about the way we're represented, in the end, we're beggars, not choosers. But when it came to Lip Service, neither our desperation nor our begging could keep it around. We may wonder why this strategy doesn't work on our favorite TV shows any more than it does on our dates (zing!), but it seems that in this day and age, gay shows just can't survive without straight audiences.
Portlander Ethan Jewett has fond memories of growing up as a Boy Scout. But as his son Jackson neared Cub Scout age, Jewett felt that, like many parents, he did not want to enroll his son in an organization that continues to exclude LGBT folks and atheists.
So instead of just joining the campaign to transform the Boy Scouts of America, Jewett and other parents are making their own official scout troop. The 55th Cascadia Scouts are open to kids of all genders, sexual orientations, and religions. They already have 45 kids signed up to join the troop on outdoorsy trips.
"My love of the outdoors all traces back to my scouting experience—Troop 259! I really wanted that for my son," says Jewett. "I continue to have hope that the Boy Scouts of America will change. But I have a five-year-old son. Time's up."
The Cascadia Scouts are an official scouting organization, merit badges, scarves, and backpacking trips and all. They are not the only independent scouting group. The World Federation of Independent Scouts oversees hundreds of scout troops worldwide that are distinct from the well-known Boy Scouts of America, including several other alternative troops in America.
Back in 1983, Frankie said "Relax" and a media unsettled by gay S&M did the exact opposite. A generation later, we pride ourselves on being a little cooler with queerness and BDSM, but I suspect there are still some double standards when it comes to gay men getting kinky....
Where are the kinky ladies who love to spank other ladies at? Unfortunately, in pop culture they're often squarely under the male gaze. In today's post, I turn to literature in search of more diverse representations of lesbian BDSM....
Yesterday, Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain clashed with Piers Morgan about whether or not people are born gay. Here's the video:
The important thing to know is that Cain sets out saying that "homosexuality is a sin" because of his "Biblical beliefs," but Morgan quickly steers the conversation into "born this way" territory, outraged that Cain won't concede his point. Cain's response: "What does science show? You show me evidence other than opinion, and you might cause me to reconsider that... Where's the evidence?"
I have a confession to make. I was raised in an evangelical Christian home, and when I was much much younger... I was a fan of contemporary Christian music (CCM). Oh, yes. I reailzed just how much of an affront to music it is almost half of my life ago, but lately, I've been thinking about just how entrenched it is in the ideology of the Christian Right. Consider this awful 1995 track by Twila Paris called "Rescue the Prisoner." (The "prisoner," it turns out, is a member of the LGBTQ community who is said to be "demanding rights" and "defending wrong.")
In May, Religion Dispatches published my first interview with former darling of the Christian contemporary music scene, lesbian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp. Then over the summer, I got to meet and interview Knapp in person while covering the Wild Goose Festival, an event that celebrated (predominantly Christian) spirituality, justice, and art. We talked a bit about the limitations of Christian music, feminism and sexuality on the same day she filmed the "It Gets Better" video below. I'll be critiquing some evangelical Christian music later in the series, so I'm very excited to share unpublished parts of our interview with you here today: