Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 HEROES AND ZEROS OF THE YEAR



Vienna’s Leopold Museum courted controversy with its Nude Men from 1800 to Today exhibition


Here is the expanded version of my 18th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros which originally ran in the January 2014 issue of Fugues magazine.

Zero Lebanese security forces, for using discredited “anal probe” exams to test for proof of men being gay. The doctor checks for traces of sperm, and takes a picture to ‘study’ the shape of the hole – the larger the width the more ‘likely’ the person is gay. Human Rights Watch says the tests amount to humiliation and torture.

Beth Ditto married her longtime partner

Kristin Ogata in April

Zeros The Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are developing a medical test to “detect” homosexuals. Yousouf Mindkar, director of public health at the Kuwaiti Health Ministry, told the Kuwait newspaper Al Rai in October, “Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the Gulf Cooperation Countries. However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”

Zero Greece, for reinstating laws to arrest anyone suspected of having HIV. The law also allows authorities to publicize the names of HIV-positive people, and have them evicted from their homes.

Zeros The 1,000 people who protested same-sex marriage in Haiti (which currently bans SSM). Days later, across the Caribbean nation, Haitian gangs beat 47 gay men with machetes, sticks and iron bars, then looted and burned down many of their victims’ homes.

Zeros The 1,500 extremists who firebombed police protecting 150 LGBT activists taking part in an Oct 20 Gay Pride march in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. 

Zero India'’s Supreme Court which on Dec 11 reinstated a ban on gay sex, reversing a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts. According to Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and still punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Heroes The 3.5 million people who attended the largest Gay Pride parade in the world, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 2.

Zeros The Ugandan Parliament, for passing that country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Dec 20. The bill, which must be signed by President Yoweri Museveni to become law, calls for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality” and jail for all citizens who do not report homosexuals to the authorities.

Heroes The 100 people who marched in Uganda’s second annual Gay Pride parade, on Aug 3 in Entebbe. Police did not break up this year’s march.

Hero France, which legalized same-sex marriage on May 18

Zeroes French far-right militants who attacked journalists at protests against gay marriage in Paris on May 27. Some 350 people were arrested.

Zero The Canadian International Development Agency, which paid $544,813 to Crossroads Christian Communications, an Ontario-based evangelical group that helped dig wells and build latrines in Uganda. However, Crossroads describes homosexuality as a “perversion” and a “sin.” After news of the funding broke in February, Canada’s International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino tweeted, “I have asked officials to review this organization before further payments are made.”

Heroes The participants in the October 2013 Miss Jacaranda Drag Queen pageant in Zimbabwe, where sodomy is a crime and president Robert Mugabe says gays should be castrated. The winner was a 17-year-old whose stage name is Ezmerald Kim Kardashian. The event was the grand finale of ZimPride week, held discreetly in an isolated farmhouse on the outskirts of Harare.

Heroes The highly-strategized grassroots campaign and its supporters around the world who helped free filmmaker John Greyson and Toronto doctor Tarek Loubani from jail in Cairo.

Zero Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, who outed John Greyson in a nasty Oct 8 column, before Greyson and Loubani even left Egypt. The rest of the media kept mainly quiet about Greyson and Loubani’s sexual orientation – even though Greyson was very publicly gay (I interviewed him for an HOUR magazine cover story as far back as 1997). 

Zero The Israeli cabinet, which on Dec. 8 voted down two bills that would have expanded LGBT rights in the workplace and housing. The defeat came just days after the Knesset failed to pass a measure that would have granted gay parents the same tax breaks as heterosexual parents.

Zero Pakistan, for blocking that country’s first gay website, Queerpk, deeming it “against Islam.” Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan.

Zero Tumblr, which in July banned the tags “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual” on mobile apps.

Hero McGill University’s Dr. Nitika Pant Pai and her team, who in October received a $30,000 award from the Accelerating Science Award Program in Washington, for creating a mobile app called HIVSmart to assist people as they take a home HIV test. Users are guided through a confidential process of self-testing, which contains information, instructional videos, a 24-hour help line and confidential linkages to care and counselling. 

Hero Vancouver’s Dr. Julio Montaner, a global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, who on Aug 21 was presented with the prestigious 2013 Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr Award by the Canadian Medical Association.

Zero Pope Benedict XVI, whose virulently anti-gay papacy ended on Feb 28. The former pope’s staff declined to confirm or deny La Repubblica claims that Benedict’s resignation was over the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

Zero Pope Francis, “Person of the Year’ for both Time and The Advocate magazines and whom I originally ranked as a “hero” for stating in July, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” But one line does not make a man, nor does it reverse the Roman Catholic Church’s still-operational anti-gay policies.

Zero Pasta-maker Barilla CEO Guido Barilla, who said LGBT people had no place in his company’s TV commercials, and added “they can go and eat another brand.”

Zero The U.S. Boy Scouts, which while lifting the ban on gay youth members, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders when its new resolution takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Hero Kathleen Wynne, who became Canada’s first out LGBT premier when she became the premier of Ontario on January 26.

Zero Polish democracy icon Lech Walesa, who provoked outrage in March when he said gays should sit at the rear of parliament or “behind a wall.” Walesa added gays have little significance as a minority and must “adjust to smaller things.”

Hero Convicted Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning, who announced he would undergo hormone therapy and live as a woman: “I am Chelsea Manning, I am a woman.” 

Zeros The mob who attacked 17-year-old cross-dressing Dwayne Jones in St. James, Jamaica, on July 22. Jones was “chopped and stabbed” to death, the rest of his body dumped in the bushes. 

Zero Jodie Foster, for finally coming out, but in a passive-aggressive speech at the 2013 Golden Globes, in which she also defended noted homophobe Mel Gibson, rumou-red to be the biological father of her two sons.

Zero Alternative singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked, who lived up to her name when in March she said onstage in San Francisco, that same-sex marriage will be the “downfall of civilization.”

Hero Vienna’s Leopold Museum, which presented its hugely successful Nude Men from 1800 to Today exhibition, despite a massive public outcry over its Vive La France promotional poster by French artists Pierre & Gilles which depicts three footballers wearing nothing but blue, white and red socks and soccer shoes. So posters of the three men were covered with lines of red tape to hide their crown jewels.
Billie Jean King is going to Russia

Zero Charles Lapointe, former head of Tourism Montreal who was heavily criticized in a Quebec auditor-general’s report for lavish spending at the taxpayers’ expense. Then in November, Lapointe – who helped put Montreal on the international gay map and received the Hanns Ebensten Hall of Fame Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association in May – heeded calls for his resignation as president of Montreal’s arts council.

Zero Russian President Vladimir Putin for signing and enacting anti-gay laws in Russia on the eve of the 2013 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Calls for protests and boycotts have fallen on deaf ears in the head offices of Sochi’s corporate sponsors and TV broadcasters, as neo-Nazis continue to bash, torture and kill LGBT people across Russia with impunity. 

Hero Billie Jean King, appointed by President Barack Obama as the LGBT spiritual leader of the American delegation to the Sochi Olympics. Obama himself will not attend the Sochi Winter Olympics. The presidents of France and Germany, as well as the prime ministers of Belgium and Canada have also declined to attend the Sochi games.

Heroes Lady Gaga, Madonna and especially Elton John (watch the clip of Elton below) for speaking out in support of LGBT rights while performing in Russia. Meanwhile, a Russian court fined the promoter of a Lady Gaga concert for “propaganda of alcohol consumption and homosexuality.”
 
Hero The U.S. Supreme court, for striking down both California’S Proposition 8 and the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act, on June 26. The New Yorker magazine celebrated the double-victory by publishing artist Jack Hunter’s “Moment of Joy” painting – which features Sesame Street duo Ernie and Bert –on the cover. 

Rod Stewart looks up at my "Dear Rod" open letter

on the big screen, just before singing "Sailing" at

his Dec. 14 concert at Montreal's Bell Centre
Heroes Hollywood actor Jim Nabors, Doctor Who star John Barrowman, Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz, LGBT activist and gay icon Larry Kramer, and Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto all married their same-sex partners in 2013.

Hero WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner and NBA centre Jason Collins (on the cover of Sports Illustrated); MLS Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers; WWE wrestler Darren Young; famed record executive Clive Davis; and actors Victor Garber, Raven Simoné of The Cosby Show, Maria Bello, Maulik Pancholy, Andrew Scott and Wentworth Miller all publicly came out in 2013. Not surprisingly, in related news, a January 2013 Université de Montréal study reported that gay men who come out of the closet are less stressed and depressed than heterosexual men.

Zero The Village Voice, for laying off my friend and colleague, famed gossip columnist and NYC icon Michael Musto, who bounced back with new columns for both Out.com and Gawker.com. Michael is living proof you can't keep a good bitch down.

Hero Netflix, for launching its critically-hailed original series Orange is the New Black which features the transgender character Sophia Burset.

Hero Cher, for her latest comeback which she appropriately launched by performing at the NYC Pride Pier Dance on June 30. 

Hero Rod Stewart, for singing The Killing of Georgie (Pts. 1 & 2) at his Dec 14  concert in Montreal, after I wrote him an open letter in The Montreal Gazette:  “I just want to say that if ever a straight boy deserved to be called an Honorary Gay, it’s our boy Rod, who holds a special place in rock’n’roll queerdom: His 1977 hit song The Killing of Georgie (Pts. 1 & 2) – an elegy for a murdered gay friend – was the first-ever Billboard Top 40 song about gay characters." Before he sang Georgie, Rod dedicated the song to “my friend, Richard Burnett.” He also dedicated the song Sailing to me. Read all about it in my follow-up story in The Gazette, as well as in Ultimate Classic Rock. 

Heroes Toronto’s Fab magazine (which ran many of my Three Dollar Bill columns over the years) folded; and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association president Michael Triplett, revered Montreal actor and author Greg Kramer, trailblazing journalist Doug Ireland, closeted NYC mayor Ed Koch, legendary Las Vegas female impersonator Kenny Kerr, Grammy-winning superstar DJ Peter Rauhofer, and Bernard Gadua (who published Montreal’s now-defunct LGBT publication Orientations) all passed away in 2013. RIP.

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