Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Mardi Gras

Been rehearsing with Lifesavers With Pride to dance up the Oxford Street parade in our speedos!
We're doing a routine choreographed to the Supremes' "Rescue Me" (naturally).
Fun how all of Sydney get into the spirit of gay Christmas. Across the city, ANZ Bank has glammed up their ATMs into bedazzled, rainbowed GAYTMS:
 Wandering Newtown the other day, I came across their Fire Station and its bold message:
The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship docked in Sydney harbor with this rainbow message:



When I was attending the MG Film Festival, there were several ads before the films and they were all geared toward me, the gay audience member, in one way or another and I thought to myself – this must be what it's like to be normal. The world just conspires to lift up and affirm your lifestyle.

And then you think of what's going on in places like Russia, Uganda and Nigeria. It's shocking how the religious right has lost the battle to keep denying marriage equality in the states – and they now take it to Africa, where they've succeeded in penalizing homosexuality with life in prison now in Uganda. The Ugandan press has again released a spread identifying "top homos" and the last time they did this, the top one was brutally murdered in his own home.

In the USA, the "one-man-one-woman" marriage laws which have been voted in over the last decade are now being systematically ruled unconstitutional. So what are they doing now? They are trying to enact new laws to "protect religious freedom" by allowing businesses to deny goods or services to gays if it contradicts their "beliefs". This is no different than hanging a sign in the window that says "will not serve blacks" or jews or muslims or women or people we don't like.

Make no mistake, religious freedom is not under attack but religious superiority certainly is. A public business is open to all the public and your freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. The foundations of society are not crumbling, but those foundations are now being acknowledged as not looking all the same to everyone. This gaining of rights, and its inevitable backlash, must be like what white men felt the day women entered the workforce.

And the response - waving a bible and wrapped in a flag - has always been the way of fascists. Jan Brewer the Governor of Arizona who once claimed she had a direct line to God and who looks like a shriveled apple (she might ask him for some UV protection) did not veto the religious protection bill passed in their senate for the right reasons (it's identical to Jim Crow-era discrimination), she did it because several organizations got together and told her it would be bad for business. How far we have come to see that being anti-gay is bad for business (Anita Bryant how your ears must burn)?
Although these kinds of "religious freedom means we hate you" laws if passed (there are more coming up in Minnesota and Georgia) will eventually topple as unconstitutional just like the marriage laws before them, I'm wishing one does go through, that they show the world their blatant true colors as the Republican/Tea party hammers the last nails into its own coffin).

I write all this to illustrate that much as it's awesome that Sydney businesses and citizens are getting into gay pride and bedazzling ATMs and cruise ships, that as we march up Oxford Street we don't forget to show solidarity to those others of us who are being executed in Iran and Jamaica, jailed in Uganda and Russia, or simply buying a cake in America and getting turned away because they don't like our kind.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

United States of Amnesia.. and Armament

Two exceptional documentaries screened yesterday at the Mardi Gras Film Festival... and both providing perceptive insight into America, and I suppose what it means for me to be American looking at America from the outside. 

Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia explores the life of this towering figure - and the director was in attendance last night. Vida's notable spars with the likes of William Buckley and Norman Mailer are far more entertaining and enriching than any of the claptrap reality programs that have replaced it.

Vidal was an acerbic wit and giant intellect who ran for office twice, and lost twice. In his last years, he was often trotted out for his incisive, always biting, commentary on world politics and the frightening "empire" mentality of the US. He said the reason he was able to see so clearly was because he got out of politics, and that Presidents/CEO's weren't even conspiring at the top because they didn't need to: they all think alike. The American public, he said, swallows over and over things that no reasonable person would ever accept.

Of course, Vidal shot himself in the foot with his refusal to play the game. The reason he could never be elected was that his integrity also included openly living with his male partner for 50 years, and having dared to publish the first ever gay novel, The City and the Pillar, way back in 1948. The NY Times refused to review him for decades after that. In 1968, he wrote a novel about a transsexual, Myra Breckenridge. Who but Gore Vidal can do that, and also write brilliantly on the founding fathers, American expansionism and the military industrial complex? No wonder he was bitter. It must be hard to live so far ahead of your time.  More than wishing he had ever been elected to office, I wish we lived in an age where a man like him - not a people pleaser - could be elected to office.

For something much less lofty, we go to Oxnard, California, and Valentine Road. Nobody in Australia understands American's fascination with guns (you don't need Gore Vidal to tell you that the US congress is wholly bought by the gun lobby), but not only do they not understand it (neither do I), they believe everyone has a gun (my family never did). The execution of 14-year-old Larry King by his classmate Brandon McInerny back in 2008 did nothing to quell that belief.

 

Larry was dressing in heels, wearing makeup, calling himself "La Shonda" and Brandon hated him. Then Larry humiliated Brandon by asking him to be his Valentine. The next day, during computer lab, Brandon shot Larry point blank twice in the head. Valentine Road follows the aftermath. At EO Green Jr High School, Larry's teachers are honestly split on whether he deserved it. One of them, the one who had encouraged him to express himself (who even gave him a dress) was fired. The school wanted the bad press to just go away, and students who were interviewed said they never received any counseling; that the teachers spoke about swine flu, but never about the killing they witnessed that one day in class.

Brandon isn't made out to be a monster either; he had it rough and so did his mother. There is more than one victim here, that is clear, but just when you think this disturbing film is going to wrap up, it goes down an even more disturbing track. White supremacy! And a trial painting Larry King as having asked for it. A few ladies from the jury were horrified by what Brandon suffered at the hands of the gender-bending, unabashed gay Larry King, refused to convict him and went on TV to express their support for him wearing "free Brandon" bracelets. Could there be another instance where suburban housewives join forces to get behind a killer? It was like watching a badly acted farce. Even weirder, Brandon's defense attorney tattoos Brandon's name into her flesh because she "loves him" and his prosecuting attorney (who received hate mail from another juror in a letter that had also CC'd "God") leaves audiences irrevocably and forever damaged when she says in the final scene that Larry King's death was indeed in vain; that the trial was neither here nor there, because Americans still live in a society where our prejudice follows us everywhere – even into the jury box.











Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Getting all judge-y.

I'm honored to be one of the judges, along with Margaret Pomeranz of the ABC's At The Movies and SBS' film critic Sandy George for the Australian shorts program, My Queer Career, screening at the Mardi Gras Film Festival this year. The films are top quality, well-curated and super eclectic. I'm a pretty decisive person, but this kinda judging ain't easy!
I also got to speak with the Festival Director Paul and Lisa on Gay Panic Radio, who gave listeners the scoop on what not to miss. They've been working hard to make this year a big success and the lineup is spectacular. I'll be checking a lot of the program and it all debuts TONIGHT - get onto it!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Bondi Classic

Almost exactly 1,000 people decided on a particularly perfect day to jump into the water, thwack and be thwacked, gulp seawater, undulate with the rolling tides and compete in a 2km ocean swim race. I was one of them! And maybe it was just me gulping seawater...

I survived!
I'm in there somewhere – the third heat breaking the surf. Results-wise, I placed #437, so in the top half. Looking to improve the next race... if my party schedule allows time to train for it!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Bronte Beach

I'm kind of crazy about my backyard.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Go Seahawks!