The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 29
May 29th, 2013
Marriage Equality Begins: France. Last weekend, there was a massive anti-gay protest in the streets of Paris against the newly-enacted marriage equality law. That protest was marked by violence, as about 200 protesters, many of them masked, engaged in running battles with police while throwing bottles, rocks, fireworks and flare, and beating up photographers and TV news crews. The Independent reported, “Although a hard core of about 200 hard-right youths started the fighting, many hundreds of other, soberly dressed, middle-class protesters cheered them on. Priests in long cassocks observed the battles without attempting to intervene. Other, more peaceful demonstrators stood in lines or circles nearby holding hands, praying and singing as tear gas and red smoke from flares swirled around them.”
But all of that sound and fury ended up signifying nothing, as today France will mark its first same-sex wedding as Vincent Autin, 40, marries his partner, Bruno Boileau, 30, in Montpellier’s town hall. The wedding will be attended by 600 guests, including two cabinet ministers and 130 journalists — which means they won’t need to hire a photographer! “It could be intimidating,” Boileau said, “but we will try to retain the spirit of the goal — equality for all. That Mister or Miss Anybody can get married in the town hall.”
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Aarhus, Denmark; Alkmaar, Netherlands; Angers, France; Bradford, UK; Boston, MA; Buffalo, NY; Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON; Davenport, IA; Dayton, OH; Dresden, Germany; Göteborg, Sweden; Honolulu, HI; Kiel, Germany; Lille, France; Lorraine, France; Los Ranchos, NM; Oxford, UK; Queens, NY; Regensburg, Germany; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Shanghai, China; Sonoma Co, CA Springfield, MA; Staten Island, NY; Tulsa, OK; Washington, DC; Waterford, Ireland; Winnipeg, MB; York, UK.
Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Rainbow 5K Run/Walk, Indianapolis, IN; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; Gay Days Disney, Orlando, FL; Film Out, San Diego, CA; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA (Sponsor Rob Tisinai here!); Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Daughters of Bilitis Hold First National Convention: 1960. When Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1953, the tiny group only had eight members (see Oct 19). Seven years later, and the Daughters were large enough to hold its first biennial convention at the Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco. The DoB’s press release announcing the convention was met mostly with silence, with a few sprinkles of condescension here and there. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen typified the latter when he who wrote, “Russ Wilden, if nobody else, will be interested to learn that the Daughters of Bilitis will hold their nat’l convention here May 27-30. They’re the female counterparts of the Mattachine Society — and one of the convention highlights will be an address by Atty. Morris Lowenthal titled ‘The Gay Bar in the Courts.’ Oh brother. I mean sister. Come to think of it, I don’t know what I mean.”
The convention drew two hundred women and the San Francisco police, who checked to make sure the ladies were wearing ladies’ clothing. As the Daughters had long emphasized outward conformity in the hopes that it would put larger society at ease, they were already prepared for the “inspection.” Del Martin brought the police inside inside to verify everyone — the women, anyway — was wearing dresses, stocking and heels. After the convention ended, Helen Sandoz ended her report in the DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder with a note of thanks to everyone who attended, including those who were undercover: “Thank you, DOB, ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control); Vice Squad, professional folk… thank you all for letting us see you and letting you see us.”
Second White House Protest: 1965. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there, does it make a sound? That’s the kind of question that may have been on the minds of members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. following the first ever gay rights protest in front of the White House the month before (see Apr 17). The group decided not to publicize the hour-long protest in advance because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent a reason to block their demonstration. But that also meant that there were no reporters or news cameras there either. As far as everyone outside the little group knew, it simply didn’t happen. But as Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Washington chapter recalled, the protest “went so well that we immediately decided to do a repeat, with advance publicity.” This time, they decided on a three-prong approach to get the word out: a news release was sent to major news outlets, an explanatory leaflet was mimeographed and handed out to passersby during the demonstration, and a follow-up release went out to news media after the protest ended.
Thirteen people showed up with picket signs, and this time there was considerable press coverage, including brief mentions in The New York Times, The Washington Star, the Associated Press, United Press International, and ABC television, whose East Coast viewers saw a line of respectable men (in jackets and ties) and ladies (in heals and skirts), protesting according to the dictates handed down by Kameny (“If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”). This protest would establish a pattern for future gay rights protests for the next four years.
“Polyester” Premieres: 1981. The John Waters film Polyester made its debut on the silver screen. Divine once again stared, this time as Francine Fishpaw, a suburban housewife whose world is thrown into chaos when her pornographer husband declares he’s been unfaithful, her daughter becomes pregnant, and her son’s accused of breaking local women’s feet as part of his fetish. Nineteen-fifties heartthrob Tab Hunter appeared near the end as lounge-suit-wearing Todd Tomorrow who swept Francine off her sweep and proposed marriage — only to plot with Francine’s mother to embezzle her divorce settlement and drive her insane.
The film was notable for a unique technological breakthrough: it was presented in “Odorama,” in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards so they could smell along with the action. One of those odors was feces, leaving Waters delighted with the thought that his audiences actually “pay to smell shit.” Despite the film’s positive reception — it even got a positive review at The New York Times — it remains a scandal that Polyester has yet to earn any major cinematic awards.
“If you ask the direct question: ‘Are you gay?’ the answer is yes. So what? I’ve said all along that if I was asked by a reporter and I didn’t respond it would look like I had something to hide and I don’t think I have anything to hide.”
Rep. Frank said that the disintegration of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign earlier that month over reports of his extra-marital relationship with a young model, and the recent revelation that Rep. Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut had died of AIDS, had prompted his decision to come out. Of McKinney, Frank said there was “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.” On May 31, the Globe reported that most of his constituents were unperturbed by his announcement, and many were unsurprised.
Nancy Cárdenas: 1934. The poet, playwright, journalist, theater director and social activist was born in Parras, Coahuila in Mexico. She became a noted radio announcer at the age of 20 before turning to the stage. Her interest in literature became apparent in the 1950s when she participated in a public reading program, Poetry Out Loud followed in the 1960’s with the publication of her one-act play El Cántaro Seco (The Empty Pitcher).
In the 1970s, she became an acclaimed theater and film director. Her 1970 film, El Efecto de los Rayos Gamma Sobre las Caléndulas (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Marigolds), was a critical hit, earning the Theatre Critics Association Award. It was also very controversial for being gay themed. She drew death threats and the film was protested by the brother of then-President Luis Echeverría, which was no small thing: President Echeverría had been the hardline Interior Secretary during the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, when the Mexican government opened fire on protesting students ten days before the 1968 Summer Olympics. But such was Cárdenas’s influence that not only was the film shown in the Mexican capital, but in a theater on Insurgentes no less — Insurgentes being one of the principal boulevards in Mexico city. It was a huge success.
It was during a 1974 interview on the public affairs television program 24 Horas when she came out as a lesbian. That act made her the first publicly declared lesbian in Mexico. That year she founded El Frente de Liberación Homosexual (FLH, the Gay Liberation Front). In 1975, she co-wrote with Carlons Monsivais the Manifiesto en Defensa de los Homosexuales en México. On October 2, 1978 as part of a commemoration of the Tlatelolco Massacre, she headed the first Gay Pride march in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. She continued her advocacy throughout the 1980s through her plays, poetry and public statements. She died in 1994 of breast cancer.
Gene Robinson: 1947. When he was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004, he became the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be elevated to the episcopate. His election was so controversial, he wore a bullet-proof vest during his consecration. In a BeliefNet interview the day after he gave a prayer at the opening of President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebrations, he talked about his journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality:
I’ve been the reparative therapy route. I did that. My own experience is it doesn’t work. I think what it does it that it teaches gay and lesbian people to become so self loathing that they are willing to not act in a natural way, and deprive themselves of the kind of love and support that makes life worthwhile, that makes sense of our own lives and being. I can’t be supportive of that. It only underscores the way the church has gotten this wrong. God doesn’t ever get it wrong but the church often does.
Bishop Robinson formally retired in January, 2013.
Rupert Everett: 1959. It was his 1981 role as a gay schoolboy in the stage version of Another Country that proved to be his break, opening the way for his screen appearance in the 1984 film version with Colin Firth. In 1989, Everett moved to Paris and came out as gay, which he said may have damaged his career. Wags would say that the 1987 flop Hearts of Fire may have been a factor. But his appearance in the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2000’s The Next Best Thing showed that his career wasn’t entirely over — although it did appear that he would forever be typecast as the heroine’s gay best friend. In 2009, he told the British newspaper The Observer:
The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.
Melissa Etheridge: 1961. Her debut album was completed in just four days after her record label rejected her first effort as too polished. That stripped down album, titled simply Melissa Etheridge, not only defined her sound, but it yielded a hit single, “Bring Me Some Water” and a Grammy nomination. In 1992, she won her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance on the strength of her third album, Never Enough. Her breakthrough album, 1993’s Yes I Am, was certified Platinum and garnered her a second Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her single “Come to My Window”. Her 2006 song “I Need to Wake Up” was recorded for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
She came out publicly in 1993 and has been a committed gay rights advocate ever since. She is also a committed advocate on behalf of the environment and breast cancer research, having herself undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2004 and 2005. On an interview with Dateline NBC, she discussed her recovery and her use of medical marijuana while undergoing chemo. In 2011, she announced her separation from her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, after seven years together. They have two children, fraternal twins, who were born in 2006. Etheridge also has two children from her previous long-term relationship with Julie Cypher.
David Burtka: 1975. He began as an actor, appearing in a guest role on The West Wing and How I Met Your Mother. It was that appearance which fed rumors that Burtka was romantically involved with one of the series’ stars, leading Neil Patrick Harris to publicly acknowledge in 2006 that he was gay. In 2010, Burtka and Harris, who have been together since 2004, became fathers to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. Birtka has cut back on acting to run a Los Angeles catering company and work as a full time chef.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?