After her new single leaked last week, Lady Gaga decided to officially release her new single early.
Put your paws up and listen to "Applause" AFTER THE JUMP...
Out gay figure skater Johny Weir recently spoke with CBS News about the Sochi Games and Russia's anti-gay laws, re-iterating his intention to attend the Sochi Games: "Would the Olympics be in Saudi Arabia, in Palestine, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Mars, I would go because that's what I'm trained to do and that's what I've devoted my life to."
Weir also commented on the prospect of getting arrested due to Russia's strict yet vague anti-gay laws:
"Like anyone I'm afraid of being arrested but also I'm not afraid of being arrested... If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law then I'm willing to take it."
Earlier today columnist and activist Andrew Sullivan espoused the necessity of gay civil disobediance at the 2014 Olympic games, urging people to disobey Putin's regime, get arrested and showcase the Russian government's true colors.
Watch Weir's full interview AFTER THE JUMP...
California Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law a bill that will provide unprecedented protections for transgender students in the Golden State, the San Jose Mercury News reports:
California on Monday became the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys' or girls' sports. The new law gives students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities" based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.
Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court.
Prior to signing the bill, Governor Brown received a petition from transgender high school student Ashton Leigh who had garnered 6,000 signatures in support of the proposed legislation. The bill, named the School Success and Opportunity Act, was introduced by assembly member Tom Ammiano and coauthored by Senator Mark Leno and Senator Ricardo Lara. Carlos Alcala, a spokesman for Ammiano, commented that the bill will help transgendered students have a more normal life during their high school tenure:
"They're not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology...Clearly, there are some parents who are not going to like it. We are hopeful school districts will work with them so no students are put in an uncomfortable position."
Wilson Cruz, GLAAD's national spokesman, praised the bill's passing:
"Well done California for passing a law that protects transgender students from discrimination in their own schools and affirms their identities. This is another step to ensuring that transgender students have the same opportunities at learning and school involvement as all other students."
This comes as the second victory for transgender students in California within the last month. At the end of July, the Departments of Education and Justice found that transgendered students were protected under Title IX and Title VII. The DOJ and DOE's findings were related to a discrimination complaint brought against Arcadia Unified School District in California.
Russia Confirms Anti-Gay Laws Will Be Enforced At Sochi As IOC Seeks Special Suspension Of Those Laws For The Olympics
Amidst rampant confusion as to what Russia's official policy towards gay athletes and visitors to the Sochi games would be come February 2014, the Russian Interior Ministry seems to have clarified that the nation's anti-gay laws will in fact be enforced during the twenty-second winter Olympiad. According to Ria Novosti:
"Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police force, confirmed Monday that the country's controversial anti-gay law will be enforced during the Sochi 2014 Olympics."
"The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully," said an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday.
It warned against this approach being mixed up with discrimination against gay people.
"Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded and contrived," the statement added.
The head of Russia's National Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov stated it plainly.
"If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken," Zhukov said. "People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever."
IOC President Jacques Rogge previously said he would seek clarification and proper "translation" of Russia's laws from the Russian Federation before the IOC took a more definitive stance on the subject. With that clarification now seemingly upon us, it is unclear how Rogge and for that matter other members of the IOC as well as individual National Olympic Committees will respond.
One IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg of Norway (pictured right), who helped organize the 1994 Lillehammer games, spoke out last week, issuing something of an ultimatum to Russia, according to Pink News. Heiberg remarked, "They have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to say goodbye to them."
Reports have also emerged that the IOC is currently seeking a special suspension of Russia's anti-gay laws that would only last for the duration of the Olympics (approximately two weeks). While it is unclear whether the IOC's attempt to temporarily nullify Russia's anti-gay laws pre-dates the statement issued from the Interior Ministry, LGBT activists have been quick to attack such a temporary suspension. LGBT groups Queer Nation, #DumpRussianVodka and Rusa LGBT issued a press release denouncing the IOC's plan and invoked the fiery words of Russian LGBT activists in addition to those of Harvey Fierstein, a recent critic of the Russian regime:
“My family is being driven out of Russia because these laws allow the government to step in and take away the three children my partner and I are raising together,” said Masha Gessen, lesbian activist, journalist and the author of The Man Without a Face, the 2012 biography of Vladimir Putin. “Suspending these laws in Sochi for two weeks won’t help ordinary gay men and lesbians in the rest of Russia once the Olympics leaves town. The IOC is saying, in essence, that it is willing to work with a fascist government as long as international visitors are protected. This is a profoundly immoral position.”
Alexei Davydov, a Moscow-based activist whose friend, Gleb Latnik, was kidnapped and beaten nearly to death after organizing a protest against the laws in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s third-largest city, described the circumstances as dire.
“To be gay and Russian is to live in fear,” Davydov said. “We are being harassed, arrested, jailed, attacked, and murdered merely for being gay.”
Actor Harvey Fierstein, whose July 22 editorial in The New York Times was among the voices that launched the global Boycott Russia movement, called for the repeal of Russia’s anti-gay law in a statement to Queer Nation.
“Finally the IOC realized that the Games cannot go on while these anti-gay laws stand. But suspension of these laws for two weeks is not enough,” he said. “Our lives, our families, our freedom are endangered while laws like these are tolerated anywhere in the world. We demand the repeal of Putin's propagandistic legislation. We now put the world community on notice that we are no longer available to be your scapegoats. Enough.”
While Fierstein praised President Barack Obama for his recent supportive rhetoric, he slammed world leaders, including Obama, for their inaction.
“I was glad to see President Obama upset by the abuse the LGBT community is suffering at the hands of the Russian government, but outrage is not enough,” Fierstein said. “These are not bullies saying unkind things in a schoolyard. These are heads of state enacting a national policy of bigotry aimed at limiting the freedoms of an entire minority.”
Previously, President Obama expressed his concern over the human rights abuses in Russia but stated his belief that a boycott of the games themselves was not the best way forward. While others like British PM David Cameron concur, notable dissenters such as Stephen Fry have also made their opinion known.
Pink News reports that a 14-year-old boy in Rome committed suicide last Friday at 2am by throwing himself from a balcony after being subjected to frequent anti-gay bullying both online and at school.
The boy had apparently self-inflicted cuts on his arms and groin before killing himself early Friday morning. He also left a digital and hand-written note apologizing to his family. One read, "I am a homosexual, no one understands my drama and I do not know how to make it acceptable to my family."
The boy's friends reportedly did not know anything was wrong with him before his death.
In November 2012, an openly gay 15-year-old Italian student who regularly wore pink clothes committed suicide by hanging after enduring daily bullying online and at school.
Although Italy does not criminalize same-sex relationships, the country has rejected attempts to legalize same-sex marriage and only has employment protections for gay people with no public accommodation or hate crimes laws covering all LGBT folks en masse.
In July of this year however, Italy's Lower House of Parliament began debating a bill that would criminalize anti-gay discrimination.
What's odd about Russia's homophobia is how it stands in stark contrast to the rather liberalized values the country has regarding issues like divorce and abortion. While not a complete historical analysis, Masha Lipman at The New Yorker explains that the discrepancy, in part, is the rejection of the forced modernization by the Bolsheviks.
The early Soviet period involved a radical rejection of the ancien regime, a forced modernization by the Bolsheviks that included universal literacy and suffrage (along with the elimination of political choice, of course), as well as brutally imposed secularization, among other things.
Despite the Russian government's apparent complacency with their treatment of homosexuals, it's creating problems both with international relations and within its own borders. A protest against Russia's laws collected over 300,000 signatures and the IOC continues its weak attempts to at least pretend to care by asking for clarification on how the law will be enacted on Olympic athletes and attendees. Speaking on Yelena Mizulina, chairperson of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Family, Women, and Children who framed the gay "propaganda" ban, Russian celebrity Kseniya Sobchak publicly mocked the "champion of high moral standards",
"My husband and I … are thinking of filing our own suit against Mizulina for insulting our private family life. The phrase ‘oral sex’ is so firmly associated with Mizulina now that we no longer feel like having it any more.”
Andrew Sullivan offers his insight on the article and suggests that a protest is needed at the Sochi Olympics, one that protesters need to be prepared to be arrested for.
Unpack your rainbow flags! Get ready to be arrested! Expose the neo-fascist regime’s classic tactics to maintain popular support by demonizing an already despised and marginalized minority. Putin wants the attention of the world in Sochi. Let’s make sure he gets it.