Russia just cannot catch a break. As if the anti-gay laws and Olympics controversies weren't enough, now a new strain of HIV, dubbed 02_AG/A, is spreading like wildfire in that country. First discovered in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk (located in the Novosibirsk Oblast highlighted at right) in 2006, 02_AG/A now accounts for over 50% of new HIV infections in the region, and since its discovery the number of infections jumped a jaw-dropping 750% from 2,000 cases in 2007 to 15,000 cases in 2012.
The virus simply seems to be more virulent, not more deadly or resistant to treatment, but Russia's current social climate could make such a rapidly transmissible virus even worse. HIV research is underfunded as are treatment and testing options, and the political posturing around homophobia is making things worse. Additionally, sex education in the country is abysmal on the level of the most conservative of red states. The Moscow Times quoted Pavel Astakhov, Russia's children's rights advocate, as saying in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, adding that Russian literature is "the best sex education there is."
Lambda Legal Appeals Decision Barring Gay Couples From Marrying In Nevada To Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals
Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case challenging Nevada's constitutional amendment and other laws banning same-sex marriage. The appeal comes after the initial case was rebuffed by a federal judge in November 2012. The appeal with the Ninth Circuit was filed December of that same year but was stalled as the U.S. Supreme Court considered Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8) and United States v. Windsor (DOMA). At the time, many lower courts were looking to those rulings for guidance as to how they should enact their own jurisprudence in cases pertaining to same-sex marriage.
In their argument to the Ninth Circuit, Lambda Legal posits that the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA makes it all the more necessary for the Ninth Circuit to act in their favor because same-sex couples in Nevada are being denied federal benefits that the Supreme Court ruled they ought to be afforded.
Via Lambda Legal's press release:
"The world has changed dramatically since we filed this lawsuit over a year ago," said Tara Borelli, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office. "After the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA, Nevada's ban on marriage for same-sex couples has become exponentially more harmful to same-sex couples who are barred from a sweeping array of federal benefits as well."
The brief argues: "As the arbiter of which couples may be married in the State, Nevada thus holds the key to access for the sweeping array of spousal rights and responsibilities available under federal law, and keeps them locked away from same-sex couples under the marriage ban. By foreclosing same-sex couples from marriage, Nevada inflicts virtually the same collection of federal harms and deprivations on unmarried same-sex couples as DOMA previously did, since nearly all federal benefits are unavailable to unmarried couples, regardless of whether they are registered domestic partners."
In addition to legal challenges to Nevada's anti-equality laws, there is also an attempt underway to get marriage equality on the ballot in 2016 in Nevada.
For the man who can't be bothered to use his gym membership but still wants a Gaston-like level of pectoral girth, London-based Funkybod has the undershirt for you. The £50 garment "gives the effect of an improved posture with a natural looking balance all-round" thanks to padded implants for the pecs and arms that they swear feel just like the real thing. Alternatively, one could lift some weights and actually develop the real thing and avoid pool party awkwardness altogether, but it's still a better option than silicone implants or synthol injections.
Last year The Washington Post ran an article about the International AIDS Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C., and how it provided some much-needed relief for African attendees who had to deal with rampant persecution in their home countries. One of the men they interviewed, Michael Ighodaro, is a gay rights activist in his home country of Nigeria, but due to the extremely hostile environment has to work in secret. Unfortunately, the article outed him to his countrymen. His home and possessions were destroyed, he was brutally beaten by a random group of bigots, and was forced to flee to New York to save his life.
Ighodaro's shattered hand that required surgery to fix was a lighter punishment than what some homosexuals suffer in Nigeria. According to Reverend Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of New York’s LGBT-friendly Metropolitan Community Church, a common tactic is to assault and cut off the noses of suspected homosexuals so that they can be easily identified. Then, of course, there are the ones who are flat-out killed for the crime of being gay. The driving force behind this hatred is a combination of extreme poverty and western evangelism, which evidently subscribes to the philosophy of "Who Would Jesus Maim?"
Ighodaro has been in the U.S. for a year now and is settling in to a better life. His green card application is being processed and he plans to attend Columbia University in the coming months.
So strong is NOM President Brian Brown's hatred of homosexuals that even the threat of felony litigation for violation of the Logan Act is not enough to keep him from spreading anti-gay animus in Russia. This time along with Scott Lively, the American missionary bigot behind Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill who is scheduled to stand trial for crimes against humanity, Brown took a return trip to Moscow this past week for reasons unspecified, but were most likely to attend the planning meeting of the World Congress of Families.
The World Congress of Families is an anti-gay group that has been a supporter of Russia's anti-gay laws and contains the usual list of right-wing loony bigots among their sponsors, including Bryan Fischer's American Family Association, Peter LaBarbera's Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Concerned Women of America, and Tony Perkins' Family Research Council. Birds of a feather, and all that.
Of course it is entirely possible that Bryan Brown went to Moscow for completely different reasons utterly unrelated to the planning meeting or Russia's anti-gay laws. It's also entirely possible that President Putin is a closet drag queen who is taking extreme measures to ensure that she reigns supreme. And equally as likely.
Singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson recently unveiled the music video for his song, "Kinks Shirt" about a guy and his infatuation with a tattoo-covered stripper in, what else, a Kinks shirt. When it came to shoot the video, however, Nathanson didn't want the same old "guy with guitar trying to look sexy" vibe so he turned to comedian and director Bobcat Goldthwait to come up with something more inspiring. The end result: the stripper at the heart of the song turns out to be transgender.
Bobcat told Rolling Stone:
"Honestly, I pitched this idea just to see the look on everyone's face," the filmmaker says. "I still can't believe we made it. When I heard Matt had a 10,000 Maniacs tattoo I thought I would hate him, but turns out he's an okay guy."
Nathanson was thrilled with Bobcat's idea, sharing his enthusiasm on Facebook: "i flipped. i loved it. i loved that it showed people unapologetically being themselves, even if the world may not be hip to it. yet."