Activism Hub




Hollywood's Overrepresentation of White, Gay Men

Normal_a

Television shows and movies like Looking, and Dallas Buyers Club are increasingly bringing LGBT stories to the big and small screens, but their representations of diversity within the queer community are sorely lacking. White, gay, male characters are grossly overrepresented, according to a Vox analysis of a number of recent shows and films focusing on gay narratives. The issue, write Alex Abad-Santos, is not with the specific stories that are depicted, but rather with the meta-narrative created by an unchanging stream of stories solely about white guys:

“We don't and shouldn't expect anyone to change Harvey Milk's race or change who Larry Kramer's friends were. Kramer's and Milk's experiences aren't in our control. However, choosing which stories to tell is. And having a willingness to tell other kinds of stories, perhaps some that are just as worthy as Milk's or Kramer's, from places we're not necessarily looking, is something filmmakers and writers can do better.”

Gary Gates, an LGBT demographer at UCLA, says that statistically speaking the kinds of LGBT groups being portrayed in modern media simply don’t reflect reality. In addition to nearly half of the characters being non-white “if you had a show with a cast of 20 characters who were LGBT, two-thirds of the women would be bisexual, and one-third of the women would be lesbians, while two-thirds of the men would be gay, and one-third would be bi.”

Gates goes on to point out the disproportionate amount of screen-time given to characters that read as being affluent. The persistent idea that all LGBT individuals are more economically successful than their heterosexual counterparts is due in large part to to a conflation of statistical findings. College graduated, same-sex couples, with two partners actively participating in the workforce do, on average, make more than heterosexuals, Gates explained in 2013 to US News. These couples make statistical headlines because they are exceptional, however, and portraying them as The New Normal is disingenuous at best and problematic at worst.

The-new-normal-utah-new-home__oPtIn terms of movies and documentaries like The Normal Heart and How To Survive A Plague, filmmakers are presented with the task of parsing through the historical record in order to suss out compelling stories. Problems arise when the cinematic truth depicted on screen only reflect the limited perspectives of certain characters. In an interview with Vulture Sarah Schulman, co-creator of The ACT UP Oral History Project, recently voiced her misgivings about what she perceived as a whitewashing of early HIV/AIDS activism as depicted in How To Survive A Plague.

We call it “The Five White People Who Saved the World” — that’s our nickname for it. And those white people are very busy because apparently they’re always saving everything all the time. Everywhere you go, you see them.

Referring to a discussion following screenings of Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and David France’s How To Survive a Plague, Schulman recalls that same point blank critique.

At one point they open up for questions and the first question to David is: Why do you have no women or people of color in the film? And he says, well I wanted to focus on wealthy white men because they had the time to devote to activism. Now as a person who has interviewed 168 surviving members of ACT UP New York, I can tell you that’s not historically correct.

People in ACT UP gave their entire lives to ACT UP. All different kinds of people from every class and background would report in our interviews that they were at ACT UP five nights a week, that their entire life was ACT UP. And that had nothing to do with how much money you had. And the second thing he said was that these men went to good universities and so they were able to understand the science. That is absurd. The audience almost started laughing. One of the best experts on the science of AIDS in ACT UP was Garance Franke-Ruta who was 19. We all sat there and realized that this man knows nothing about ACT UP.

Watch a video of the exchange AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hollywood's Overrepresentation of White, Gay Men" »


Michael Stipe's Passionate Speech On Uganda: VIDEO

Tonight at 9 PM ET, Logo will air a special titled "Trailblazers" to commemorate the one-year anniversary of DOMA's defeat. Included in the special is a brief word from R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, who eloquently links the past struggles of LGBT Americans with the struggles of today's queer people around the globe:

IStipen the early ’80s, as a 22-year-old queer man living during the Reagan/Bush administration, I was afraid of getting tested for HIV for fear of quarantine, the threat of internment camps and having my basic civil rights stripped away...I waited five years to get my first anonymous test. I am happy that attitudes have matured and changed, and I feel lucky that i live in a country where acceptance, tolerance and policy toward HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ issues have advanced as far as they have.

Stipe goes on to introduce Ugandan gay rights activist John “Longjones” Abdallah Wambere, who fights against the powers that be in his country, where homosexuality is illegal and anti-gay violence continues to rise. As Wambere puts it, speaking to the audience at the "Trailblazers" event, in Uganda "[this event] would be illegal. We would be all arrested or closed."

Check out Stipe and Wambere's speeches, embedded AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t MTV News]

Continue reading "Michael Stipe's Passionate Speech On Uganda: VIDEO" »


Ugandan Gay Rights Activists Lose Case To Ethics And Integrity Minister Who Stormed Meeting

SimonLokodoIn 2012, several gay rights activists were holding a workshop when Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo (right), accompanied by police officers, broke it up. The activists filed suit against Lokodo and now, two years later, they've lost. It is an unsurprising but upsetting reminder of just how little the LGBT community of Uganda has left to hold on to since the passage of heinous anti-gay laws late last year.

ENCA reports:

"We lost on all grounds," gay activist Jacqueline Kasha, one of the team who had brought the case against the minister, told AFP.

Lokodo raided the workshop in February 2012 in the Ugandan town of Entebbe flanked by police, saying he had broken up the meeting as the "conscience of this country."

At the time, Amnesty International condemned the raid as "an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda."

Our condolences and well wishes to the activists.


An Editor Once Mistook Gloria Steinem's Feminism For Lesbianism: VIDEO

Gloria_steinum

In an interview with PBS' Makers, American feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem revealed that one of her early editors mistook her for a lesbian because she wrote about gender equality:

An editor, a friend, nice guy (laughs) at Show magazine where I’d been freelancing, after I was writing feminist articles and was identified writing about feminism, he called up several mutual friends and said, “Y’know, I didn’t know that Gloria was a lesbian.” Cause he just couldn’t believe that anybody who wasn’t a lesbian and wasn’t interested in 'getting a man' quote unquote would be interested in equal pay or being treated equally and this was a very nice guy.”

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "An Editor Once Mistook Gloria Steinem's Feminism For Lesbianism: VIDEO" »


4-Year-Old Writes Australian PM Urging Him To 'Let Boys Marry Boys And Girls Marry Girls'

Letter

Same-sex marriage advocates get started at a young age in Australia, as evidenced by four-year-old Sabrina Franco's touching, sincere letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In the letter, Sabrina asks that Abbott allow "boys to marry boys and girls to marry girls." The consequence should they be kept apart? "...they'll be sad forever." In addition, the young advocate asked that Abbott not cut funding to, and effectively shut down, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company).

Sabrina-FrancoThe Star Observer reports:

Sabrina penned the letter, complete on Disney princess paper  (pictured below), after learning about how her mother’s friends Lukas Picton and Greg Stone went to New York, USA, to get married because it wasn’t legal or recognised in Australia...

The letter reads:

“Dear Tony Abbott,

Don’t get rid of the ABC because we love it. And let boys marry boys and girls marry girls if they love each other or they’ll be sad forever.

Thank-you.

Sabrina.”

Picton, one of the two men who got married in New York, thought the letter was inspired.  

Not only does Sabrina have an excellent grasp of the English language for a four year-old, but she is also incredibly social aware,” he said.

“This letter really shows that prejudice and discrimination are engrained traits that we teach our children and that acceptance and understanding of equal love comes naturally to them.”

Prime Minister Abbott has yet to respond to Sabrina's letter. 


'Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices' Targets Anti-Gay Laws with Culture In NYC

Propaganda

Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices hopes to put pressure on that nation's anti-gay propaganda laws by hearing from leaders in various fields about the impact they have had. In particular, the festival's website notes that the series of staged readings and panel discussions, which will take place January 18th and 19th at Cooper Union in New York City, will focus on sports, performance, and Olympic and LGBT history in relation to the propaganda laws. With the 2014 Olympics in Sochi quickly approaching, these sorts of discussions are all the more important, particularly if the events of Propaganda can gain a large, engaged audience.

GessenThe festival has an intriguing and exciting line-up, detailed on its website:

On January 18th at 3pm in Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium, Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices will feature the first ever presentation of Daria Wilke’s acclaimed 2013 LGBT Young Adult Novel The Jester’s Cap, in a new theatrical adaptation. On January 18th at 7pm, the first English translation of celebrated playwright Oleg Mikhailov’s drama Pelmeny, as well as a reading of Vladimir Nabakov’s seminal work on sport, Breitenstrater-Paolino, will be presentedBoth readings will be followed by panel discussions.

On January 19th at 5pm in Cooper Union’s Great HallTess Berry-Hart’s acclaimed docu-drama SOCHI 2014 will be presented for the first time in the US, and read simultaneously in cities around the globe. Following the reading, at 6:30pm, Masha Gessen (pictured), journalist and NY Times International Opinion contributor, will make her first public appearance since expatriating from Russia, speaking in a panel discussion (moderated by Towleroad's Ari Ezra Waldman). The online theater journal HowlRound will air a live stream of this panel on HowlRound TV, as well as publish a series of articles by and about Propaganda’s artists and participants in the week leading up to the festival.

All proceeds from Propaganda will benefit the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance. Spectrum is a leading international organization devoted to human rights advancement on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and former Soviet Union Countries.

Individual readings/panels have ticket prices of $20, an All-Access Pass can be purchased for $50, and varying levels of increased support/recognition are also available for higher prices.


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