Friday, August 28, 2009

Queer News of The Week

[Truth is, those are queer news collected, heard, read or spoken about over the past 2 weeks! I'm not good with the homework, am I? Been busy, been very busy, which is a good sign I guess!]

---- Toronto Pride Moved to One Week Later in 2010

This did not make much sense to me and I am still digesting it. Since the G8 summit is being held in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in the last week of June, Toronto Pride 2010 has been moved to the first week of July. Traditionally held on the same week that Pride is held in NYC, Toronto Pride commemorates (or rather, is supposed to commemorate) the Stonewall riots that took place in June 28th, 1969. Next year, however, Pride week will run from June 25th to July 4th, the latter being the Sunday when the Pride Parade will take place.

At first sight, this doesn't seem like a big deal: It still falls within the Stonewall riots week. But a closer look at the events happening within these two weeks leads to questioning:

Tracey Sandilands, executive director of Pride Toronto, claims that the dates have been moved to a week later so as to accommodate the needs of the G8 summit: notably, police force and hotel rooms! Obviously, moving the G8 Summit is totally out of the question! So is it all about the police taking care of the dignitaries?

Looking at it from a more commercial, corporate and touristic point of view, we realize that next year, not only will Toronto Pride not coincide with NYC Pride, but the Pride week will also concur with Canada day (July 1st) and Independence Day in the US (July 4th.) Now, since July 4th is a Sunday, July 5th will be a statutory holiday in the US. Which means that more Americans get to attend Toronto Pride next year because they will not be in NYC on the one hand and since July 5th is a holiday in any case, they get to come down to TO, spend the week-end and they have a day to travel back! Smart, no?

I would have loved to have Pride and the G8 summit happen together though. And I think it quite a shame that the Pride dates were simply moved like that. Would G8 and Pride have really attracted so many people that Toronto would be unable to accommodate its guests? Politically, what would the scene have been if the G8 and Pride happened within the same time-line? Would there be queers all over the GTA protesting against the G8? Would the G8 protest itself have become the Pride and the Pride the G8 protest? I guess we'll never know. However, I think that having the G8 summit, Pride, Canada Day and the US Independence day all within the same week promises to raise many debates, questions and make it all the more heated and interesting. For more, please read here. It looks like Toronto will be quite the centre of attraction, won't it?

---- Iceland's Pride: How many were there?

Since we started off with the Pride, what do you think of this?

Over 80,000 people attended Iceland's Reykjavik Gay Pride Festival. 80,000? Well that makes roughly 25% of the entire population! Isn't it that rather amazing? 25% of the entire country's population! What you may want to know is that there are very few gay bars and no such thing as a village in Iceland, the reason being that Iceland, being accepting of all (!), the LGBT community there does not feel the need for separate (safe) spaces. What you may also want to know is that Johanna Sigurdardottir who was appointed Prime Minister in February 2009, is the first PM to be openly gay in Europe (or is it the world?) For those interested in a trip to Iceland at a point of time, you may want to have a look at this website.

---- Tiny Irish Villages 'Goes Gay': It doesn't get cuter than that!

We're again on the subject of Pride!

Now, that's probably the smallest Pride event in the world! With a population of just 250 people, the tiny coastal village of Easkey, County Sligo had "gone gay” for a day in the beginning of August in hosting what is thought to be the smallest pride event in the world. Organised by the Family Resource Centre of Easkey in an attempt to support the local LGBT community, the village was encouraged to simply go gay! The event has attracted some 80+ people. The village, which is best known as a surfing and fishing town and has just two shops, two pubs, two butchers and a post office. On the "go gay" occasion, the Family Resource Centre of Easkey hosted a reception and a shore-side barbecue.

---- Heard of Caster Semenya?

The story started in Mauritius actually! Since nobody ever speaks of that wonderful small island of mine, here we go! It was at the Germain Commarmond Stadium in Bambous, Mauritius, during the African Junior Championships (yes, Mauritius IS part of Africa!!) that South African Caster Semenya clocked the fastest women's 800m time by a record of 1:56.72. Now with the World Championship taking place in Berlin, Semenya was bound to be one of those to watch out for during the competition.... And she did win the gold medal! Then came in rumors of her being a hermaphrodite, the debate about whether she was male or female, the attempt to disqualify her... I don't want to get into this debate. I find it too unfair and too petty to even talk about it: What if she actually is a hermaphrodite? There aren't any hermaphrodite category in the Olympics from what I know, are there?! Anyway, for those who have been following up on the case or who may want to follow up, here is the last report that I read, dated 26th August.

---- Australian Jocks Pose For Photos to Fight Homophobia

The high-profile, super-hot, muscled jocks of Australia's national rugby team, the Qantas Wallabies, have joined in with the country's largest LGBT-focused health and HIV/AIDS organization for a campaign to fight discrimination against people of the LGBT community.

Team captain Stirling Mortlock and other players were photographed holding handwritten signs championing inclusiveness in sports as part of the This Is Oz campaign, an online photo blog where users can upload photos of themselves with messages that challenge homophobia and celebrate diversity and social inclusion.

---- Lutherans Allow Gay Clergy and Allow Clergy to Bless Same-Sex Unions

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA: Link here), which has approximately 4.7 million members in their 10,000 congregations across the United States, and which makes it one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations has not only taken steps to make it possible for people in same-sex relationships to serve as professional leaders in the denomination, but the churchwide assembly that met at the Minneapolis Convention Centre from 17th-23rd August, approved a resolution that commits the ELCA to find ways of allow congregations to recognize, support and publicly hold life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships. The Churchwide Assembly had about 2,000 participants that includes 1,045 ELCA voting members.

---- Activists Seek To End U.S. HIV Traveling Restrictions

Finally, finally, finally... I have been plagued, almost obsessed with the discourse that surrounds HIV and immigration, or sometimes, just the sheer fact of traveling. I realize that people on this side of the globe and/or in the EU rarely ever have had to do an HIV test as part of their visa requirements (wait, do they even have visa requirements?!) And I always meet those eyes of disbelief (almost like I was a liar) when I tell people that one is likely to remain circumscribed to ones own country if one has a sexually transmitted disease. [Oh and I've been meeting the same eyes of disbelief when I declare that I have an interview scheduled next month at the U.S. consulate for my visa and that I also have to pay 150 CAD to get one, just so I can go down for a couple of days!]

Nonetheless, if you want to read the full details here, activists are working on repealing the 22 years old ban on U.S. travel and immigration by HIV infected foreign nationals. “Ending the HIV travel and immigration ban removes a federally-sanctioned stigma and sends a strong, clear message that the United States is working to end discrimination against people living with HIV,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality, a group that works for advocacy on behalf of LGBT immigrants. President Obama added that his administration is committed to rescinding the ban on entry in the U.S. based on HIV status.

After all those years, I must admit I still feel bewildered: How does one rationalize such forms of discrimination based on HIV status? [If any of you can actually rationalize it, I would genuinely love to hear it.]

---- Vogue Evolution: A Startling Gay and Transgender Dance Team on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew

This is my personal piece of favorite news and I kept it for the last bit! You absolutely have to see this video. Vogue Evolution is an out and proud NYC dance group of color comprising of four gay men and a male-to-female transgendered person person, who combine voguing and hip-hop styles as they compete for top spot on Season 4 of MTV’s America's Best Dance Crew (ABDC).

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