Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Jersey 4: Part I

First, there was another story. In May 2003, a black lesbian teenager who had spent the evening hanging out in the West Village was headed back to her home in Newark. A man drove by the bus stop where she was waiting and yelled something suggestive. She told him off. He stabbed her to death. Sakia Gunn's murder received some press attention, but nothing like Matthew Shepard's -- but back to the story at hand.

In August, 2006, seven young, black, queer women from Newark were hanging out together, late at night, in the West Village. Several of them had known Sakia Gunn and/or gone to high school with her. One of them (Johnson) was carrying a small steak knife in her purse. She would later say that she kept the knife there for self-defense, because she sometimes felt unsafe on the street.

Here's a summary of the facts of August 18, 2006 from the fabulous Imani Henry in Worker's World:

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema [on 6th Avenue at W. 3rd Street], 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.

Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.

Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that men had attacked him. [He then changed his story and began telling the media that he was the victim of a "hate crime" perpetrated by "a ton of lesbians".]

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact, there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they were arrested, the police told the women that [they would search for the two intervening men]—which to date has not happened.

The women thought they had successfully fought off an attack before it turned seriously violent; they were decompressing in the McDonald's a block away when NYPD officers arrived and arrested them as the alleged seriously-violent attackers.

Three of the women plea-bargained, agreeing to serve six-month jail terms for "attempted assault." They're already out. Thus, previous messaging about supporting the "Jersey 7" has morphed into advocacy for the "Jersey 4."

The 4 stood trial together in the spring of 2007. The judge, Edward J. McLaughlin, was a white man, a former prosecutor. Imani Henry's summary of the trial:

According to court observers, McLaughlin stated throughout the trial that he had no sympathy for these women. The jury, although they were all women, were all white. All witnesses for the district attorney were white men, except for one Black male who had several felony charges.

Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists [sic] asked why they were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right to be there in the first place.

In the end, all four women were convicted of first-degree assault as part of a gang (a more serious charge in New York State than individual assault). Patreese Johnson was also convicted of attempted murder.

At the sentencing hearing in June, Judge McLaughlin told Johnson that she should have remembered the childhood tagline "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" and ignored Dwayne Buckle. He sentenced her to 11 years, Renata Hill to 8 years, Venice Brown to 5 years, and Terrain Dandridge to 3 1/2 years.

They are now in prison upstate -- Hill and Johnson at Bedford Hills, Dandridge and Brown at Albion. (For those who don't know, Albion is near the New York-Canada border, about six hours' drive from NYC or Newark.) They have filed legal appeals, at tremendous expense. Asked how supporters on the outside can help them, they have asked to be sent blankets and underwear. FIERCE is coordinating assembly of care packages.

So what do we do now?

Stay tuned for Part II, focusing on the roles of the law and the media in this story.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Praise for Bolivia Constitution Anti-Discrimation Protections for LGBT people

Action Alert

On December 15, 2007, the Bolivian Constituent Assembly unveiled the final and definitive text of the new Bolivian constitution.

Article 14, paragraph II, of the document states explicitly that:
"The State prohibits and punishes all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation [and] gender identity."

If this text of the Bolivian constitution is ratified, Bolivia will be the first country in the world to protect gender identity-related concerns.

Also, Article 66 of the new constitution says that,
"Men and women are guaranteed the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights."

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is urging people to send letters of congratulations to the GLBT´S Collective of Bolivia and everyone who has: participated in the email campaign; attended preparatory meetings for territorial hearings in the four Bolivian departments where the proposal was submitted; presented materials to each of the committees or inserted the proposal into the debate during committee hearings; distributed flyers; assembled information tents; or commented verbally on the proposal with a variety of key actors.

Please send your letter of congratulations to:

Sr. Ronald B. Céspedes
Official Spokesman of GLBT Bolivian Collective before Constituent Assembly

Presidente del Colectivo GLBTs de Bolivia

Sr. Evo Morales Ayma
email form -

Sr. Álvaro García
Fax: (591) (2) 2201211

Please also send a copy of your letter to:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. Visit for more information


Thursday, December 20, 2007

MySpace censoring LGBT links?

Violet Blue in the San Francisco Chronicle relays concerns that MySpace is removing users' links to LGBT-themed external sites...or maybe ALL external sites...
What a shock, commercial exploitation at the expense of personal expression, from Rupert Murdoch.

Krugman versus Obama

TPM (Talking Points Memo) has a brief but interesting interview with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and his criticism of Barak Obama.

An excerpt:
"Obama's actually been positioning himself to the right of both Clinton and Edwards on domestic policy and has been attacking them from the right. "

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NYT - 'Gays Living in the Shadows of New Iraq' article

Gays Living in Shadows
Violence Replaces Tacit Acceptance
by Cara Buckley
published Tuesday, December 18, 2007 NYT

photo - Gay men and a woman in a Baghdad park. In a city where sexual freedom once flourished, gay men and lesbians face persecution. Joao Silva for The New York Times

BAGHDAD — In a city and country where outsiders are viewed with deep suspicion and attracting attention can imperil one’s life, Mohammed could never blend in, even if he wanted to.

Mohammed, 37, has been openly gay for much of his adult life. For him, this has meant growing his hair long and taking estrogen. In the past, he said, that held little danger. As is true throughout the Middle East, men have always been publicly affectionate here.

But, at least until recently, Mohammed and many of his gay friends went one step further, slipping into lovers’ houses late at night. And, until the American invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them.

But being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise of religious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especially vilified.

In January, a United Nations report described the increased persecution, torture and extrajudicial killing of Iraqi lesbians and gay men. In 2005, Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed in the “worst, most severe way.”

He lifted it a year later, but neither that nor the recent ebb in violence has made Mohammed or his friends feel safe. They yearn to leave Iraq, but do not have the money or visas. They agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their last names not be used.

They described an underground existence, eked out behind drawn curtains in a dingy safe house in southwestern Baghdad. Five people share the apartment — four gay men and one woman, who says she is bisexual. They have moved six times in the last three years, just ahead, they say, of neighborhood raids by Shiite and Sunni death squads. Even seemingly benign neighborhood gossip can scare them enough to move.

“We seem suspicious because we look like a cell of terrorists,” said Mohammed, nervously fingering the lapel of his shirt. “But we can’t tell people what we really are. A cell, yes, but of gays.”

His hand drifted to his newly shorn hair. He had lopped it off days earlier. There had been reports of extremists stopping long-haired men, shearing their hair and forcing them to eat it.

It is impossible to say how many gay men and women face persecution in Iraq. According to an Iraqi gay rights group, run by a former disc jockey in Baghdad named Ali Hili who now lives in London, 400 people have been killed in Iraq since 2003 for being gay.

Set against the many thousands of civilians and soldiers killed in the war, the number is small. But for Mr. Hili, and Mohammed and his friends, it is a painful barometer of just how far Iraq has shifted from its secular past.

For a brief, exhilarating time, from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s, they say, gay night life flourished in Iraq. Whereas neighboring Iran turned inward after its Islamic revolution in 1979, Baghdad allowed a measure of liberation after the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Abu Nawas Boulevard, which hugs the Tigris River opposite what is now the Green Zone, became a promenade known for cruising. Discos opened in the city’s best hotels, the Ishtar Sheraton, the Palestine and Saddam Hussein’s prized Al-Rasheed Hotel, becoming magnets for gay men. Young men with rouged cheeks and glossed lips paraded the streets of Mansour, an affluent neighborhood in Baghdad.

“There were so many guys, from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, guys in the street with makeup,” said Mr. Hili, who left Iraq in 2000. “Up until 1991, there was sexual freedom. It was a revolutionary time.”

Then came the Persian Gulf war, and afterward Saddam Hussein put an end to nightclubs. Iraq staggered under the yoke of economic sanctions. While antigay laws were increasingly enforced, Mohammed and Mr. Hili said they still felt safe. Homosexuality seemed accepted, as long as it was practiced in private. And even when it was not tolerated, prison time could be evaded with a well-placed bribe.

The American invasion was expected to usher in better times.

“We thought that with the presence of Americans, life would become paradise, that Iraq would be Westernized,” Mohammed said. “But unfortunately the way things were before was so much better than where we are now.”

One night shortly after Saddam Hussein fell, American soldiers burst into the apartment that Mohammed shared with his two brothers. They were looking for insurgents, but took one look at Mohammed, with his long hair and shapely body wrapped in a robe, and teased him, he said.

“What are you, a lady man?” he remembered them barking. “A boy? Or a girl?” They turned to one of Mohammed’s brothers, “Who is this?” they asked, “Your girlfriend?”

The news raced through Mohammed’s building. “All my neighbors came to know that I was gay,” he said. “My brother said, ‘Mohammed, leave the house; you can’t live here anymore.’”

He rented another apartment, and was soon joined by some gay friends. They moved nine months later, after suspicious neighbors began to talk. Nine months after that, they moved again. They came to rely on remittances sent by Mr. Hili, who raises money for them in London.

Mr. Hili taps a network of acquaintances in Baghdad to ferret out safe houses, and pays extra for landlords to alert him to possible trouble. He says he supports about 32 people.

Few work, though one of Mohammed’s roommates, Amjad, who is 33 and has manicured eyebrows and feathered hair, said he sometimes sleeps with an older man for money. “He loves me, but I hate him,” Amjad said. “He is jealous and ugly.”

One of Mohammed’s friends, a 25-year-old law student named Rafi, said he was especially desperate to get out of Iraq. It is a sentiment shared by millions of Iraqis, but Rafi believes his future here is especially bleak. The influence from Iran is growing, he said. And in Iran, homosexuality is often punishable by death.

“I want to get out, but not just out of Iraq, out of the Middle East,” Rafi said, “to a country that has respect for human rights. And for us.” He paused, casting his eyes downward. “It will never be possible here.”


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Congress Must Reverse the FCC


Earlier today, FCC chairman Kevin Martin voted (with two Republican Commissioners) to loosen media consolidation rules. This despite overwhelming public opposition and condemnation by various members of Congress during recent hearings on Capitol Hill.

The FCC voted to lift the longstanding ban on "newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership."

In 2003, the FCC attempted to do exactly the same thing and was reversed after a huge public outcry led to congressional action.

26 Senators from both parties have already announced their intention to nullify FCC actions.

Please contact your local members of Congress and demand action to reverse this bad decision. This is an early Christmas gift to BIG MEDIA.


hat tip -, outlaw citizen

CBS/NYT - American Public Wants Out of IRAQ

The CBS/NYT poll asked, ""From what you know about the U.S. involvement in Iraq, how much longer would you be willing to have large numbers of U.S. troops remain in Iraq — less than a year, one to two years, two to five years or longer than five years?"

The poll shows that more than 50% think the United States should stay less than one year, and 75% think we should stay less than two years.

Will the politicians and the media ever catch up with the American public on the IRAQ War?
- Joey Nelson
Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias at The

Monday, December 17, 2007

State Sponsored Homophobia Report

The country of IRAN is not the only country that uses the appartus of the state to discriminate, torture and murder queer people.

"In 2007, no less than 85 member states of the United Nations still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults, thus institutionally promoting a culture of hatred. " from State Sponsored Homophobia [a world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults]
by Daniel Ottosson for International Gay & Lesbian Association.

Here is a link to the report:

I mention this not to minimize what IRAN has recently done in the Makwan Mouloodzadeh situation - which is particular egregious and certainly requires a response in my view - but to show the extent of the problem worldwide.

Many of us living in the United States and elsewhere, mistakenly aggregate social progress in our countries (on tolerance and acceptance of queer people) to what is happening in other areas.

- Joey Nelson

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I just learned via Pam's House Blend that HRC and the AIDS Institute are trying to broker a meeting between Mike Huckabee and Jeanne White-Ginder. For those not following this particular sordid mess, Huckabee is the Rethuglican former governor of Arkansas who has recently appeared to gain ground in the pre-Iowa-caucuses polls, and who has recently defended his 1992 statement that "we need to take steps to isolate the carriers of" HIV/AIDS. Jeanne White-Ginder is Ryan White's mom; Ryan White was a cute little white kid who contracted HIV in 1984 (from blood products used to treat his hemophilia) and then a well-known AIDS activist, who mostly spoke out about how AIDS can't be transmitted through casual contact, until he died in 1990.

Huckabee... is a rant for another day. Reading this has brought back to mind what I was feeling last week as I left the ENDA Town Hall, aka the New York date on HRC's Humility Tour.

Two comments from the "town hall" especially resonated with me, in a bad way. The first was the statement that HRC really wanted [a gender-excluding] ENDA to pass [the House, despite the complete futility of trying to get the current Senate to pass it or Bush to sign it] this year because that would provide "a positive experience..." I think the speaker meant that it would be a positive experience for *the congresspeople* insofar as some of them would vote for it and then manage not to lose the next election...he might also have meant that it would be a positive experience *for HRC* and another brag-line on their website (Jon Winkleman at the town hall pointed out some of the hollow and inane brag-lines currently there). But meanwhile, there were more than fifty angry trans-people-and-allies *just in the room that one night*, and there had been hundreds if not thousands of op-eds and blog entries already about what a terrible mess this was for the "LGBT" community, so it seemed arrogantly insane to say this ever could have been "a positive experience." Later, when his back was really getting up against the wall, HRC Vice President David Smith tried to say that "every...civil rights hero" to speak out on the matter had supported HRC's strategy of passing a gender-excluding ENDA first. He was immediately shouted down by people pointing out that the people he meant were "straight" civil rights heroes who didn't necessarily understand all the issues at play. Meanwhile, I looked around in disbelief -- several of my own civil rights heroes/heroines were right there in the room, and were saying very loudly that they did not support the strategy.

I felt a lot of things that night -- disgusted at some of the things Smith said, curious about why Sultan Shakir (HRC's local field director) was on the dais but stayed so quiet, pleased that Smith eventually acknowledged HRC would probably not handle matters the same way if it could repeat the 2007 ENDA struggle from the top, initially impressed but then seriously annoyed at the hecklers in the front row who made it hard for both Smith and questioners to speak, amazed that the HRC reps came off so unprepared...etc. But what has stayed with me the most is a sense that HRC does not speak for me, and I'd like to work with other people on respectfully and clearly expressing that.

The queer community has limited resources. There are gays and lesbians with tons of money, but the majority of them (with significant and admirable exceptions) are not actively engaged with progressive politics, with improving matters for heartland gay and lesbian people, much less more marginalized sectors of our society. That leaves a minority of a minority to really work for change (in collaboration, hopefully, with progressive and revolutionary folks outside the queer community). I really hear the people who think it's stupid to cannibalize ourselves, to waste limited resources on infighting when there are some clear and powerful enemies to fight. That sentiment came up on the QJL listserv and elsewhere during the planning and marketing phases of the Nov. 20 Christopher Street protest of HRC.

Nonetheless, I'm really uncomfortable with the status quo, in which HRC is the largest and by far the wealthiest of "LGBT" advocacy groups, and thus its voice is often the loudest, its lobbyists seem to have the most congressional access, its talking heads get the most cable news screen time, etc. My comfort, obviously, is not the most important consideration for our movement. But for the trans people who got so explicitly thrown under the bus by HRC a few weeks ago, it's more than a matter of comfort, it's more like a matter of dignity (I can't speak for trans folks, but this is the impression I get from trans friends, bloggers, and speakers at the 12/5 event). Trans people, and other gender-non-conforming people, simply deserve better than to have the group responsible for disrespecting them so badly honored as the leaders of our movement. So that's one consideration. But in addition, there is an issue of leadership, and an issue of integrity.

HRC's priorities are incompatible with those of many LGBTQ individuals in this country. A host of ulterior motives have been attributed to them in the last two months as people tried to make sense of the ENDA debacle, and in prior years during other controversies (such as HRC's 1998 endorsement of Al D'Amato for U.S. Senate -- I realize that queer activists older and/or wiser than me have fought all of this out before), but I don't think one even has to go there to see the problem. We, as an LGBTQ community, have urgent needs right now. Just as a few examples we have horrific rates of new HIV infections among young queer men of color, we have a great many trans folk living in extreme poverty because "straight" employment and urgently necessary medical care are inaccessible to them, we have violent hate crimes continuing to occur every week in the U.S., not to mention in the countries our government apparently sees only as strategic assets or liabilities in an oil war... and so we need advocacy, right this minute, of great quantity and high quality, and I don't think it's safe to trust HRC to lead that charge when their track record for unifying and mobilizing the queer community is so weak over the past few years, their direction is so clearly coming from corporate and wealthy individual donors, and their priorities are so far out of whack. Plus, if you take HRC at its word and listen really carefully to their version of the 2007 ENDA story, they fucked up...they thought they had the votes to pass an inclusive ENDA, and then they turned out to be very wrong.

But back to the ulterior's easy to read the ENDA mess as HRC trying to punch its own meal ticket, to create conflict that helps weaken other groups and aspects of the movement, to highlight the power of the middle-to-upper-class homosexuals who dominate its board and benefit the most from its Corporate Equality work and don't, in general, suffer from discrimination on the basis of "gender expression." David Smith's statement at the town hall that Joe Solmonese "misspoke" when he declaimed in September, about how HRC would oppose any gender-exclusive versions of ENDA, simply wasn't credible. [The part about how he "regrets" saying it now, I believe -- everyone hates getting called out as a hypocrite.] Several other people said it during their comments and questions on 12/6, and I'll say it too -- I don't trust HRC. I don't want them speaking for me, either publicly or in the symbolic sense as lobbyists.

So. Do I plan to show up on Rhode Island Avenue with a bomb, a pie, or a manifesto? No. Do I think HRC is going to do or say anything that contradicts my personal values in the course of this Huckabee controversy? Not really. Do I know anything about Jeanne White-Ginder's personal politics or actual relationship with HRC? No. I just think that going forward, we need to be even more vigilant as progressive queer activists about getting other groups' names into the media, about taking charge of events and controversies rather than allowing HRC's field staff to step immediately into the breach, about directing our resources and our friends and acquaintances' resources toward other LGBT organizations (IMHO the most progressive national ones are NCLR and the Task Force, though I know both of those have ties to corporations and warts of their own). In particular, I don't think we should waste our breath arguing with HRC about its handling of the ENDA vote in its "Congressional Scorecard" system -- that's treating them as the voice of our community, and I think we need to step away from that.

It's easy to accept HRC's role as the largest and loudest LGBT organization (especially while also trying to resist, say, the Democratic Party and the patriarchy), and it's easy to let their agenda drive public discourse about queer issues. But I think we can do better. And I'd like to work on doing better. Next time HRC royally fucks up, they shouldn't even be in a position to do a Humility Tour.

Presidential Candidates & Celebrities

In The Advocate - Issue 999 December 18, 2007, an article entitled 'I'm Voting For...' by Todd Henneman is so completely lacking that I am forced to comment on it.

Thankfully I picked up the magazine for free.

The article features various (but not all!) candidates for the Democratic and Republican Party nominations. It includes some slick pictures of candidates and/or various celebrities including Billy Jean King, Steven Spielburg, Melissa Etheridge, Oprah, Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, James Denton, Bette Midler, Tom Ford, Dennis Miller, Meg Whitman, Colin Powell, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Pat Sajak. After the name of the candidate is a list of celebrity backers sprinkled with a few quotes from a few queers (and allied) politicians and so forth.

Celebrities with presidential candidates? WHO CARES?

Where is coverage and analysis of the candidates' positions on issues, their values and their vision for our country?

Are these things unimportant to the Queer community (or communities)?

Is this the best our LGBT media can be? Is this truly representative of the kind of media we expect?


Monday, December 10, 2007

Remarks on World AIDS Day by Charles King of Housing Works

Here are remarks from Charles King who serves as President of HOUSING WORKS made on World AIDS Day in San Francisco.

remarks by Charles King


Thank you for inviting me to join you today in commemorating World AIDS Day at the National AIDS Memorial here in this beautiful park.

You know, at least from superficial reports, today ought to be a day of celebration. Just two weeks ago, UNAIDS announced a recalculation of the global AIDS pandemic, reducing the number of people living with AIDS world-wide from 39.5 million to 33.2 million persons, and the number of annual deaths from 3 million persons to only 2.5 million.

Not only that, but there is also considerable news on the treatment front. The latest generation of treatments is so effective that I heard Martin Delaney of Project Inform just last month declare that even people who months ago had what were considered salvage options, assuming they have access to treatment of care and are reasonably adherent, can now expect to die of maladies related to old age, and not conditions associated with the virus.

Sadly, it takes only a slightly more penetrating look to see why this is emphatically not a day for celebration! The UNAIDS announcement was largely due to statistical adjustments, and with a few exceptions, had little to nothing to do we any meaningful success in our efforts to end the disease. And even while UNAIDS was lowering its figures, the CDC is reportedly struggling with how to make the politically sensitive announcement that it has been under-forecasting the rate of HIV infection in the United States for the last several years by nearly 50%. At 2.5 million annual deaths, AIDS is still the world’s leading killer, and new infections around the globe still continue to soar among young women, girls, injection drug users, and, above all, young men who have sex with other men.

As for Martin Delaney’s prognostications, his qualifier is critical. For the truth is that less than 50% of the people living with HIV here in the United States have access to primary care, much less the latest greatest drugs couple with sophisticated lab tests that are read by HIV-specialty care providers. And around the globe, less than one third of people who are in need, as defined by an appallingly low t-cell count of less than 200, have access to any treatment, much less access to the latest and greatest.

The sad and damning truth, my friends, is that while many of us merrily pop our pills every morning and go on with our lives as if the crisis had ended, we are still loosing that battle against the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the pandemic around the globe.

Now this is the point in my speech where I usually rail against the powers that be. I point out that ending this pandemic is already possible even without a vaccine or a cure, that it’s not rocket science, just common sense, and then go into my rant about how it is not a lack of resources, but a lack of political will. All of the above is, in fact, quite true. But it’s just not for today’s speech.

Instead, standing here as I am in San Francisco, pulsing with the heartbeat of Gay America, I’m moved to ask why so much of the gay community, my community, has given up on the fight against AIDS. I really don’t mean to give offense. And while I have been accused at times of being provocative, it’s a sincere question: Why has so much of the gay community walked away from the battle against AIDS?

Some of you here today are perhaps too young to remember the way it was in the 80’s. First there was the quiet dread, which grew to a sense of terror as friend after friend began to get sick, quickly loose weight, and then die. There was that awful sense of helplessness, confusion and then rage as we died and the world did nothing. And then we began to organize and to fight. I remember attending my first meeting of ACT-UP New York in the summer of 1987. Standing in the back of a packed room at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, I found myself heaving dry sobs, hoping no one could see my visceral reaction.

At last there was something I could do. I could fight back. And even if we didn’t win, I wouldn’t be going down alone. At the time, I was still HIV negative. But, like many others in my circumstance, AIDS had already taken over my life, dragging me out of the closet and, in doing so, effectively destroying my career as a young Baptist minister. So it didn’t matter that the virus had not yet tainted my blood. As a gay man, I was living with AIDS, and I was willing to do what ever it took to bring the plague to an end.

The next three years were a blur of adrenaline: Fighting back at the Republican Convention in New Orleans, handcuffed to a bureaucrat’s desk in New York City, scaling the walls of the CDC, chaining ourselves to the FDA, planting tombstones at the NIH and then throwing colorful flares when the police on horseback began to charge our line.

Throwing our bodies on the line, we were a veritable band of brothers, fatalistic, cynical, but willing to fight to the end. The AZT chant said it all: “One drug, a billion dollars, big deal!” But then things really did begin to change. We had forced the government, and scientists and the health care industry to respond. And so we starting daring to hope.

I hope none of you think I am romanticizing those horrible days. And I don’t want anyone to think I am discounting the great number of lesbians and somewhat smaller collection of straight allies in our midst. But for gay men, it was inevitably a different experience. To be sure there was a lot of love, and even a fair amount of sex. But all too often the guy who had led the charge, or who had told the funniest stories sitting up overnight in jail cell, showed up at the next week’s meeting with those horrible purple lesions that inevitably spelled death…and we tried not to pull away even as we looked furtively at our own bodies to make sure we had not yet been tagged by the reaper.

In the 90’s the time for marching seemed to have at least faded, if not going completely away. The government spigots had begun to open, as had private pockets, to an unparalleled degree. We had a new challenge. Many of us who had manned the barricades felt called to undertake the challenge of building organizations to serve our own, and then to serve others who had been left out. Some of us built housing or expanded services, while others went to work in health care and in research, or even the bureaucracy of government, all still seeing our every day’s work as a critical part of the same struggle. Even as we were building new careers, we told ourselves we were still a part of bringing AIDS to an end.

Maybe it occurred earlier, but I still see Andrew Sullivan’s article, “When Plagues End”, published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine on November 10, 1996, as the turning point. Perhaps he was only verbalizing the sentiment felt silently felt by many others when he declared, “For me the AIDS crisis is over.” But those words, whether spoken by Sullivan or only heard in our own minds, gave permission for thousands of gay men and our lesbian comrades, even those of us living with the virus, to abandon the battlefield, secure in the knowledge that, for us, at least, the crisis was over.

There is no denying that a material change had taken place. I remember in 1989, going with Keith Cylar, my now deceased partner to get his test result after a bout of thrush. Though he lived until 2004, the threat of death never lifted. When I, on the other-hand, sero-converted shortly after the turn of the century, it was already clear that I would have a full range of options that would allow me to manage the virus well into my senior years. But I have to admit that I am also in an extremely privileged position. Not only do I have great health insurance and personally know some of the best AIDS specialists in the world, but even if I lose my job, I live in a state that guarantees that I will always have access to health care, including even the most expensive AIDS medications.

It wasn’t just individuals who moved on once HAART therapy became available. Rather, it seems that sometime in the late 90’s, the entire organized gay and lesbian community voted by a clear majority that it was time to move on from AIDS to more pressing issues.

This consensus was driven home to me just a couple of years ago, when I was invited to keynote the annual banquet of Equality Alabama, and specifically to speak on the Campaign to End AIDS. A few weeks before the event, I received an e-mail indicating that the schedule had been revised. Evan Wolfson, of Marriage Equality had been invited to keynote in my stead. I called the chair of the planning committee to inquire and was told, “Most of our membership just felt that marriage is a more pressing issue for us right now.”

As consolation, I was given a workshop that afternoon….scheduled for the same time as Evan’s workshop on the gay marriage campaign. Now, I count Evan as a friend, and I certainly don’t want to sound like sour grapes, but the marriage workshop was packed out, standing room only, with more than two hundred people in the room. I had an attendance of five, two of whom were already die-hard C2EA activists.

Would it surprise you if I told you that out of several hundred people in attendance at the banquet that night, only a tiny handful were people of color? Would it surprise you to know that the largest constituency of people living with HIV in Alabamais men who have sex with men? And would it surprise you to know that more than 70% of people living with HIV in Alabama are African American?

I think you and I know why the gay community moved on once HAART became available. Let’s face it, Andrew Sullivan was right. For the vast majority of white gay men of even moderate income in the United States, AIDS ended as a crisis once the drugs came on line. We no longer had to watch our friends die or live ourselves in fear of the plague. In fact, whether because we headed prevention advice, or because we were just lucky, the statistics suggest that more than 75% of us are HIV negative. And because we often travel in packs that look like ourselves, AIDS for many of us is no longer even personal.

Of course the story is completely different if you are a Black gay or bi-sexual man. In that case, they odds are closer to one in two that you are infected. And you are far more likely than a white man to learn of your infection after you have had an AIDS-defining event, meaning the available treatments are going to be far less successful. While less dramatic, the difference is also obvious if you are a Latino gay man in the United States today.

I know that New York, San Francisco and L.A.have all at one time or another claimed to be the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. But a recent study underscores what many of us have known for a while now. The true epicenter of the epidemic today is Washington, D.C. In our Nation’s capital today, now more than one in every 20 people is living with HIV. And the more damning statistic: One out of every 7 Black men living in Washington, D.C. is infected with HIV….and, of course, the lion’s share of these men are men who are having sex with other men, whether we claim them as members of our community or not.

The reality is that AIDS is no longer so much a gay disease in the United States as it is a disease of race and poverty. And that brings to light a dirty secret about the organized and politically engaged gay community. We are overwhelmingly white and reasonably well-off, and our movement is almost exclusively about rights for ourselves and people like us.

The recent debate over the exclusion of persons of transgendered experience from Employment Non-Discrimination Act sadly makes my point. What does it say about us that Barney Frank, with the full support, it might add, of Nancy Pelosi, could so easily drop transgendered people from the ENDA bill that just passed the US House of Representatives? Well, if nothing else, it clearly says that no matter how much trans folk have fought side by side in the trenches with gay men and lesbians, we still don’t fully claim them as our own. Trans people are “other”, and as other, are expendable.

It was somewhat gratifying to see the number of LGBT groups who came out in opposition to this horrible betrayal. But, as it turns out, the largest of our organizations, the one to which we contribute as a community by far the largest dollars, , the Human Rights Campaign Fund, had been secretly pressing for this action all awhile, having only recently been shamed into trans inclusion in the first place.

By the way, speaking of Nancy Pelosi, can anyone hear explain to me how we could let her add $28 million to the Federal government’s existing annual $176 million in funding for abstinence only education without us raising a howl of protest? Pelosi’s justification was that $28 million was a small price to pay for getting other progressive funding passed. But that’s a crock, and a dangerous one at that. Not only does abstinence until marriage not work, but it is homophobic to its core, perpetuating among the children it claims to serve the myth that sexually transgressive people are morally degenerate. Even more, federal grants for abstinence-only-education fund the infrastructure of a right-wing movement dedicated to our destruction. But a Democratic Speaker, representing one of the most progressive districts in Congress, supports funding these organizations to the tune of over $200 million a year.

In a letter published in the current issue of The Advocate about the debate over trans inclusion in ENDA, a reader wrote, “As a gay man, I am tired of being told what I should think and what I should feel just because I am attracted to other men. At a gay synagogue in New York City recently, a straight guest speaker actually said, ‘Because you are all gay, I know you will be able to empathize with the plight of Mexican immigrants and their fight for equality.’ This kind of knee-jerk stupidity has got to stop, and assuming that because I am gay, I not only relate to but actually understand and care about transgender issues is no different.”

I don’t believe it is just a coincidence that the larger gay and lesbian community walked of the battlefield when AIDS clearly became a Black disease. It was no longer us who was perceived to be dying. It was “other”, and other is always dispensable. Our use of the term “men who have sex with men” and the “down low” serve only to increase the distance. “They” don’t claim us, so we don’t have to claim them. But imagine how different the world would be if people like Harvey Milk hadn’t stood up for people like me when I was a young person growing up in south Texas, still lacking the courage to call myself gay.

It’s not just Black gay and bisexual men and trans people that we walk away from when we walk away from AIDS. We’ve also walked away from many gay white men too marginalized to make it into the life boat, and we have walked away from women and girls, mainly Black women and girls, and folk generally marginalized by the larger society in which we live. The truth is, that when our community turns its back on AIDS, we turn our back on the very idea of civil rights and social and economic justice being our cause.

I need to be clear that I am not picking on Equality Alabama, and I appreciate well that at the time of that conference to which I referred, they were fighting a loosing battle against a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The deprioritization of AIDS has taken place among gay organizations all over this country over the last decade. I also want to be clear that I want the right to marriage as much as the next person….and I want all of the other rights that have been denied persons of LGBT experience for so long. But if what we are truly engaged in is a struggle for social and economic justice, it can’t just be about my rights.

We in the organized LGBT community are often incredulous that so many African Americans can distinguish their historical struggle for civil rights from our own. Yet, we fail to see the devastation being wrought among African American men who have sex with men in DC, or Brooklyn or Jackson, Mississippi, for that matter, as intrinsic to us, much less to see the connection between our struggle and that of people living with HIV and AIDS around the globe.

The reality of AIDS is that it is caused by a virus; but that virus would not have created the pandemic that now exists if it were not fueled by homophobia, racism, and sexism. AIDS is a disease that persists as a consequence of economic and social marginalization and discrimination. Whether it was gay men and then Haitians in the 80’s, or sex workers and people addicted to injection drugs today, AIDS has been able to wreck its havoc because it has in the main taken the lives of people deemed expendable. And that is why AIDS continues to be the preeminent civil rights issue of our day, whether we want to own it or not.

Even before I had the courage to publicly declare my sexual orientation, I knew to be grateful that God had made me gay. Being gay, I knew early on, went way beyond just being sexually attracted to men. The otherness of my sexual orientation propelled me out of the small-minded fundamentalist community into which I had been born. Being gay forced me to make my own way, to think for myself instead of accepting the given truths with which I had been raised.

Being sexually transgressive made transgendered people my brothers and sisters even without my understanding all of the complexities of gender identity. Being gay required that I understand that sexism persists as the root cause of homophobia… And it didn’t take being sero-postive for me to realize some 24 years ago that the first person I knew personally to die from the virus, an African American female sex-worker in New Haven, Connecticut, died for me.

Whether we in the gay community like it our not, AIDS is still our disease. It is ours because the many faces of AIDS, whether gay or straight, male or female, living in Haiti or South Africa, Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C., represent our struggle to survive and live our lives whole.

OUTRAGE at Unjust Iranian Execution

Here are a number of links to stories about the execution of Makvan Mouloodzadeh (see previous post):

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Makvan Mouloodzadeh: Remember His Name

Earlier this week it was announced that under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night Makvan Mouloodzadeh was executed. It was carried out despite a ruling by an Iranian judge staying the execution was a violation of Islamic faith, the religious views of high Shiite clerics and "the law of the land."

It's all-too-easy to become numbed each day by what we learn of man's inhumanity to man. Yet there was something about this particular cruelty that struck me to the core and made me say involuntarily say "Oh, no!" aloud when I read it in the paper the next morning. I couldn't help imagining what profound loneliness and the terror must have been like for this Makvan as he faced his end, his hopes for mercy dashed and without even the comfort of being allowed to speak with any friendly soul or his family before being executed.

We cannot bring him back. But I believe his murder in the night should not be allowed to pass quietly. We must raise our voices in protest. I suggest it should begin with our being at the Iranian consulate to proclaim our rage at this barbaric cruelty and injustice.

In my adult life I don't think I've ever been more repelled and disgusted by the excesses of consumerism and militant partying during this holiday season. The seemingly endless quagmire of the war in Iraq, the hollow posturing and cynical, greedy political maneuvering of the presidential candidates, the corruption in the highest offices in the land even as our economy is reeling and is propped up by the make believe wealth and chicanery of Wall Street, the contrast of multi-million dollar apartments with a crisis in affordable housing and the rising number of homeless here in New York City, our "friends" in Congress who slickly sell out the transgendered for expediency -- the list goes on and on.

Surely you have noticed.

Don't give up! Don't accept this as just another act over which to just shrug and continue on busiess as usual in your life. How about "celebrating the holidays" differently this year? How about we do it in a manner which at least for an hour or so reflects some valueing our fellow beings and demonstrates our willingness to give some real force to what we say we believe in.

I'm talking about our taking action and gathering at the Iranian consulate here in New York to loudly denounce this barbaric execution. And how about doing it on Christmas Eve? I'm thinking say at 3pm when most people will already be off of work and able to participate. Let's put some credible love back into the holiday by expressing our anger.

If we permit this murderous cruelty to just fade away then our passivity condemns as accomplices to the evil we say we abhor.

In sorrow and anger I invite you to remember Makvan!


Andrew Velez

Friday, December 7, 2007

NYT article on Queer Life in Newark, NJ

Project Wow, a no-frills drop-in center, provides some scarce refuge for Newark’s gay, lesbian and transgender people. From left, Dynasty Mitchell, Kira Henry and Tyrone Simpson.
Photo by Richard Perry for the New York TImes

In a Progressive State, a City Where Gay Life Hangs by a Thread
Published New York Times: December 2, 2007

NEWARK, Nov. 30 — To live in Newark often means grappling with unrelenting poverty, the anesthetizing lure of drugs, murderous gangs, a lack of decent jobs. Project Wow draws a few dozen young people each night, mostly for the camaraderie and shelter. But for gay men, lesbians and transgender people, there are additional obstacles that are seldom acknowledged: gay bashings, H.I.V., open hostility from many religious leaders and sometimes callous treatment by the police.

When venturing outside his Central Ward neighborhood, Tyrone Simpson, 19, stays on main thoroughfares and steers clear of the men in gang colors looking for easy quarry. Dynasty Mitchell, 21, an aspiring poet who works at a supermarket, has learned to blend in by stretching a do-rag over his head and adopting a thuggish gait in public.

“If you’re not prepared to fight, you’re not going to survive in Newark,” said Mr. Simpson, who is unabashedly gay.

New Jersey has become a national beacon for gay equality. It boasts some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country, and recent legislation makes it one of only three states that recognize same-sex civil unions. Gay marriage, some say, is just around the corner. Across the state, same-sex couples and their children have become integrated into suburban life.

But here in the state’s largest city, gay men and lesbians might as well live on another planet.

“You wouldn’t know that Greenwich Village is 10 miles away,” said James Credle, 62, a Vietnam veteran who is working with about a dozen other activists to revive the Newark Pride Alliance, a group established three years ago after a 15-year-old lesbian, Sakia Gunn, was stabbed to death by a man who, the police said, was infuriated that she had rejected his advances. “People here feel like we don’t deserve to be alive.For us, it’s about survival,” Mr. Credle said, “and all this talk of gay marriage is just a luxury.”

The city has no gay community center, no gay pride parade, no established gay organizations; there are no bars devoted exclusively to gay or lesbian clientele. “Newark is like one big closet,” said Ron Saleh, a consultant to the John Edwards presidential campaign, who moved here two years ago. “And there’s nothing going on for gay people. It’s like a desert.”

There are, however, a few hints of change. In June, Mayor Cory A. Booker became the first public official to embrace the issue by hoisting a rainbow flag over City Hall in recognition of Gay Pride Month. Yesterday, Gov. Jon S. Corzine was expected to attend a World AIDS Day event here. Last year, voters elected Dana Rone to the Municipal Council; she became the city’s first openly lesbian official when a newspaper, after her inauguration, reported on her sexual orientation.

And while many gay men and lesbians complain that they have been ridiculed and intimidated by the police, Garry F. McCarthy, the city’s police director, has begun requiring sensitivity training for all members of the force as part of biannual sessions that focus on sexual harassment.

Even those steps have met with resistance. When he presided over the raising of the rainbow flag, Mayor Booker said, he was stunned by the flood of angry phone calls to his office. “There’s a lot of silent pain in the city of Newark, and perpetrators of this pain — those who promote the bigotry and the alienation — must be confronted,” he said.

For a handful of gay activists in the city, the schoolyard shooting of four young people in August was a measure of that pain, if not of bigotry. They have been pressing law enforcement officials to investigate the shootings as a possible bias crime.

Mr. Credle, an organizer of Newark Pride Alliance, said that one of the teenagers arrested after the killings attended the same high school as three of the victims and may have thought they were gay because they hung around an openly gay crowd.
The police have said the killings were carried out during a robbery, but the Essex County prosecutor, Paula T. Dow, said investigators were still working to establish a motive.
James Harvey, the father of Dashon Harvey, one of the three who died in the schoolyard shootings, dismissed the suggestions that antigay bias played a role. “That’s so baloney, I don’t even want to give it a thought,” he said. “I’m just trying to get over my son being buried and gone from me.”

In some ways, the lack of a vibrant, organized gay community mirrors many other aspects of civic life in Newark, a city stunted by poverty and lacking the kind of comfortable middle class found in cities of similar size.

“We are an underdeveloped community in every area, so it is no surprise” that homophobia persists, said Ms. Rone.

Many churches in the city remain openly hostile to homosexuality.

Gary Paul Wright, executive director of the African American Office of Gay Concerns, a group that provides education and counseling on H.I.V. and AIDS, said his five-year effort to dispense AIDS educational material at local churches had been universally thwarted.

“There’s a whole lot of preaching about homosexuality and sin,” said Mr. Wright. “It really hurts and it makes me mad, but it also reinforces the stigma associated with H.I.V. and AIDS, which makes our job that much harder.

Such institutional antipathy drives many people into lives marked by secrecy. Some turn to the Internet for connections. One site that is popular among black and Hispanic men here,, has more than 500 active members in Newark; on a recent night, nearly 200 of them were online.

Not everyone feels the need to stay in the closet. June Dowell-Burton, 38, a social work student at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, said her neighbors did not seem bothered that she and her partner shared an apartment, a car and grocery shopping forays. “We don’t hide anything, and no one seems to mind,” she said.
Sharrieff Baker and his partner, Edwin Rosario, who own a house in the North Ward, said they had a very different experience when one of their tenants found out they were a couple. Last month, they said, the tenant tore up a shared bathroom, called them “faggots” and threatened to blow up their house. When they called 911, they said, Vincent Cordi, the responding police officer, appeared unconcerned and agreed only reluctantly to take their complaint. Back at the station house, they said, Officer Cordi sniggered with co-workers as he typed up the paperwork, at one point blurting out, “How do you spell ‘faggot’ ?”

When they returned home that day, they were attacked by the tenant in the hallway, they said; Officer Cordi responded to their 911 call and arrested all three men. Mr. Baker, who lost a front tooth in the skirmish, was charged with aggravated assault, as was the tenant; they both spent the weekend in jail. Mr. Rosario was not charged. Neither Officer Cordi nor officials in the Police Department responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Baker, who has filed a complaint with the internal affairs department, said he was especially angered by the Police Department’s refusal to designate the incident antigay. Newark, unlike many cities its size, does not compile data on antigay violence.

The day after he filed the complaint, Mr. Baker said, his car was towed from in front of his home. He suggested it was an act of vengeance; the police said it was removed for street cleaning.
Mr. Baker, 32, a real estate broker who moved to Newark from Jersey City last year, said that because of the incident, he and Mr. Rosario, a schoolteacher, want to move away. “I came here because I wanted to be part of Newark’s renaissance, but now I’m afraid even in my own house,” he said.

The Booker administration’s efforts to help establish a gay community center have been largely hamstrung by what veteran gay activists acknowledge are internal disagreements.

Then there is the apathy. When Laquetta Nelson tried to start a Newark chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, she gave up after a few months. “In the end, no one came to the meetings,” she said.

For now, the only refuge for gay people is in a nondescript building on the outskirts of downtown. Project Wow, as it is called, is a no-frills drop-in center run by the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, an organization that devotes most of its resources to research on AIDS drugs and free medical care. Project Wow draws a few dozen young people each night who come for counseling and H.I.V. prevention advice but mostly for the camaraderie and shelter from the city’s unsympathetic streets.

Alex Williams, Project Wow’s director, asked that the center’s location not be printed, noting that 15 of the center’s employees and clients had been attacked on their way to or from the building in the last six months.

Sitting in the lounge at the center, Tariq Pickens, 23, recalled how he and a friend dressed in drag were ambushed on the street by a group of men and women three years ago. During a few hellish moments, he said, they were slashed, punched, robbed and doused with lighter fluid, although the fuel failed to ignite. “I’ve had so many friends killed, beaten, raped, I can’t even count,” he said.

Kira Henry, too, has felt fear. Ms. Henry, 20, who is transgender, is taking a cooking class. When she walks to school in the morning, she said, she tries to look straight ahead and meet the inevitable taunts and catcalls with a forced smile. But when the bottles and bricks fly, she said, she knows how to fight — or sprint in six-inch heels.

“If you beat me up or shoot me,” she said, “I’m still going to be me.”

Like many of Project Wow’s clients, Willie Harden, 20, is homeless and jobless. He is also effectively orphaned, although his mother, a drug addict, is reputed to be somewhere in Jersey City.

Since aging out of foster care two years ago, Mr. Harden has lived at a series of shelters, the latest being Covenant House. He said he tried to hide his sexuality from strangers. The last thing he needed, he said, was more ridicule, or an uninvited beating.

“It’s hard living a double life,” he said. “It sounds crazy, but one day I’d like to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand with nobody saying one bad word.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Check out the Queer CUNY conference

Queer CUNY VIII: The Twilight of Queerness?
Saturday, December 1st, 10am-6pm

Hunter College, West Lobby (entrance on the SW corner of 68th and Lex).

10am- Coffee, Breakfast and Introductions
Opening Remarks: Antonio Aquino, Queer Student Union, Hunter College
Taylor Black, Director, Queer CUNY VIII
Rupal Oza, Director, Women and Gender Studies Program, Hunter College

11am- Session 1

Panel A: Making Queer Media, Then and Now

For decades, queer media has spanned everything from riot grrrl record labels to campy 'zines. These mediums interact with mainstream media and capitalist business models in divergent ways, spawning different visions of the creative potential of avowedly queer media. This panel explores the range of possibilities and challenges that characterize queer publishing, music ventures, and independent youth media.

Moderator: Richard Goldstein, Hunter College.

Panelists: Gina Mamone, President and CEO of Riot Grrrl Ink, Alternative Capitalisms and Radical Queer Media.

Amanda Moscoso, Global Action Network, Cultural Criticism and Material Fashioned by Queer Youth of Color.

Les Simpson, Founder and Editor of My Comrade and creator of NYC DragSensation Linda Simpson, Revolutionary Gay Media.

Panel B: Visual Pleasure

Queer art can create opportunities for experiencing aesthetic pleasure, (dis)articulating sexuality-based identities, and creating new visual cultures across national borders. The power of queer visual culture is not grounded so much in the identity of the artist as in these multiplicitous creative possibilities. This panel will explore art's queerly generative power by examining mediums as diverse as transnational feminist art, voguing performances, and gender-variant porn.

Moderator: David Gerstner, College of Staten Island.

Panelists: Morty Diamond, Director of Trannyfags and Trans Entities, A Personal Look Into One Transman’s Journey Into Erotic Arts.

Jon Freeman, Tufts University, Dancing to Disidentify: Voguing, Queer of Color Critique, and Neoliberalism.

Eleanor Whitney, Co-Editor of riffRAG, Pushing Boundaries: Contemporary Queer Visual Culture Across Cultures and Mediums.


1:00pm- Session 2

Panel A: Queering Pedagogy

Moderator: Loren Krywanczyk

Panelists: Jes Battis, Trans/Scripts: Collecting the Work of Queer Grads.

Marty Fink, Queer Admin: Coming out Day and Other Pedagogical Surprises.

Loren Krywanczyk, Queering Pedagogy as a First-Year Public School Teacher.

Seth Clark Silberman, How To (And Why You Should) Teach Queer Theory.

Panel B: Real Live Freaks: Representing Deviance in Pop Culture

Popular representations of sexual deviance have created a vast and titillating taxonomy of purported perversion and degeneration. Some of these pop phenomena are powered by moral panic: witness the proliferation of attention to the gay male meth addict or the straight white sex offender. Others emerge from a liberal logic of genteel tolerance and curiosity, as seen in talk-show television or best-selling memoirs. The presentations below engage critically with this voyeuristic spread, offering fresh perspective on just who is targeted as queer and how.

Moderator: Rosalind Petchesky, Hunter College

Panelists: Taylor Black, Hunter College, Perverted Justice: Shifting Landscapes of Control and the Contemporary War on Sex Predators

Kate Bovich, NYU, Devious Passing: An Experiment in How the Other Half Lives

Sassafras Lowrey, author of From GSA to Marriage: Stories of a Life Lived Queerly, Modern Freak Shows: Transgender Representations on Oprah 2003-2005.

Benjamin Persky, CUNY Graduate Center, The Quintessential Gay Drug: HIV/AIDS, Crystal Methamphetamine, and the Instant Bottom.

Workshop: Queer Networking in New York City

The aim of this workshop is to create a network of students, community organizers and people with similar interests, in order to build a strong, academic, queer community in New York City and the Tri-State area.

Moderators: Antonio Aquino, Queer Student Union, Hunter College.
Kristina Cooper, Lesbians Rising, Hunter College.

2:30pm- Session 3

Panel A: Intelligibility and Transgression

Queerness signifies both an aberration from and resistance to the norms of sex and gender. Often, this task of recasting social norms is seen as incompatible with strategies that work more intimately with normative political structures or identities. This panel will aim to examine and problematize this facile opposition, with presentations examining bisexual invisibility, monster ethics, sovereignty and ‘necropolitics,’ and the politicization of gay male subjectivities.

Moderator: E. Glasberg, Princeton University.

Panelists: James Arnett, CUNY Graduate Center, Zombie Politics: A Vision of Post-Queer Collectivity

Brent Calderwood, CUNY Graduate Center, Queer Liberation? No Thanks, We’ll Pass.

Jennifer Mitchell, CUNY Graduate Center, Oh Boy -- or Girl: Hypothetical Bisexuality.

Oli Stephano, Vassar College, Monster Ethics: Beyond No Future.

Panel B: Local Strategies, Global Resistance

Queer political tactics might be said to focus on the formation of novel alliances and the undoing of colonizing political logic and practices. Nevertheless, queer politics walks the line between replicating and displacing these totalizing schemas. What does this edge look like in both local and transnational political organizing? This panel will explore and critique movement building and "queer community" from a variety of perspectives.

Moderator: Paisley Currah, Brooklyn College.

Panelists: Emi Kane, NYU, Critiquing Queer Diaspora Theory.

Thea Quiray Tagle, GABRIELA and UC-San Diego, (Queer) Love in a Time of War, or why talk about queer Filipina/Americans when there are soldiers dying for our freedom?

Leigh Thompson, TransMasculine Community Network, Challenging Static Notions of an LGBT “Community.”

Julian Wolfe, Sylvia’s Place, Fitting At-Risk Queer Kids of Color into the Community.

Workshop: Alternatives to Marriage

A practical and inspired discussion about queer kinship, headed up by folks from the Alternatives to Marriage Project (AtMP), a national nonprofit organization advocating for equality and fairness for unmarried people, including people who are single, who choose not to marry, cannot marry, or live together before marriage.

Moderators: Jennifer Gaboury, Hunter College.

Katie McDonough, Hunter College.

4:30pm-Keynote Address by Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan, Professor, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director, American Studies Program at NYU, is the author of Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence and American Modernity and Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy. She is also co-author with Nan Hunter of Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture.


Please contact with any questions.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

11/20 Trans Day of Remembrance

Tuesday, November 20, 6pm: "A Celebration of Life" / an acknowledgment of violence against transgendered people. Gather at the LGBT Community Center (208 W. 13th St., New York, NY), march, return to Center for memorial ceremony. Sponsored by the Center's Gender Identity Project, Housing Works, Trans Justice, AIDS Center of Queens County, and others.

Same date and time: Protest Human Rights Campaign's failure to advocate for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Sparked by HRC's flip-flopping on the need for an Employment Nondiscrimination Act that encompasses protections based on gender identity. Gather outside the Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher Street, New York, NY) where HRC is conducting a "women's networking event." Demands: HRC fire executive director Joe Solmonese; work toward a goal of 10% trans representation on its national board and regional steering committees; give 7 congressional representatives who voted against the non-inclusive version of ENDA (because they were insisting on an inclusive version) credit in HRC's "scorecard" program for a pro-LGBT vote. Organized by Jon Winkleman. More info...

Other perspectives on the HRC/ENDA situation:

Donna Rose (blog of a trans former board member of HRC who resigned over the controversy)

Republic of T (blog of a black gay man advocating inclusivity)

Gay City News op-ed by Doug Ireland providing an historical critique of HRC and the "gay citizenship movement"

But back to the real point of the Day of Remembrance:

Online memorial to deceased trans people

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Discussion: Criminalization of Queer Youth of Color

Saturday, November 17th @ 7PM - $5 Suggested Donation
Bluestockings bookshop and cafe -- 172 Allen Street in Manhattan
Let's have a cross movement dialog regarding race, gender, media and the law. As highlighted by the arrest and incarceration a group of 4 young lesbian women of color from New Jersey (the Jersey 4), the legal system has a heavy bias with respect to our treatment, or safety, our freedom. Please join us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tomorrow's meeting and announcements

First Thursday Meeting at the LGBT Center
to Discuss Single Payer Plan

At tomorrow's general meeting of Queer Justice League we will discuss the broken US healthcare system. Advocates for a single payer plan (longtime activist Eric Sawyer along with Dr. Laura Boylan from Physicians for a National Health Plan) will present views and answer questions in a discussion format.

First Thursday General Meeting
November 1, 2007
8 PM
LGBT Center 208 West 13th Street NYC


Queer Justice League is building itself up toward future feats of strength and superheroism. In particular right now, we need:

-- people who will contribute facts and opinions to this blog
-- people who will help us raise funds
-- people experienced with formal consensus decisionmaking who will help us get comfortable with it as an organization.

If you have any of those skills, or ideas for future actions, please let us know.

Upcoming Meetings & Events from QJL's friends and allies:

Youth Empowerment Action Addressing HIV (Y.E.A.A.H.)Forum
an "Open-Space Technology" youth event for two Saturdays
Saturday, November 3, 2007
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
NYC Department of Health
49-51 Chambers Street 1st floor

two film screenings and a panel with Marriage Equality
Saturday, November 3, 2007
1 PM
admission: $7
Jersey City Museum
350 Montgomery Street, Jersey City, NJ
(at the corner of Monmouth Street)
sponsored by CHILLFEST - the mostly gay & lesbian film series

Outing the Water Closet: Sex, Gender, and the Public Toilet
Saturday, November 3, 2007
11 AM - 5:30 PM
FREE Admission
Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place, between West 3rd and Bleecker Streets.
co-sponsored by New York University, the Center for Architecture, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter

film screening
Sunday, November 11, 2007
2 PM
admission: $7
LITM (Love Is The Message)
140 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
sponsored by CHILLFEST - the mostly gay & lesbian film series

Friday, November 16, 2007
$5 members, $10 non-members
This event is being presented by Lesbian Sex Mafia in cooperation with the Gay Male S/M Activists of New York/ Leatherfest 2007 and is open to all genders. It's a tool, it's a toy, it's bondage, it's clothing, it's a scene just waiting to happen. Duct tape is everywhere! Find out how something so practical can be so perverse.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

HIGH ANXIETY: WHy Having Private Health Insurance
Doesn't Mean You Are Really Covered
with Consumer Reports Editor Nancy Metcalf & Baruch Professor Shoshanna Sofaer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
7:30 PM
FREE Admission
Beth Israel Medical Center
Phillips Ambulatory Care Center
10 Union Square East (between 14th & 15th Sts.)
Second Floor - Lecture Hall
for information

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Here's a little assignment for everyone:

If you live in NYC... try going one day without seeing a cop. I bet you can't...well unless you stay inside your apartment all day.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Announcements from QJL's members and friends

1) One of our Canadian friends on MySpace asked that QJL help spread the word about Alvaro Orozco, a Nicaraguan man Canada is trying to deport despite the oppression he previously experienced in Nicaragua related to his sexuality:

Alvaro's personal website

Recent article about queer people's problems with the Canadian immigration system

Older article about Alvaro's situation

Please take a moment to sign this petition and secure Alvaro's essential human right to live in safety.

2) A resource for NYC-area trans people interested in securing legal name changes:

The West Village Trans Name Change Clinic offers legal information, and assistance filling out the forms required, for changing your name through the New York State Courts. The Clinic takes place on the first Monday of each month (unless it's a holiday) at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St. in Manhattan. Sign-in is from 6 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact agoad AT law dot nyc dot gov.

3) From the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF):

An "action portal" for contacting your congressional reps about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (HR 2015/"ENDA"). ENDA, as proposed at the start of this Congressional session, is a potential federal law that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity." On 9/27 the ENDA bill was abruptly revised to drop "gender identity" -- but making that change would sell out the trans community AND weaken protection for *all* people who experience discrimination on the basis of perceived gender nonconformity. Democrats in Congress have postponed voting on this issue, so there is a short window of time for informing representatives that gender identity needs to stay in the bill.

Press Coverage of Caliente Situation

Recent Media Coverage of Caliente Incident and Recently Filed Lawsuit:


New York Times

NY Times Blog

New York Post

New York Daily News

Don't forget to show up to the ACTION at Caliente on 10/16 at 5:30pm! Khadijah Farmer and others will speak about why Caliente's discrimination merits a response.

Friday, October 12, 2007

March Against the Profiteering Health Insurance Industry!

Wednesday October 17th 4pm rally/5:30pm march
42nd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues (Bryant Park)
B, D, F, V, 7 trains to 42nd St/5th Avenue Bryant Park Station

Over 47 million people are without health insurance in the U.S. and millions more are one serious health problem away from choosing between being untreated or thrown into financial ruin. A recent N.Y. Times poll found 9 out of 10 Americans believe the healthcare system must be rebuilt. It's time to do away with private healthcare insurance companies and institute a single-payer health insurance program like that in the House Resolution 676 which would cover all people residing in the U.S. under a publicly-funded MEDICARE FOR ALL system.


PHIMGC@ 646 322 0848

Friday, October 5, 2007

We're not gonna take it!

QJL has formed a working group to discuss what can be done in regards to Police Brutality in NYC. There have been countless incidents of the queer community being targeted by the NYPD and we are tired of this police state! We hope to form a large coalition with other minority groups and social justice groups because the NYPD targets anyone they perceived to be 'weak' and that means minorities and the poor. Anyone interested in planning, contact us!

Monday, September 24, 2007

10/16: Major Caliente Action

Queer Justice League, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered (GLOBE), Transgender Health Initiative, and Make the Road New York announce an ACTION OUTSIDE CALIENTE CAB COMPANY in response to the restaurant's homophobia, transphobia and sexism during the June 24 Khadijah Farmer incident and its aftermath. The action will take place Tuesday, October 16, at 5:30 p.m. Please spread the word widely and circulate the online "flyer" about this action to your friends, contacts, and organizations. For background on the Caliente Cab Co. controversy, see this Gay City News article.
-- Amanda

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blog Redesigned!

What do you think of the redesigned blog? Notice any mistakes? Things that could be improved? Email us and let us know.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Action Alert

The next action regarding the anti gay music campaign will be held tomorrow, Friday the 31st at 7pm. The event being protested is "On Da Reggae Tip" at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Meet on the south side of 34th street at the intersection of 8th ave (in front of the Lowe's movie theatre). The action will be mostly flyering and will last for about an hour.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Media Pays Attention

Here is the media coverage of the protest at Randalls Island on August 25th.

Friday, August 17, 2007


We, along with many other queer organizations around the city, will be having a protest on Randalls Island, August 25th at 6pm to let our resistance against music that promotes violence be known.

Details to come in the next week.

(If anyone would like to join us in planning this action we are having a working group meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21st at 7pm at GMAD located at 103 E. 125th St, Suite 503)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Check out our Flickr

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Specific Action Steps for Caribfest Protest

Two Jamaican singers, Bounty Killa and Buju Banton, whose songs urge people to kill gays, are scheduled to perform at CaribFest on Randall's Island (which is on NYC Parks property) on Saturday, August 25th.

Bounty Killa has refused to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act (below), a simple statement that he will no longer perform songs that incite violence. Buju Banton, who has signed it, is now denying he did.

We need to get these two performers removed from the concert unless they agree to sign the RCA and publicly say they have done so. Merely promising to not perform the songs at this particular event is not enough - they must agree to never perform them again. As you may know, a number of gays have been murdered recently in Jamaica and this kind of hate music certainly played a part.

Please call NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn and urge her to get these artists off the bill: 212-788-7210

If we can't get them off the bill, please plan to come to Randall's Island on the 25th to protest murder music! Details to follow.

Concert promoters include:

Team Legendary (Alfonso Brooks) 718-856-3336

Baylo Entertainment

Live Nation

Samples of his BK's lyrics:

Bun a fire pon a puff and mister fagoty
(Burn a fire on puffs and faggots)

Poop man fi drown an dat a yawd man philosophy
(Shit men [gay men] must be drowned and that's a yardy man [Jamaican]

You know we need no promo to rub out dem homo
(You know we don’t need a prom to rub out a [kill] homo)

Mi ready fi go wipe out this fag wid pure laser beam
(I’m ready to wipe out this faggot with a pure laser beam)

Bounty Killa has released a song “Dat Ah True,” saying he won't "bow" to "faggots and

Buju Banton lyrics:

World is in trouble
Anytime Buju Banton come
Batty boy (fag) get up an run
At gunshot me head back
Hear I tell him now crew

(Its like) Boom bye bye
Inna batty boy head
Rude boy no promote no nasty man
Dem haffi dead
Boom bye bye
Inna batty boy head
Rude boy no promote no nasty man
Dem haffi dead

The Reggae Compassionate Act

We, the artists of the Reggae community, hereby present this letter as a symbol of our dedication to the guiding principles of Reggae’s enduring foundation ONE LOVE. Throughout time, Reggae has been recognized as a healing remedy and an agent of positive social change.
We will continue this proud and righteous tradition.

Reggae Artists and their music have fought against injustices, inequalities, poverty and violence even while enduring some of those same circumstances themselves. Over the years, reggae music has become popularized and enjoyed by an unprecedented audience all over the world. Artists of the Reggae Community respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.

While we recognize that our artistic community comprises many different individuals who express themselves in different ways and hold a myriad of beliefs, we believe firmly that the way forward lies in tolerance. Everyone can keep his own conviction and we must receive respect for our freedom of speech as far as we respect the law, but it must be clear there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia. We do not encourage nor minister to HATE but rather uphold a philosophy of LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING towards all human beings as the cornerstone of reggae music.

This Compassionate Act is hereby calling on a return to the following principles as the guiding vision for the future of a healthy Reggae music community: Positive Vibrations, Consciousness raising, Social and Civic Engagement, Democracy and Freedom, Peace and Non-Violence, Mother Nature, Equal Rights and Justice, One Love, Individual Rights, Humanity, Tolerance and Understanding

We, as artists, are committed to a holistic and healthy existence in the world, and to respect to the utmost the human and natural world. We pledge that our music will continue to contribute positively to the world dialogue on peace, respect and justice for all.

To this end, we agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community. ONE LOVE