Kerry Washington: “Nothing Offensive” About Gay Rumors

Kerry Washington, who’ll be guest hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow, is a smart, warm, and wise woman who understands the media and gossip rags as well as, if not better than, her character on Scandal, spin doctor Olivia Pope.  In an interview with the Advocate, Washington spoke about her commitment to equality and civil rights, and addressed the rumors circulating about her:

It’s interesting how much people long to fill in the gaps when someone in the public eye doesn’t share their personal life. I understand their frustration. I like how people will post pictures of me with other women that I adore, hugging on red carpets, and say, “See?” Are we so uncomfortable with love between two people of the same gender that we immediately label it as sexual? But I’ve never been bothered by the lesbian rumor. There’s nothing offensive about it, so there’s no reason to be offended.

Washington, who announced Wednesday that she’s expecting her first child with husband, San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, has played lesbian and trangendered characters in films, and has a strong following in the LGBT and ally community.  At 13, Washington was involved with the LGBT community and  HIV/AIDS peer education through NiteStar, a theater education program in New York City, and her commitment to equality across the board continues, something that shines in Scandal‘s plot lines:

For our show in particular, because it represents such diversity on so many levels, sexual orientation included, it means a lot. I always want to be a part of work that speaks to people across the lines that divide us…But because it has such an amazing following that crosses age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, Scandal has changed the game completely…

in fact, something that brings me great joy is knowing what Scandal’s audience looks like in terms of African-American households and knowing that so many African-American people and families are being introduced to our characters James and Cyrus. It’s really exciting that millions of viewers each week are living life with this amazing, complex couple, stepping into their gay marriage and adoption experience, which is such a vital storyline in our show….

With over 1.2 million Twitter followers, Washington has made it known that her support of LGBT right extends beyond the US, tweeting her disappointment over Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, as well as her support of equal rights around the world. She told the Advocate:

When there are crimes against humanity being committed in the world, we are all so vulnerable. We have to look out for and protect each other.

Halloween Early with “Old Dogs & New Tricks”: Obama, Anonymous, Wonder Woman and a Rabbi

Happy Halloween from WeHo! While the city gears up for its annual gianormous Halloween celebration–half a million people expected, Queen Latifa getting crowned as Carnaval Queen(!), and, oh my gods, the horror, the horror of resident permit parking suspended for the night–I celebrated early, on the set of Old Dogs & New Tricks, the fabulous web series about the friendships and tribulations of a group of diverse and successful West Hollywood men – each one located squarely within middle age. (I have a super soft spot for OD&NT who donated DVDs to give away at Netroots Nation 13 LGBT Connect booth).

The old dogs and new tricks were shooting a special Halloween episode in a disco with pulsing music, hot go-go boys, and costumed extras drawn from their friends and friends of friends. So, thanks to the master of Back2Stonewall.com I threw on a gown, affixed my witch hat firmly on my head, and headed to the top secret location to join my fellow revelers and dance the afternoon away.

I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but expect some awesome costumes (including an epic Epic Fail Guy, aka Guy Fawkes, aka Anonymous), rippling muscles, an appearance by “Barack Obama,” fine drag served with a side of melancholy from one of the series’ stars, Leon Acord–and if it made the cut, me in a Sapphic embrace. What was my motivation? When called to act, we do!

Old Dogs & New Tricks has just signed a licensing deal with LGBT film distributor Wolfe Video to release the comedy series on DVD and via various streaming platforms online beginning November 26.

Oo Là Là! Paris to Host 2018 Gay Games

 

Bonjour, handsome! Paris has secured the right to host the 2018 Gay Games, beating out Limerick, Ireland and London, England. Next year’s Gay Games 2014 will be held in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, which should be pretty darn fun too!

Founded in 1982 as an alternative to the Olympics, the Gay Games changed its name after its inaugural year because of legal complaints lodged by the the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) over name rights.

The Gay Games–open to to all, regardless of sexual orientation, religion or nationality–include up to 36 sporting disciplines and draw upwards of 10,000 participants.

Spaghetti Fight: Pasta CEO’s Anti-Gay Comments Draw Backlash, Boycotts

Above you’ll find an advertising spot from Bertolli Pasta that aired in 2009.  The ad features a gay couple, with one of the men in said couple day dreaming of the other serving him pasta in a fancy restaurant only to come to and have that man be his partner seated beside him in his living room. There’s not much fanfare over the couple’s sexuality– they’re just hungry partners eating some pasta.

It’s the sort of advertisement that Barilla Pasta would never air according to CEO, Guido Barilla.  Known for commercials that depict the quintessential Italian family, and in response to a question on whether that family would ever include any gay members Barilla said:

I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.

While the CEO is opposed to gay adoption-and evidently the notion of fathers cooking dinners-he is in favor of gay marriage.  He followed up his comments by clarifying how he felt about gay patrons saying that if they “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

You need to only do a quick search of the Twitter hashtag #boycottbarilla to see that challenge being answered.

Pasta company Bertolli who has been cool with gay couples in their advertisements since 2009, also chimed in with an advertisement of their own with a caption that reads “Pasta und Liebe für alle!” (Love and Pasta for all!)

The moral of this story is pretty clear.  Whether you’re Chick-fil-A or Urban Outfitters or any of these other companies that have said something problematic about an entire demographic — people are paying attention, and they will absolutely buy their pasta elsewhere.

Russia: Selena Gomez Visa Yanked over LGBT Rights Petition

 

A Change.org petition asking Selena Gomez to speak up about LGBT rights during her Russian concerts received over 12,000 signatures in one day. And now the Russian government has revoked the platinum-selling singer’s visa. The twenty-one year old Gomez, who got her start on Barney & Friends and dated Justin Bieber before he turned into a chavy douche, was scheduled to play St. Petersburg’s Ice Palace on Sep. 23 and Moscow’s Olimpiysky stadium on Sep. 25.

The petition, organized by John Becker, managing editor of Bilerico Project, called on Gomez to

 stand up for Russia’s LGBT community when she’s in Russia next week.

Both Madonna and Lady Gaga spoke out for LGBT rights at their concerts last year, and Cher has said she turned down an offer to open the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  Elton John is scheduled to play in Russian in December, though his visa has not yet been issued. And it might not be, given Sir Elton’s recent statement:

I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

In a statement, Becker told E! Online:

This cancellation of Selena Gomez’s visa shows that the Russian government is sensitive and on the defense, and shows that the pressure from people all around the world and the backlash against these laws is strong. They’re afraid to have someone like Selena Gomez come in and potentially use her platform to advance LGBT rights.

Madonna and Gaga are facing lawsuits for promoting

homosexual propaganda

to those under 18. That statute is part of larger effort to crack down on LGBT Russians. In response to harsh anti-LGBT laws and rhetoric there has been a boycott on Russian vodka in bars across the United States and a call to boycott the  2014 Olympics.

Elton John to Play Moscow: “I’m Doing It for Gay Russians”

Oh Elton, Elton.  I am so confused, but I just can’t quit you. Remember when his remark about being very happy with civil unions became a rallying cry for Prop 8 and anti-equality forces? Once there was a hue and cry about his naivety ignorance of basic facts, he came around and ended up playing an amazing concert as a fundraiser for AFER and becoming a spokesperson for marriage equality. Then he played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for  huge fee. (I’d like to hope that he donated that fee to pro-equality groups as a puckish fuck you to the forces at the EIB, but I guess I’ll never know).

Elton John played Sun City  in South Africa during apartheid, and yes that was 30 years ago. He played Tel Aviv just three years ago saying:

Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.

Oh?

Then Sir Elton thumbed his nose at China’s cultural politics by publicly dedicating his 2012 concert in Beijing to  to “the spirit and talent” of dissident artist Ai Weiwei,  prompting the Chinese culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China. Sir Elton told the Guardian:

“Ten thousand people went ‘Eugh!’, but how could you not?. He’s become a friend, and what he’s suffered as an artist is unbelievable. During and after the show, my tour manager was interrogated for three hours, and what he said to them was true: I bought a beautiful Ai Weiwei piece, I was grateful and we’ve become friends. I didn’t feel in any danger.

Sir Elton adds a new item to his wish list: He’d like to go back to China and talk to the government about AIDS. According to the performer:

the country’s leading AIDS activist has claimed that the government’s estimate of 650,000 HIV cases is barely a 10th of the real figure.

Elton John wanted to play in front of the Pyramids of Giza, but claims be was banned because he is gay. And his very public gayness has ruffled feathers in other locales, the Guardian reports:

a church in Tobago organised a protest against his appearance there, while he received threats from an Islamic group when he played in Morocco.

So what about his proposed December concert date in Moscow?

Listen, I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time: I had an interpreter that they’d clearly set up. Actually, I ended up having sex with him on the roof of my hotel.  I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

Elton John certainly flies in the face of Putin’s  ban on homosexual propaganda. He and longtime partner David Furnish united in a civil union ceremony in 2005, one of the first in Britain, and are planning weddings in Britain and in California now that it is legal to do so– and the couple has two children Zachary  and Elijah. In 2009 the Ukrainian government block Sir Elton’s adoption of an HIV+ baby, citing his age and single status; the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex unions.  Adoption officials had another point of view:

Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.

How will Putin and Russian government deal with Elton John, a venerable and flamboyant, visibly gay figure in pop music who refers to himself as the Queen Mother? Madonna and Lady Gaga  played St Petersburg and spoke out from the stage, violating, according to the Russian government, the terms of their visas.  Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban fans under 18 years old from Gaga’s concerts. Madonna and Gaga are post-modern hetero-normative, basically straight ladies who like teh gheys, have a platform to speak out, and do. Elton John is waaay more risky–he’s clearly queer and the very act of playing in Russia is pretty subversive/transgressive, especially given his outspokeness on  stage and off.

In July, 2103 Elton John was scheduled to play a concert in Krasnodar, Russia which caused great consternation.

Local party leader Mikhail Abramyan recommended that Elton don a knee-length kaftan, knee-high leather boots, and a fur hat for the July 14th gig.

He said: ‘It would be more respectable.  We have suggested it to the promoters and we hope he’ll wear it.’, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Despite calls from Krasnodar clergy to ban Sir Elton’s July 14th concert because the singer represents homosexual propaganda, no ban was issued. Rather the concert was postponed, then cancelled due to the singer’s illness.

Somehow I think, and maybe I am just an optimist, that Elton John playing Moscow is his attempt at activism, and is motivated by the desire to make a positive change, rather than to line his pockets. It will be interesting to see what bombshells, like that in China, he drops from the stage–maybe playing “All the Young Girls Love Alice”? And I wonder if Edward Snowden will be backstage! Now that would be a Facebook photo op!

HT: Back2Stonewall

Athletes Kiss on Medal Stand: Did Russian Gold Medalists Protest Anti-Gay Laws?

In recent weeks, Russian Authorities have repeatedly vowed to uphold their anti-gay laws that prohibit the mere expression of supporting gay rights– qualifying the act of doing so as propaganda, at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Thus far, Putin’s rearing head has refused to blink in the face of international scrutiny.  While the games have yet to begin in earnest, the decision to do so is already proving to be a total shitshow with Russian athletes now being at the center of controversy.

Case in point: two female Russian athletes celebrated beating the Americans and the British at the 4x400m relay by making out with their gold medals in tow, causing the internet to in turn freak out.

Okay so they didn’t make out exactly, but Russian athletes Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova did in fact kiss on the medal stand at the IAAF track championship in Moscow to protest their country’s anti-gay laws.  As the video above indicates, their teammates joined in and all four girls shared an innocent kiss to commemorate their win.

A political act or an act of celebration?

It’s hard to say.  While headlines around the world are indicating that the act was political in nature, sources in the Russian camp insist that the girls were merely congratulating each other.

The stakes were further raised on Friday when Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian pole vaulter, called out critics suggesting it was “disrespectful” to refuse to abide by a country’s law when visiting that country.  She later walked back that statement and said that she’d been misunderstood going on to state;

“But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality (which is against the Olympic charter).”

Opponents of the law have since called on her to be removed as an ambassador to the Youth Olympics.

Isinbayeva’s initial statement was made in response to Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro’s rainbow-colored fingernails.

Unrelated but relevant, it seems worth acknowledging that the age-old logo of the Olympics consists of multicolored rings that interlock one another. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to confirm whether or not nail art is permissible that includes those colors (black, yellow, red and green) while avoiding more flamboyant colors like purple orange, pink and teal.

Regardless, a number of ice skaters from around the globe have vowed to protest Russia’s laws in less manicured ways. While some inside Russia claim that the law and the subsequent reaction have been overblown, and while the IOC doesn’t permit any demonstrations of “political, religious, or racial propaganda,” critics including gay U.S. congressman Mark Takano of California have a different take, pointing to the absurdity of the implication that one’s identity be interpreted as an act of propaganda.

American figure skater Johnny Weir doesn’t intend to put forth any outward displays beyond just showing up;

“As far as outward displays, should I be competing in the Olympics, my husband, his entire family, and my entire family will be there as a unit, supporting me — and I think that that is a beautiful statement to make,”

Indeed, the very presence of gay athletes under the threat of reprimand — and the heightened awareness around everything down to the fingernails of even straight athletes — will ensure that this shitshow rages on until, and most likely after, the games begin.

Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card Gets Even Crazier, More Hateful

Orson Scott Card is the homo-hatin’ author of Ender’s Game who is also a producer of and presumably profit-taker from the eponymous film due out in November from Lions Gate.  He has proven himself to be an equal opportunist disliker of non-white people and a loony-toon nutter in this May 9, 2013 essay, originally published in something called The Rhinoceros Times. Card spins a paranoid (admitted) fantasy about Obama becoming a dictator, and at one point gets all sandy-pantied about

young out-of-work urban men

who he speculates will be recruited as Obama’s jackbooted personal militia:

Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.

Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people “trying to escape” — people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama.

Card cloaks his racism and paranoia in speculation

 as a science fiction writer and a student of history

(because since he, like, studied history, he knows stuff) as he proceeds to spin what he calls a

a little thought experiment

involving Obama running Michelle Obama for President (one of his earlier columns in The Rhinoceros Times claimed that the First Lady’s appearance on the Oscars was a warm up for her 2016 run, so this is a recurring fear/theme for Card) so Barack Obama can stay in power forever as a Hitler-esque dictator who will put his young urban male troops in armored vehicles as they ride the streets enforcing Obama-laws against Obama-enemies.  Part of Obama’s power plan, according to Card:

Barack Obama needs to have a source of military power that is under his direct control. Like Hitler, he needs a powerful domestic army to terrify any opposition that might arise.

Obama called for a “national police force” in 2008, though he never gave a clue about why such a thing would be necessary. We have the National Guard. We have the armed forces. The FBI. The Secret Service. And all the local and state police forces.

Actually Obama called for a

civilian national security force that is just as strong and well funded…

and Salon points out the excerpt Card quotes was used by Obama

to describe how he’d “expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots,” “double the size of the Peace Corps,” and “grow our foreign service.” That was five years ago, and he actually failed to do it.

Orson Scott Card is a card-carrying, tin-foil-wearing wacko whose “speculation,” while unpleasantly crazy, is his to spew as he wishes. And his loathing of gays, anger over marriage equality, funding of NOM, and urgings to overthrow the United States government over marriage equality and liberal thought will be underwritten by any profits made from the film Ender’s Game, its merchandizing, and sequels. Card has written this following not as speculation:

Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Skip Ender’s Game.

H/T Back2Stonewall

Blurred Lines: Russia Dances With Gay Propaganda, Fights Lady Gaga and Madonna

“Tonight, this is my house Russia.  You can be gay in my house.  And if you ever need me Moscow I will just be a telephone call away.”

So promised Lady Gaga at a December 2012 concert in Russia (remarks begin at about the 3 minute mark).

Yet for fans in Russia those calls may be temporarily left unanswered.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics around the corner, the country has come under considerable heat for its anti-gay laws.  In Russia, the act of voicing support for gay rights in and of itself is considered to be “propaganda” and is therefore illegal.

In the face of international criticism Putin’s Russia is doubling down, with authorities currently investigating  both Lady Gaga and Madonna for failing to comply with their travel Visas and/or for vocally supporting gay rights while in Russia. The lines on this one are more blurred than a Robin Thicke song.

Vitaly Milonov, an official with the Prosecutor General’s Office in St. Petersburg and a sponsor of the law that bans gay “propaganda,” first raised concerns that their visas, approved as a sort of cultural exchange, did not permit either pop star to reap any financial benefit from their performances.

Yet these allegations have a political undertone.  Milonov first filed an application regarding Lady Gaga after her December show suggesting that she promoted homosexuality to children.  Madonna was similarly sued for 10 million dollars by an anti-gay group for causing them “moral suffering” for also expressing pro-gay sentiments.  Those charges were ultimately dropped.

Both stars are being investigated and could face fines or be banned from the country outright.

Regardless, they’ll find themselves in good company.

Blake Skjellerup is a New Zealand speed skater who hopes to compete on behalf of his country in the Winter Olympics being held in Russia.  Skjellerup is also gay and thus engaged in a tap dance of sorts with Russian authorities who are trying to avoid looking like assholes while holding firm to their anti-gay laws.

Milonov, the same official who’s going after Lady Gaga and Madonna, has made it clear that Russian officials don’t have the authority to suspend the gay ban for the Olympics.

That said, a Russian sports minister assured news agency RIA Novosti that while gay athletes could compete, any sort of propaganda would not be tolerated.

Skjellerup isn’t fazed, vowing to wear the same rainbow button he wore attending the 2012 Olympics and promising;

“If I’m stopped at the border, I’m stopped at the border. My presence there is going to be important for me and important for the community and I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Indeed.

‘Till then, express yourself.

Raven-Symonè Comes Out–via Twitter, No Plans to Marry

Teen star Raven-Symonè, who starred as Bill Cosby’s youngest daughter, Olivia Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and later as the title character on Disney’s That’s So Raven, came out today exclaiming on Twitter:

That’s So Raven, which ran from 2003 to 2007 on the  Disney Channel is still in syndication. The plot centers around Raven Baxter, a teen with supernatural powers who is also a fashion designer. In 2006 she starred in her first dramatic role as Briana McCallister, in the Lifetime Movie For One Night. The made-for-TV drama  was inspired by the true story of an African American teenager who shook up a small town where high school proms had been racially segregated for decades. She has since recorded albums, starred in a short-lived TV comedy series, State of Georgia. She also appeared as the lead in the Broadway version of Sister Act.

Last year Symonè tweeted:

Now Symonè is happy about repeal of DOMA and the SCOTUS ruling on Prop 8–happy enough to pretty much say she’s gay. But don’t rush out get her a wedding present yet. In an exclusive statement to E! News, the actress says:

I am very happy that gay marriage is opening up around the country and is being accepted. I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.

 

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