Happy New Year everyone and I hope that 2011 is way better than 2010.
Last December I asked a few well known gay men (some of them are quite famous) 🙂 to give us their perspective on issues that affected gays, during the last decade or just in 2009, and did they ever speak their minds. I’m linking last year’s post. This month I posed the same question and I added Sean Kennedy to the mix and here, in no particular order, is what they had to say about events that impacted them personally or the gay community at large during the past year, both positive and negative. Their essays are different, yet similar. There is progress on some fronts but true equality means different things to different people or groups of people, and reading the essays that follow will give you a real sense that despite gains and the progress that has been made in 2010, clearly a lot of work still needs to be done.
VICTOR J. BANIS, author (US)
I have to confess that for much of the year just passed, I have been focused on personal issues, and so I have remained on the sidelines of the big events. That’s okay, because over the last seventy-plus years, I have spent enough time marching in the parade and, frankly, my baton hand has gotten sore.
Of course, the big UP was the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Never mind that it could have been, should have been, done two years sooner without all the grandstanding. The important thing is that it’s done, or nearly so. The Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President must all sign a letter certifying that this change will not affect military readiness, but I’m ready to believe that they will sign as requested; and 60 days after that, it goes into effect—this, presumably, to give everybody time to prepare new rules and regulations. Then everyone’s got to decide what to do about those who got booted in the past. Some of them, it seems, want to be back in.
Likewise, the big DOWN is equally obvious – gay marriage. Well, we’ve lost some battles, but we’ve won some, too—and I truly believe history is on our side. Gays, singles and couples, have become all but ubiquitous in movies and television, in books, even in the funny papers. Nobody anymore raises much of an eyebrow. Yes, of course, there are still bashers and homophobes—sorry to break the news, boys and girls, but there probably always will be. The women’s rights movement did not eradicate misogyny, alas. Haters and their causes are ever present, but good people everywhere have come to a new empathy with gays, and in time that is the battle that will carry the day.
In the publishing arena, we’ve seen some losses. Alyson folded, as did the barely arrived YOM, and it appears that the demise of venerable GLB publishing is imminent. But veteran editor Don Weise got off the Good Ship Alyson in time and has optimistically started a new imprint, Magnus Books. Several m/m and glbt publishers have discovered e-books, notably Untreed Reads, which just published its 100th title and seems to be barreling along most happily. Indeed, notwithstanding the perennial doom and gloom out of NYC, among the small independent publishers, our genre seems to be in a growth cycle, for which I personally am quite grateful.
When a thirteen year old boy here in little Martinsburg West Virginia succumbed to bullying and killed himself, I asked writers at all of my writing groups if anyone could tell me why we are having this seeming epidemic now, decades after the rights struggles of the 60s. I got many heartfelt and intelligent responses, most of them having to do with the fact that in today’s world (unlike when I was young) the bullying is omnipresent, inescapable. The bullies ferret out their victims not just at school, but on the internet, on their smart phones – there’s no place to run, no place to hide. And it really does seem that the schools just don’t “get it” yet. They think they are coping with the problem, but the parents and the kids don’t.
Here again, though, time and tide are in our favor. As the difference of being gay becomes more generally accepted in our adult society, it will become less of a threat to the younger generations as well. Like the bashers and the homophobes, bullies will probably be with us forever, but hopefully their numbers will be fewer. More importantly, I think we as a community have to reach out to our youth, for whom childhood can be a lonely and threatening wasteland. We have to assure them that, yes, it does get better. I think this is the big challenge facing all of us in the coming year.
RICK R. REED, author (US)
Last year, when Wave asked me to write a little end-of-year piece on highs and lows for gays in 2009, I stuck to true crime headlines. But this year, I wanted to do something more personal and hope that, at the same time, it will also be universal.
Right now, on my desk, waiting to be notarized, are some papers from the State of Washington. These papers will officially make my partner Bruce and I domestic partners in the state. Are you hearing bars right now from that lovely Rodgers and Hart tune, “Isn’t it Romantic?”
Neither am I.
This is what leads me to a high and a very low for 2010—and they are one and the same. Sure, we hear every day about marriage equality, those for and against. But it’s a different story from the TV or the headlines, when you’re at home with the person you love and to whom you have committed yourself for a lifetime.
Then, it’s a great high. Here I have this wonderful man who dropped into my life almost nine years ago and I count his appearance as one of my chief blessings. My high for 2010 is that we are still solidly together, more than lovers, more than friends, but family. We have walked hand in hand through passion, joy, adversity, and loss and have come out on the other side closer than ever. That’s a high. We’re married…in our hearts. We can register in Washington State as domestic partners.
But we can’t get married, not like my son and his husband in Canada. No, no. Nor like my sisters in Ohio and their husbands. God forbid.
So the same thing that’s my high for 2010 is also my low: my partnership (high) that I am forbidden to call it a marriage (low).
There are all kinds of arguments out there pro and con (and frankly, I am still searching for the logic in the con and even if I could find some merit, some rational thinking behind the con, I still wonder: Why on earth does it matter to you?). And you can Google something like “gay marriage” and read all the pundits on the right and left pontificate about marriage equality, but none of that has the simple power, to me, of my soul mate and me, our conjoined lives that a government can refuse to recognize, but that no man (or woman) can put asunder.
TEDDYPIG author and blogger (US)
Wow 2010, who knew things would move this quickly huh?
Well obviously THE BIG GAY highlight for 2010 would have to be the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as you have mentioned Wave and I am sure many writers will say the same thing. Having spent ten years of service in the US Navy as a submariner I am proud that we will now have a voice after so many years of silence but I have to confess I am still in shock. Someone pinch me!
The other big things in 2010 for me are not really all about being gay so much.
eBooks are selling and small online presses are growing despite all the whining and wailing from the mainstream publishing world. Yet the publishers that mainly serve the gay community seem slow to catch on and get their back catalog out there in all the standard eBook formats. Many do not even have Kindle versions yet and that is just asking to become irrelevant for both writers and readers.
I think we will see newer writers checking out the top ePublishers who can provide quality editing and cover art and built-in sales and who are gaining good reputations online and most importantly getting good books out there in eBook format, but also have access for proper distribution in print which I think is still pretty important but will become less so.
Oh and last but not least… Apple finally unveiled it’s gorgeous iPad and millions of people around the world suddenly figured out what eBooks are amongst other things. Who knew?
I think “change” is a key theme I see coming for 2011. What used to take a decade or more is happening over night. Change is occurring with the closing of gate keepers like Gay Bookstores but also change is happening in the sudden growth of numerous ePublishers making more Gay Romance and Gay Fiction available.
I think in all, things are not really getting “better” or “worse” they are just getting “different” and that my friends is just the way it will be.
BATBOY 126 blogger (Canada)
In Canada, most of the negatives involve not so much losing ground, as not gaining ground quite fast enough. To sum up: can’t complain. Especially when things are so much worse elsewhere.
While the situation for adults is fairly comfortable, the plight of LGBT youth, especially in school, hasn’t changed that significantly. Egale Canada recently did a national survey, the first of its kind, on homophobia in Canadian public schools. They found that:
— 75% of LGBT students still feel unsafe in at least one area of their school building.
— 60% reported being verbally harassed for their sexual orientation.
— 25% had been physically harassed for the same reason.
— 75% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school, compared to 20% of straight students.
On the plus side, there has been a big change in staff response, according to the survey. School staff are now much more likely to intervene in this bullying, and more and more public schools have anti-homophobia policies in place.
South of the border, the most significant event was, of all things, a series of homemade YouTube videos. The It.Gets.Better Campaign, although inspired by a series of tragic deaths, was an amazingly hopeful, encouraging phenomenon. We’ve all heard about it by now, but I loved Dan Savage’s inaugural revelation: while thinking ‘If only I could go to some of these kids (suicidal gay high school students) and tell them I went through the same thing, that their life will eventually be good, like mine is — but I’d never be allowed to go into schools and talk to them,’ he realized that in the days of online videos, he didn’t need anyone’s permission. Bypassing squeamish school officials, he and his husband, followed by countless other gay individuals, couples, and groups, sent out a message to LGBT kids languishing in inhospitable schools and homes: hang in there until you can get the hell out and come join us in the real world; we got through it okay, and so will you. It was not only brilliant, it was successful beyond expectations. The down side: the campaign now includes a lot of messages from well-meaning but clueless straight people telling queer kids to go talk to their parents or pastors about their troubles. But that’s a minor flaw in an incredibly positive grassroots effort.
SEAN KENNEDY, author (Australia)
I’m going to talk about things on a much more local level. Well, at least, local for me. Maybe not for the rest of you.
When I think about some of the low-lights of 2010, two things stand out in my mind: The mindblowing asshattery of one Jason Akermanis, and the disappointment that our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard has become.
Akermanis, never one to shy away from the spotlight (even though he should), created a media storm earlier this year when he declared that any gay AFL football players should stay in the closet. He tried to word this in such a way as to disguise his rampant homophobia, such as claiming that it would be safer for them, but in the end it all boiled down to ‘some gay might see my wang and be unable to control himself!’. I can’t speak on behalf of all gays everywhere, but I think you’re pretty safe, Jase. It’s also pretty telling that such fear of gay players seeing straight penis is rampant, as many sordid sex scandals (one involving a sixteen year old girl, which just came to light this month, and has also exposed the misogyny inherent in how the league deals with these issues) involve players taking pictures of each other playing around with their dicks. I’m sure you could probably write many theses on how homoeroticism is part of ‘normal’ footy behaviour while real gay people send people like Akermanis clutching their pearls.
Luckily, the response to Akermanis, at least in the media, was pretty much against him. There were even rumours that two gay players were on the verge of coming out publicly, which is what helped influence Akermanis to write the article in the first place. Sadly, no such player has come out, and the AFL is still lacking an ‘out’ player to be a role model for any younger gay guys wanting to make their way in the league. Akermanis also managed to make himself look like even more of a fool in the media, by trying to back up his statements, dismiss his homophobia, and in the end claimed it had been ghostwritten for him, before having to backtrack on that as well.
Funnily enough, Akermanis played for the Western Bulldogs, the chosen team of our new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Gillard is our first female Prime Minister, even though it was a tough slog for her to retain office in the election. Many of us had high hopes for Gillard. She was a tough, intelligent woman who was generally considered to be very left-leaning and more in line with the ideals that the Labour party had originally espoused. Instead, what we got was a politician desperate to hold onto power, and the only way it seemed she could do this was by pandering to the conservatives. Marginalised seats which any party tries to gain in the election suddenly became the ‘voice’ of the nation. Gillard started parroting conservative views that made her so-called ‘more progressive’ party seem a photocopy of her opponents. Suddenly the non-traditional atheist unmarried politician was claiming that marriage was meant to remain between ‘one man and one woman’, was claiming that we needed to be tougher on asylum seekers (when we already have one of the lowest intakes in the world) and that any dissenting voices within her own party had to be silenced.
For those who had seen Gillard’s ascendency as a return to the Labor politics of the seventies and our Gough Whitlam, it was the most disappointing of all. Those marginalised peoples who had adopted her as one of ‘us’ quickly felt like we had been betrayed by one who should have some better idea of how to be an ally.
I’ve rabbited on long enough here, but let me just take a few more words to say, have a happy and safe New Year, and take care out there in the big wide world, no matter where you are!