Sunday, November 29, 2009

Social Justice and Social Media



Indian film director, writer and producer, Onir has taken the power and pervasiveness of social media to a different level. Along with actor-producer Sanjay Suri, he is currently filming a series of 4 short films on the theme of fear and identity. Collectively entitled, "I AM," this project uses social media to not just promote each of the shorts, but also invite individuals to help shape their stories, raise funds and most importantly, become their proud co-owners.

Onir's initiative is remarkable. Integrating independent content-oriented cinema with popular web-based technologies, it aims to spread awareness on sensitive issues such as sexuality and religion by involving people at various levels of film-making, and transforming them from "content consumers to content producers."

"Four stories...One film: I AM," as the tagline reads, is a film about four identities.
(From the website):
I AM Abhimanyu is a film based on the survivors of abuse, G. Nalari and H. Iyer.
I AM Omar is inspired from stories by gay individuals in Bombay. It is a film dealing with homosexuality and its complex interplay with fear, social acceptance and the desire to love freely.
I AM Afia is based on the true story of R. Kohli and her quest to bring to light the corruption in the NGO sector in India.
I AM Megha is a story of a Kashmiri Pandit woman and her confrontation with a horrific past, one centering on the displacement of her community and the search for freedom and place in democracy.

Already more than 250 volunteers from over 20 cities around the world have contributed in various ways to make this film. To become a co-owner and learn more about this initiative, visit the website: I AM Films. To keep track of ongoing developments, visit the blog: I am Abhimanyu.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Patriarchy Revisited


From the film: Mirch Masala (1985) by Ketan Mehta

The Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell!) Campaign is Breakthrough's new and growing campaign to help bring to our attention the grossness of domestic violence in India. It encourages people, especially men and young boys to become involved in this project, and to help bring any form of ongoing physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence within families to halt. The campaign blog is currently carrying a heart wrenching story on an otherwise archaic yet enduring evil practice in Indian society - the marriage of the girl-child. Entitled, "Without a Whimper," and penned ever so thoughtfully by dear friend Aham, it hits us exactly where we live - between the head and the heart.

The abuse of the girl-child in the name of marriage is infuriating and unpardonable. The practice needs to be condemned, but more importantly, it needs to be examined in the context of patriarchy - what it produces and who it privileges. Here is my provocation: patriarchy has its roots in the concept of man as the provider, and woman as the producer. This binary has traditionally privileged man who impregnates and provides the seed for the growth of family, and the male-child, who upon growing up is expected to then provide for the family, in economic terms, even if that means trading his own girl-child. Sadly, as a producer, the girl is considered nothing but a commodity - interchangeable in the market controlled by men.

What we need is to challenge our binary thinking, go beyond the dichotomies of provider-producer, and think of the body as one doing both irrespective of gender and/or sex. Quite in the humanist Marxist sense, production needs to be looked at as both mental (creative) and material (bodily), and their constant interactions in real time-space. Both men and women contribute to this in unique ways. It is in this context that they are also both different and equal. Notwithstanding the tensions between them, this perspective at least offers them the much desired equal footing, for presently even the founding plane has little room for the girl-child growing-up.

India, bell bajao!

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Work

Too many developments on this front. Where do I start? What do I include? Let me attempt:


1. A-Team Year 2: Yes, folks! I decided to serve on the Student Advisory Board, now in its second year. The experience from previous academic year was just so wonderful. Besides, projects started and conversations shared over the last one year in part, needed to be carried over, discussed and given a direction with members, both continuing and new. The new board is brimming with energy from undergraduate and graduate students alike. As with last year, this time too we were successful in identifying several interesting issues in our very first meeting. More on that later.

2. Global village dinner + talk: As a member of the Advisory Board, I was invited to be part of Tuesday dinner + talk at the international resident house on campus. As is the tradition at the House, a community dinner is served every Tuesday evening during the School year. Housemates take turns preparing meals for the larger group, and a free dinner is planned with invited speaker/s. The talk this past Tuesday was entitled, "Understanding homosexuality and learning to be allies." Joining me, were representatives each from the SC and the International Center.

Our talk generated great discussion. The members of the House were patient, they heard our stories, shared their experiences, and were extremely encouraging of our spirits. I spoke about my experiences on campus, my volunteer work and my understanding of the complexity in and around human sexuality in India. From Sec 377 and ancient texts to archaic morality and its role and meaning vis-a-vis constitutional morality, I presented a spectrum of issues centering on what it means to be gay. The end note was one of a just and more tolerant tomorrow, and most memorable was the concluding question, "How would Gandhi have reacted to this struggle?"

3. Meeting with the VP, Division of Student Affairs: Brilliant! The Advisory Board met with Ms. Harper yesterday to understand the institutional framework, and how best to approach our current concerns for an all inclusive climate on campus. As always, she was extremely supportive of our thoughts and ideas. She even connected them to some of her own experiences, both personal and professional. Words of wisdom included thoughts such as, "move slow but keep pushing and continue making progress," "there are always many gifts out of struggle, but if you look only at struggle then you miss out on gifts," and "it is important to understand what your 'calling' is. This defines work and sets it apart from job." For people like her and Jackie, this world is ever so bright and wonderful.

Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

GLBT History Month 2009



It's October: the GLBT History Month in the United States. The event brings to attention the achievements of 31 GLBT individuals whose work is an ongoing inspiration. As with last year, I will populate this space with thoughts from 2009 GLBT icons. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

@micro.updates #1

"@micro.updates" are carefully sifted dispatches from my micro-publishing site. Here is one kaleidoscopic set from 082109 to 092109. It includes: Judith Butler's thought-provoking comment; reactions to current news and related articles; tidbits of my personal lived experiences.

- (...) Re: "(O)nce the theatre." Wonder if the prejudices are already a thing of the past or is he happy w/ their current continental shift? 091009
- (...) The article helped me quickly (re)realize that activism driven by empathy is not a choice. Thanks. :) 091009 (3/3)
- (...) It isn't the article per se that is troubling. It's the globality of such atrocities, whether everyday or not, that concerns me. 091009 (2/3)
- (...) That article is so troubling, N! Atrocities in the name of public order, morality, culture - what is *man* thinking? 091009 (1/3)
- Back from the Open House where this years awardees wore tired looks and I gave an embarrassed wave when introduced. 080809
- Afternoon distraction: "Historicizing the Subject of Desire" (in How to do the History of Homosexuality) by David Halperin (...). 080509
- Re: Harvey Milk Day debate. Time and again, the moronic term "lifestyle" gets associated with all sexualities other than straight. Grow up! 090409
- Yes, human rights is a relational notion/practice RT @mallikadutt If we all just practiced human rights at home, we would have a decent world. 090209
- "I repose the Qs & they become complicated. I don't try to reconcile my works w/ each other. They're part of rediscovery" (J.Butler). 082109

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quote

On identity, J. Butler speaks my mind:
"Yes, I am lesbian, I am gay but do I subscribe to everything that the gay movement says? Do I always come out as a lesbian and gay person first before say, I am a woman or before I am Jew or before I am an American or a citizen or a philosopher ... No, it's not the only identity. So these are communities where one belongs and one does not belong and it seems to me we travel, I travel ..." (Judith Butler, 2006).

Opening thoughts from a documentary on American post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler entitled, "Judith Butler: philosophe en tout genre," ARTE, 2006. The Interview is in English with subtitles in French. You can also watch parts of this film on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Continuing Debate

The meticulous crafting of Delhi HC's verdict on decriminalization of consensual gay sex makes this ruling one of the most beautiful and powerful reads in recent times. Despite the hypocritical backlash from an otherwise disjointed majority of whoever and whatever, the High Court's message is loud and clear: in a democracy, constitutional morality should never be confused with popular morality.

But again, democracy is seldom without drama. Now all eyes are set on July 20 when the Supreme Court will hear a fast-track petition against this ruling, thanks to an appeal by some astologer. Yes, I am gobsmacked! While the story unfolds, G. Mistry shares with us her observations on this debate in her post entitled, "Despatch from Bombay: Naz Foundation v. Union of India," Gender & Sexuality Law Blog, The Columbia Law School.

She writes, "... in a country that lives in different centuries all at once, the role of the courts is brought sharply into focus. What should the courts do when confronted with an intellectual and moral chasm that divides the public as it does in such a case? Is it a dilemma at all? For the Delhi High Court, it does not seem to be" (Emphasis added).

The italized comment clearly explains the ongoing hysteria over Delhi HC’s reading down of Section 377. In fact, it is times and discussions such as these that make me imagine India as a giant Collage Country, quite in the tradition of Rowe's Collage City. India has not just different histories coexisiting but also different perceptions of what is moral and hence, both legal and rightful. Now whether the difference in this case aligns itself more closely to the concept of diffĂ©rance (Derrida) or the notion of differential (HL), remains to be seen.

And so the debate continues.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The OutLoud Project


Source: Berliner Funkausstellung, Riesenlautsprecher (1929) Wikimedia Commons.

[A beautiful initiative:] The Storycorps Outloud project wishes to expand its workings and preserve more stories from across the country in an archive at the Library of Congress. The project's mission is to listen and help spread the voices and struggles of LGBTQ identified individuals and through this:

"--Honor the lives of older LGBTQ individuals, many of whom have lived through landmark events of the LGBTQ experience in America.
--Bring LGBTQ generations together so that the younger generation can learn from and value the lives, experiences, and wisdom of their elders.
--Include many more LGBTQ voices in the archive at the Library of Congress.
--Share and broadcast voices of the LGBTQ community for millions to hear
" (source).

What a wonderful opportunity to share your story with others. Visit the Storycorps website, read about the Outloud initiative, listen to stories preserved and learn of ways to record your own.

[via "b-the change: Tell your LGBTQ love story Outloud and proud on StoryCorps" story on Breakthrough.tv].

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Historic Judgment

"Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are" (Chief Justice, Delhi High Court).

In a historic judgment today, the Delhi High Court ruled Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional in so far as it criminalizes consensual sex between adults in private. With the HC verdict being applicable throughout the country, India became the 127th country in the world to legalize gay sex. Hurrah!

It might have taken the world's largest democracy this long to review and revisit an old archaic law enacted during the British colonial rule, but as they say, better late than never. There were many who said this day would never come, but it did and how. The legal bench attacked prejudices against homosexuality and said, "Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individuals’ fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. Constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view." It also added, that "(T)here is almost unanimous medical and psychiatric opinion that homosexuality is not a disease or disorder (...) Homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manual of mental disorders in 1973 after reviewing evidence (and) In 1992, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness (...)."

Read the full text of the Delhi HC judgment (pdf.) here. Also, the debate which until now was doing rounds in select circles only, is now picking up pan-India on whether or not a legal provision can change societal perspective. The question being asked is, "can the HC verdict change social attitude towards gays?" I think this question is hugely misplaced for three reasons:
1. It is hasty, seemingly looking for quick overnight solutions.
2. It positions society at the receiving end of law and forgets, that social and legal are in fact, dialectically related.
3. It assumes change as some one time Aha! moment and forgets that it is procedural and already taking place, however slow and/or subtle.

A progressive law empowers not just once, but over and over again by:
1. Safeguarding the rights of LGBT identified/questioning individuals. This further allows them to put a face to alternate sexuality and challenge any ignorant imagination of it as immoral or sin.
2. Making outreach for HIV/AIDS prevention/protection/safe practices education possible. This is huge in a country like India where limited health care and social stigmatization have ruined the lives of many.
Let us view the revised law as a start and a step in the right direction. Let us believe that it will act as a catalyst for change at all levels: a change whose pace might ultimately be determined only by increased visibility.

Cheers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Debate Diagrammed


Timeline to the changes in Same-Sex Marriage Laws in the US [source: Good Magazine]



"Patrick Farley, one of the great webcomics creators, has a sharp editorial cartoon up -- a flowchart explaining the gay marriage debate" [source].

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Perspective


Source: "Marriage Equality March," The A2 Chronicle, Nov. 15, 2008

The SC and the International Center are collaborating to create a website providing information to LGBTQ international students and to LGBTQ students who are considering studying, working or traveling abroad. In order to understand student perspectives, the following survey was created. Here are my responses:

Describe your experience as an international LGBTQ student at the University.
Excellent. The University has given me the utmost confidence to be out in thought and action. It has provided me with the opportunity to serve the LGBTQ community on campus and learn more about diverse issues affecting us. It has given me the agency to BE the change that I wish to see and bring about.

What do you wish you'd known about US culture and LGBTQ issues before coming to the University?
As an International student, I wished I had been introduced to resources on LGBTQ life and related support on Campus during our month long orientation workshops with the IC and Rackham.

How have you gotten support as an LGBTQ international student? For example, have you accessed resources on-campus or in the surrounding comunity in A2?
Absolutely. I have worked with the SC in different capacities and also contributed to policy level changes at Rackham. In both instances, volunteering my time, participating in discussions and meeting new people was a great way to become increasingly comfortable with my own sexuality.

Did you have trouble adjusting to the US as an LGBTQ international student? Please explain.
None at all. Coming from a country where LGBTQ individuals/issues are still not given due respect, it was fantastic to be embraced without judgment here.

Have you had any issues with your family or home culture and your LGBTQ identity? Please explain.
It is an ongoing battle and a very difficult one at that. I often say, "acts of translation is an ongoing process." Through my volunteering work, I wish to win the support of my family and enlarge their understanding of issues at stake. I am trying and so are they.

Have you had any issues with immigration or other legal issues relating your LGBTQ identity? Please explain.
Not applicable.

What advice do you have for other LGBTQ international students?
U-M is a center of thought, conversation and action. LGBTQ international students - either open about their sexuality, in different phases of coming out or closeted, should make the most of the available resources, people, educational programs and activities on campus. It is a place that will make you comfortable, regardless of your orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. It is an urban microcosm that will fill you with confidence and provide you with enough motivation and courage to continuously work toward improving the climate for LGBTQ individuals, wherever you go.

Good luck!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Advocacy Matters!

This story is special.

On May 5, SC Director Jackie Simpson was honored with the Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award, which is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and University Human Resources. From among ninety nominees, Jackie was chosen for her dedicated work around issues of Non-Discrimination Policy and Education at the University.

I have had the privilege to work with Jackie on various projects while serving as a member of the Center’s Student Advisory Board. In her capacity as the co-chair of this initiative, she guided our ideas and worked with us to develop them into strategies for effective action. She provided us with opportunities to discuss our concerns with several invited members of the academia and continued to inform each of our meetings with her experience in areas of advocacy and education.

All those who have worked with Jackie in different capacities, will agree that she is truly deserving of this and many such awards. Her quiet confidence, dedication and humility are her winning strengths and she has been absolutely superb in her role as a leader, mentor and team-worker.

Congratulations, Jackie! and thanks for being there always. I am so proud of you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Acts of Translation



Visibility is not about presence alone. It is also about the presence of absence where absence is not what is not visible but what is not given thought. If sexuality is an invisible trait, making it visible implies translating what is not widely understood. It demands outreach. It requires constant acts of translation of traits that sexual minorities embody but may not make/be evident.

This was my argument at the A-Team Annual Meeting last week. The board members, including myself, had gathered to reflect on our work of this past year and evaluate our current strengths and limitations. Our greatest contribution was the proposal for Gender-Neutral Housing and a new forum entitled International + LGBT formed in collaboration with the International Center to address issues specific to International LGBT identified/questioning scholars and individuals at the University. Both these were initiatives of students. Both these marked the start of a series of conversations to follow. And finally, both these were markers of the outreach potential of our team.

But this is not where we concluded. Continuing on the idea of translation, we felt that our efforts of this past year will need to assume a descriptive framework for new board members to begin work from. We argued that description rather than prescription is what will both sustain this body and facilitate newer conversations on thoughtful topics needing action. This was to remind us that A-team stood for Action Team – action informed by thought, conversation, debate and research.

Thank you Jackie for being such brilliant support throughout. You are terrific!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Argument

India's social and physical landscape continues to weave cultures and sub-cultures. It is the world's largest democracy and quite remarkably, a world within a world - always in a state of flux. In this land of changing perceptions, the social understanding of human sexuality too has seen marked shifts from pre-colonial era to the present. During the pre-colonial times, homosexual acts and relationships were not just tolerated but also tastefully depicted and discussed. Today, they are being frowned upon and tagged as illegal thanks to a Victorian piece of legislation: the Sec. 377 of the IPC.

I have always wondered how long before the country once again recognizes, acknowledges and legalizes same-sex bonding between consenting adults. While the Delhi HC is currently deliberating the appeal for the "reading down" of this draconian law, V. Doctor, a noted journalist and gay rights activist, shares his knowledge of the legal tangle and the implications of either/or verdict for queer individuals in the country.

Here's the excerpt.

"1. When should we expect the verdict of the High Court (HC)?

Any day now. We don’t know for sure because the HC will only let us know the day before that they are posting a decision. So it depends on how long the judges take to do their decision. The arguments have been thorough, this is quite a high profile case and the judges are known to be independent and conscientious, so a decision should be due soon. But we don’t know when.

2. If it is positive and welcomes the requests of the associations what effects will it have?

Strictly speaking the decision, whatever it is, will be a limited one - it will be limited to the state of Delhi, and will probably also be limited in time too, because it will almost definitely be appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) for a final decision. If it is positive then our opponents who include an AIDS denial group and a right wing nationalist, possibly supported by Home Ministry, will almost definitely appeal it to the SC, which could apply a stay order. If it is negative, the queer rights groups could appeal it (but we haven’t really got a firm strategy for this yet).

But this is technical. If we win it will be a really big symbolic win, because it will be the first time a really high court in India is pronouncing on the subject of homosexuality. Also, among the HCs in India, the decisions of the Delhi, Bombay and Chennai HCs are often given particular importance because they are particularly well respected courts. The decision will probably not be binding on other courts, but it will send a strong signal to the legal community on the direction that queer rights in India should take.

We already have evidence of how this case is affecting the law, even before it is decided. About a year or two ago, a young man called D. Hope was accused of violating this law in Goa. The HC of Goa gave him bail on the grounds that the fact that this case was being fought showed that attitudes towards homosexuality are changing in India.

3. Will the crime of homosexuality as stated in article 377 be abolished in all of India?

As I stated, no. The decision will be limited to Delhi, but its effect will be felt across India. Also, I should make it clear we are not asking for Sec. 377 to go, but are only asking for a very narrow change - we are asking to courts to declare that it does not apply to consenting adults. This is because the law still has use in cases of child sex abuse and male rape. Ideally there should be a new law to deal with these, but in its absence we hope the courts will use their power to exclude consenting adults from this law.

4. How do you think the majority of the Indian population feels about lgbt people’s civil rights?

I don’t think the majority of India’s population feels anything about LGBT people, positive or negative. I think there is less overt homophobia here than in Europe and certainly the US, though that doesn’t necessarily translate into automatic acceptance.

Part of the homophobia is simply due to less visibility and understanding of homosexuality - so once that increases, there will be more homophobia. There is awareness of forms of alternate sexuality that have long been part of Indian society, like the hijra community. There is acceptance of this, but it comes with very definite prejudices some of which are extended to the gay community.

In some cases we have leapfrogged a bit, so elite groups, for example, like those in Bollywood or the media, are often gay friendly because they’ve picked it up from abroad. But its a form of acceptance that comes with its own stereotypes that can be a problem. Also, there is a general fear of people being too open - you often hear parents telling their kids that they are OK with them being gay, but they don’t want them to march on the streets for it.

I think there is some truth in that Indian society tends to be fairly tolerant, though its easy to make too much of this. But homophobia in its formalized form is a Western imposition on Indian society in the form of Sec. 377, and I do think, optimistically, that once it goes, progress in India will be rapid."

(...)

[via Puta: visit the website to read the complete interview. Interview by M. Cecconi and Translations by M. Cioni and T. Kutinjac]. Emphasis added by the author.

Although V. Doctor provides a valuable insight, I am not convinced by his claim that increased visibility increases homophobia in society. His is an overly simplistic argument and one that describes visibility as a monolithic representation of sexuality, negative enough to induce fear and disgust in society (More on this to follow).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inclusive



It's great to see Merriam-Webster, one of the oldest dictionaries, carry an inclusive definition of "marriage." It reads, "mar.riage 1 a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage> b: (...)"

Not just this, Boston based Houghton-Mifflin, publisher of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, had made changes to its definition of marriage way back in the year 2000. This month, the editors of the Oxford Dictionary too proposed to update the meaning of the word marriage to "the condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony" (via NYdaily news).

Are people reading enough these days?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sexuality and Scholarship

It was extremely encouraging to be part of a workshop entitled, "Queer in the Academy" this afternoon. It centered on an interesting discussion with a panel of distinguished faculty willing to share their personal stories on intersections of their LGBT identities and their identities as scholars/faculty in the academy. The panel comprised four academics, one each from Classics and Law Studies, Astronomy, Sociology and Public Health.

The workshop asked the following questions: Will your chosen academic field afford you the opportunity to be “out?” Does your scholarly work intersect with one or more of your own identities? How do you manage tenure-track work while establishing an LGBT community? Understandably, none of these questions had "straight" answers. They arguably raised more questions and provided each one of us with additional food for thought. Nevertheless, here is the (near) survival mantra:

When applying for academic jobs or post-doc research positions, it may help to familiarize oneself with the non-discrimination policies of the University around sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, guidance from your academic mentor in your specific field/program/department can prove to be extremely helpful when searching for available peer support in academic institutions of interest. As for the cover letter and/or CV, if your work is not directly linked with research on gender identity, gender expression and/or sexual orientation, then observe some restraint in writing without necessarily censoring language and/or use of proper-nouns. This is tricky! It needs to weigh in both personal choice and the specifics of the academic job that you are applying for. If you wish to be "out" at the onset, you may craft your cover letter to include details that add to the breadth of your teaching and learning experience. If not, you may wish to speak with academic friends or faculty who have known you in different capacities and can guide you through the process. On a different note, individuals with partners may also want to consider same-sex partnership benefits and in some cases, adoption rules in that particular State before applying.

Once you get the job, the next challenge is whether or not to be "out" to your students. Again, this depends on your area of research and your own choice and self-formed rules of navigation. There are those who prefer to make no direct references to sexual orientation during their discussions with students. This is to primarily avoid making students uncomfortable in unanticipated ways. And then there are those, for whom the need may be to put their sexual orientation on the back-burner, just because their research scholarship speaks volumes of their sexual and/or gender identity. At the end of the day, as an academic if the decision is taken on the side of the students, it may go a long way in easing the painful dilemma. As for peer faculty - again, you have to self-select. If you are not comfortable being "out" at the onset, then take your time and win their confidence with your work and investment in the academic program first.

It may be helpful to know that academic institutions may not be hostile, but then they might not be completely transparent either. Hence, think of this challenge in this way: Do we necessarily discuss our political orientation with students in class? If yes, then how? If no, then why? It is a tough battle, and as one of the panellists said, "acts of translation is an ongoing process and in part, the objective of education is to learn how to deal with discomfort."

Good-luck!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Touching and Emotional


Dustin Lance Black's touching and emotional speech at the 2009 Oscars:

Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make. First off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast, my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story. When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.

I want to thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.

Emphasis added.
[via UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television Accolade] Click the embedded link to read the post-award interview with Dustin Lance Black in the Oscar Pressroom. Black won the Best Original Screenplay award for MILK at the 81st Annual Academy Awards, 2009.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And the Movement Continues...



"I have always considered myself part of a movement, part of a candidacy..." - Harvey Milk

I am proud to have pledged my support for Harvey Milk. This was November 27, 2008 and there were 1,935 co-supporters then. Today, the group has become bigger. The total number of supporters equal 6,471. This is not just about numbers. It is about strength, about solidarity and most importantly about the vision of Harvey Bernard Milk, which has empowered and given me yet another reason to continue the fight.

Speaking of vision and empowerment, Alex Hillman, in his popular blog, has brilliantly put-together Milk's technique for effective community organization and action. His post entitled, "A Roadmap for Community Organization and Mobilization - Harvey Milk" (2008) enlists the 4 step-process, in cycles, to initiate and make things happen.

1 - Inspire
Harvey’s first step was to take a step at all. Given his groundbreaking goals, making any forward motion was inspiring in itself. He failed at being elected to office, and he failed more than once. His persistence and attitude attracted like-minded movers and shakers. Some of those movers and shakers came with momentum of their own. Others were movers and shakers with potential. Harvey wasn’t discriminating towards either. Anne Kronenberg had prior campaign experience, and was an organizer herself. Others, like Cleve Jones, had less experience with formal community mobilization but Harvey knew that he had potential, and more importantly, knew how and when to put Cleve in opportunities to show that potential.

As a community organizer, your first move to action is to not be alone. Inspire those around you, and gain some critical mass. From that critical mass, identify new blood to continue recruitment and spreading of the message.


The continuing steps are Motivate, Organize and Mobilize. To read the entire story, click "A Roadmap for Community Organization and Mobilization - Harvey Milk" by A. Hillman. Alex is an entrepreneur with interest in technology and its interactive use. To read more: Alex Hillman writes here.

Additional links:
1. Time 100 Hereos Profile: Harvey Milk.
2. Award-winning Documentary on Hulu: The Times of Harvey Milk (1984).
3. My previous stories on the 2008 film, MILK: a. MILK is good for you b. Invitation and c. Bravo.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Let's talk about SEX

bottom_logo
Source: Bottom Monologues Project

I am thrilled to read of yet another accomplishment of my blogpal and fellow A2ite, Trevor Hoppe. I would like to describe Trevor as a radical LGBT activist and researcher, working in the realm of gay men’s health and sexual behavior.

What's special is that his work has been featured in this month’s Guide Magazine. The story, entitled “The bottom monologues” introduces Trevor’s multi-work and discusses in particular his most recent online project by the same name - on stories about gay, bi-, or trans- bottoms, to be part of a future performance. “The stories included in The Bottom Monologues are about creating a method for discussion that’s fun and exciting and able to reach a number of people who might not otherwise be open to frank discussions of sexuality.” (Hoppe T. in Amico, M., Guide, March 09). At the bottom of it all, Trevor wants gays to talk honestly about their sex choices.

Congratulations, Trevor!
Trevor’s weblog is as interesting space for both intellectual and intoxicating encounters! Read this story and more at TrevorHoppe.com - Guide Magazine Feature of My Work!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Act Now!


"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

This video, entitled "Fidelity" is created by Courage Campaign with the permission of musician Regina Spektor. It puts a face to those 18,000 couples and all loving, committed couples seeking full equality under the law.

On December 19, 2008, Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the marriages of 18,000 devoted same-sex couples solemnized before Prop 8 passed. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 5, with a decision expected within 90 days.

Kindly watch the video and join over 300,000 people who have signed a letter to the state Supreme Court, asking them to invalidate Prop 8 and reject Starr's case. The more people who see this video, the more people will understand the painful implications of this legal proceeding. To sign the letter, click here.

This message is coming via my friend Greg. Please help spread the word by sharing it with friends and family ASAP.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

LGBT + International

Among the many developments on my front, this one deserves some attention. The office of LGBT affairs at my University has started a new initiative entitled "LGBT + International." I am proud to call it yet another feather in the cap of the offices’ outreach program.

Stemming from both student and staff discussions last semester and before, the office of LGBT affairs and the International Center are now collaborating to address the needs of international LGBT and questioning students. Led by IC Advisor EJ, LSA Senior and Spectrum Intern, JF and Spectrum Student Advisory Board Member, K, the goal of this initiative is to develop new resources and improve both offices' ability to serve the unique needs of this segment of the student population.

On my part, in the summer of 2007, I had worked with a volunteer group to particularly suggest changes in the application process that would make it better suited to applicants with same-sex parents. Based on our suggestions, the graduate application at my University with regards to familial background is now gender-neutral. In a different capacity and in the academic year 2007-08, I had mentored an International student on ways to adjust to life at the University and his new cultural surrounds. This experience made me realize that a large majority of incoming International graduate students are often overwhelmed when confronted with diversity in all its shades, particularly around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Building up on such eye-opening experiences, EJ and JF are now working together to coordinate the development of a new website, revamp international student orientation to include discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as well as coordinate a kind of staff training exchange. In fact, when the staff from the LGBT affairs and the International Center met to discuss ways in which the two could collaborate, I had identified the need to evaluate the experience of LGBT students coming from other cultures.

In the Director of LGBT Affairs, JS’ own words, "I'm very excited about this initiative; it's one of those things that should have been addressed a long time ago and I'm glad that everyone seems to be on the same page." I am sure with regular input from students, faculty and staff this initiative will go a long way in addressing the issue of sexuality across cultures, regions and borders (this story is via SC Newletter dated February 10, 2009).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bravo!

A standing ovation to a legendary actor for a legendary performance. Sean Penn won the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) 2009 best-actor award for his touching portrayal of gay-rights leader Harvey Milk in "Milk." For more on the film, click here.

In his words, "As actors, we don't play gay, straight. We don't play any of these kinds of people. We play human beings, and this movie is something that we're, all of us involved, are so proud of (...) This is a story about equal rights for all human beings."

Bravo!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Is Back In News!


Yes! Before this day comes to an end, I must record the historic moment that was today: the Presidential Inauguration. I witnessed it with many others in my School, all cheering and rejoicing. The new President and his speech were spectacular as always and so was the First Lady - absolutely beautiful in her gorgeous lemongrass-yellow coat and matching dress.

All I can now hope for is a worthy Gay President somewhere in the world. That would be another historic moment and I wish to live to witness it as well. As for the title of the First Lady, well by then we would have gotten rid of gender-binaries too. What say you?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Beginning

The year 2008 ended on a rather sad note. India and the US, among several other nations, chose not to sign a non-binding French-Netherlands drafted UN declaration that decriminalizes homosexuality. For more on the Statement itself and additional links, read my previous blogpost titled "Universal means Universal." What's perplexing is that both these countries are world's foremost democracies, yet they chose to be non-committal when it came to calling for an end to discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Sadly, this also put them behind 66 other states from five continents, including six African nations that collectively formed the signatories to the General Assembly Statement.

The signatories:
Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela (Source: IGLHRC).

What's reassuring however is the fact that for the first time a statement, condemning discrimination and abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people drew such huge support from large parts of the world, some of which may still be reeling under draconian laws. Seen from this perspective, it is definitely the beginning of a new era. To visit the French website and watch the United Nations webcast, click here. For more information and full text of the French Statement, visit IGLHRC site or click here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

AbOUT 2008

The year that was:
Invitation . Universal Means Universal . World AIDS Day . MILK Is Good For You . Born Free Born Natural II . Born Free Born Natural I . Surrogacy To Parenthood . Non-Discrimination . Words Identities . Gay Marriages . Stigma Fear Or Both . Homophobia In Education . Sexuality In Text . Celebration Or Conundrum . The A-Team . AIDS Sutra . OUT Thought Action . HIV OUTreach . GLBT History Month . AbOUT.

Happy New Year!

About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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