Interview Magazine – Stand Up for Your Rights: activists, organizers and political voices

Posted on 09 Nov 2010 at 1:44am

You might recall that back in September, I blogged that I had to make a quick trip to NYC because I was selected to be part of a photo shoot and feature for Interview magazine‘s November issue. It’s on newstands now.

The article is called “Stand Up for Your Rights: activists, organizers and political voices” — it doesn’t appear to be on Interview‘s web site yet, though portions of the issue are up. The project is the brainchild of photographer David Mushegain and Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay in 2009 for “Milk,” and board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

From Dustin Lance Black’s introduction:

Back in 1973, Harvey Milk said something that’s become one of my favorite quotes: “Masturbation can be fun, but it does not take the place of the real thing. It is about time that the gay community stopped playing with itself and get down to the real thing.”

From long-time organizer David Mixner’s bold call for a march on Washington in May 2009, to fellow activists Jones and Robin McGehee’s answer to that call in the face of Congressional opposition later that year; from openly gay serviceman Dan Choi chaining himself to the White House in March and April, to the American Foundation For Equal Rights’ move to fight Prop 8 at the federal level, rejecting the self-loathing sentiments behind a piecemeal approach, it’s clear the gay movement is shifting back Milk’s way.

In short, the LGBTQ movement is doing what no other movement has previously done. It’s emerged from a corporate culture and given birth to a new grass roots. But how can this new energy be captured in images or words? Inherent in the term grass roots is the notion that there is no single leader or prevailing philosophy. Instead, there are thousands of voices with differing points of view and strategies, often speaking in opposition to one another and occasionally at each other’s throats. (Lord knows I’ve got the bite marks to prove it.) But it’s these disagreements that are making this movement strong again.

In a country as diverse as this one, it’s going to take a multitude of approaches and voices working concurrently and aggressively to win full equality in our lifetimes. And yes, I want to get married before I die, but more important than that, none of us want to see another LGBT kid grow up being told he or she is less of a person – or deserves fewer rights – than anyone else. So let me be clear, in no way do these profiles define the new grass roots. It would take an encyclopedia to do that. These are simply some of the new grass roots, representing thousands just like them, and hopefully inspiring more men and women to take singular stands or to form their own bottom-up organizations to take on city hall or the United States Supreme Court. Because the new gay movement isn’t playing with itself anymore. It’s after the real thing again.

Also featured in the piece are Dan Choi, Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, Robin McGehee of GetEqual, Chad Griffin of AFER, Cleve Jones, activist David Mixner, actor Alan Cumming and other newsmaking members of the LGBT community.

As always, I feel humbled by being included with so many people who are making an impact on LGBT equality; it’s not always clear to me that what I do online (knowing that I am standing in for LGBT  citizen journalists/Cheetos-stained, PJ-wearing bloggers in this piece) is meaningful. Sometimes it can have an impact – by extending the voice of non-professional LGBTs to the ears of those with access. Other times you do feel like you’re shouting into a void and cannot effect change precisely because we don’t have direct access to power. I don’t think there’s any single answer to the question of how we impact the movement. I give it a bit of a shot in this article (the text of mine is after the jump),

As you can see by the photo (I’m on page 101 with Gavin Creel of Broadway Impact and Constance McMillan), I don’t look like my normal blogmistress self — no glasses, in a form-fitting wool dress, and wistfully, about 15 lbs lighter than I am now. That’s because I’ve had to boost my insulin levels prior to surgery, and it puts the weight on quickly (thankfully it’s leveled off and not still increasing at the present time). Sigh. Hopefully back to the weight loss after the alien uterus is ripped out in a couple of weeks.

Below the fold, amusing background on the photo shoot and a larger version of that photo with the full text.
The photography took place outdoors on the rooftop of a Lower East Side apartment building. From my earlier post:

I wasn’t told much in advance other than to have 1) blue jeans, 2) a black T-shirt, and 3) a white button down shirt. The latter I had to go out and buy because I don’t wear button-down shirts because my boobage usually causes irritating gaps. I didn’t know if I needed to wear any makeup, so I showed up bare-faced. Anyway, I arrive and David greets me. He’s an incredibly nice guy, btw. Very laid back. There were stylists that we waited for. Of course I was hoping they could do something to ensure that I looked fabulous, or at least not embarrassing.

But there was a complication — they didn’t have my clothing or shoe sizes, so they had to guess. I think to myself, “oh no, nothing will fit.” Stylists are not used to working with short, top-heavy, overweight women. I cringed to myself. They opened the bag of clothing options and most were fall/winter things (it’s November issue). One item that looked like it might fit was one of those designer “little black dress” outfits – the all-purpose kind that I prayed would get over the boobage and not look like ass on me.

I came out and lo-and-behold, the size L fit well enough to do the job. Thank goodness for stretchable fabric. It wasn’t like sausage stuffing, but still. And there was no makeup person, so I was going to be shot as-is. OMG. All I had on me was lip gloss. Imagine the terror. Oh well, go with the flow. So we went onto the roof…

David’s theme is a 1950s B&W Polaroid look. What was fascinating about it was that he was using a 1950s camera that he had rebuilt, and David was using film that he acquired via auction. This stock was really old – as in the boxes had expiration dates that were over a decade old. Also, this particular size of Polaroid film is no longer made. He was going to work from the negatives, not the prints themselves, and took some digital shots for backup.

The weather was very nice – not hellish hot as it had been the last time I was in NY – and I was shot in full sun. We took many photos with my glasses on, since that’s how most people recognize me, and several with them off, standing and seated.

So after he went through quite a few of those old Polaroid cartridges, David was happy with the look he wanted. Now I don’t know which one will end up in the magazine, but it seemed everyone agreed on two that were without my glasses, so it’s quite likely you’ll see me without specs, my hair down and not smiling. Very different look. But you know how those old photos no one seemed to smile, so I understand what he’s going for. I have a hard time not smiling or laughing. Modeling is hard work.

I was the last shoot of the day; he had already photographed David Mixner as well as Alan Cumming. David Mushegain showed me the Polaroids of theirs and the shots looked fabulously 50s.

Before I left, I asked for one of the reject prints from the shoot, and David kindly wrote a nice note on the back thanking me for my work and for participating in the project. I wonder what Kate will think of the shot.

Interview‘s editors sent me early copies of the issue, and unfortunately (or is it good fortune) they listed me as 37 years old. While I’d love to be 37 again, I always cop to my actual age of 47. They apologized profusely, but you know these things happen.

Pam SPAULDING,

Blogger, pamshouseblend.com

Pam Spaulding didn’t set out to have one of the most popular blogs dedicated to gay civil rights, but pamshouseblend.com quickly went viral. “When I launched the blog in 2004, it was really just to personally vent about the state of the political situation at the time,” the 37-year-old 47-year-old North Carolina-based blogger says. “[George W.] Bush was up for reelection. I was seeing the level of rancor on the side of the religious right over LGBT rights. When I started, I wasn’t thinking about people reading my work.” Soon, Spaulding was serving on panels to speak about the discriminatory political landscape and guest blogging on sites like the Huffington Post. She became what she terms an “accidental activist,” with a blog that racks up almost 250,000 visitors a month. Part of the site’s draw is that it allows readers to submit diaries about what’s going on in their cities. “I think the Internet has given voice to people who are terribly frustrated, with feelings of isolation. Now they can go on and see what other people are doing by reading blogs like mine,” she says. Spaulding knows it’s not just people in the gay community trafficking her site. “The first time I was called by the White House communication over a year ago, I nearly dropped my phone,” she remembers. “The [White House is] reading the blog and responding to either criticism or praise that I have.” It would be easy for bloggers to hide in anonymity – especially when the government is watching – but Spaulding purposely uses her own name. “I feel like I have to speak for people who are unable to, just to show that you can do this,” she says. “I have a full-time day job. I can’t quit and just blog. I like to have more voices than silence. Everyone needs to speak.” -LS

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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