BIG Lang theory

K.D. Lang, on her new CD, Lady Gaga and her burgeoning butchness

KD-Lang

BUTCHING IT UP | Lang, nearing 50, is embracing her inner ... daddy?

K.D. Lang is manning up, thanks to the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and other sexpots of pop who shoot whipped cream from their chests and ride disco sticks. The longtime gay activist, who turns 50 in November, made a rebellious decision to boost her butchness, evident in the video for “I Confess,” the lead single from her disc Sing it Loud.

She comes to the Meyerson on Tuesday with her band the Siss Boom Bang, but before the show, she dished about the album’s evolution, why being the first out country star doesn’t matter and her work with Glee.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Why did you approach Sing it Loud with a fuller sound and, for the first time in 20 years, a band?  Lang: It just seemed to be the right thing to do. It was just what I was feeling. I was working with Joe [Pisapia], writing songs, and it came time to record them and I just felt like the band was the right way to approach it — very live and spontaneous. We put the band together and it was beyond my wildest dreams what transpired.

On “I Confess,” you sing the lyric I’ll be your daddy. How do you think that line would’ve been received had you recorded this song 20 years ago when you first came out? Probably the same as now. I think there’s going to always be people who feel uncomfortable with it and there’s always going to be people who are titillated by it. You just have to know that’s going to be the case for a long time.

Would you say you’re embracing your butchness more than you used to? Yeah, this music really asks for it. I also think that the aesthetic nature of today’s music, with people like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry — not that it’s new, it certainly isn’t; I know better than that — is being very exaggerated I thought, I can exaggerate, too!

What do you make of the way the music business has shifted in the way it sells music? I think it’s boring because everything is so overexposed. But it’s fine; it is what it is. In terms of music, there is always going to be a place for someone who can sing and someone who can communicate with an audience.

Did you ever feel pressure to conform in your career? That would depend on what I wanted to reap from my music. I’ve always been quite sure that I wanted to have a more artistic career and a career of longevity, so in that respect, no. I’ve made decisions that have nurtured my art rather than my public awareness or my celebrity. That’s been self-determined. So no, I never felt the pressure.

If you hadn’t come out, how do you imagine your life and career now? I can’t imagine, because I was always out and coming out wasn’t really a big deal for me. But it certainly made things easier. I can’t imagine what it would be like, but at the same time it’s definitely made my life easier just because it kind of stripped away the question marks in the audience’s minds. It took away any pretense or question.

There was a big hoopla when Chely Wright came out as the first gay country star, because some argued that you beat her to it. What did you think about all that? I don’t know who Chely Wright is, but I don’t care. I mean, to a whole generation of people who know Chely Wright, they probably don’t know who I am. So to them it is the first country star to come out. I don’t really care who’s the first, who’s the last, because before me there were a lot of people that helped get me to a place to feel confident and comfortable with coming out.

Last year you lent your voice to a song on a Glee soundtrack. Would you ever do the show? I don’t really watch Glee, but I know it’s very popular and gay-friendly, which is great. And Jane Lynch is hilarious! If they asked me I would consider it, but I’m really happy that I could be a part of something that’s supportive and promotes alternative and varying lifestyles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Arthur Evans, activist who once started a VW repair business called the Buggery, dies at 68

Arthur Evans

Despite having now worked in the gay press for nearly five years, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of pioneering activist Arthur Evans, who died Sunday at 68. Evans was involved in the Gay Liberation Front, the group that formed following the Stonewall Rebellion, and he later co-founded another group, the Gay Activists Alliance, because he didn’t feel the Gay Liberation Front was aggressive enough. Wow, has this story not repeated itself over and over throughout the LGBT equality movement? Anyway, what I found most interesting about Evans is the story of his life before becoming a gay activist. After attending Brown and Columbia, he dropped out of school and moved to Washington state, where he and a companion started a group called the Weird Sisters Partnership, homesteading a small piece of land and living in a tent. Then Evans moved to San Francisco and opened a Volkswagen repair business called the Buggery before finally heading back to New York. Evans didn’t come out to his parents until 1970 at age 28, and you’ll never guess how. From The New York Times:

Growing up, Mr. Evans had hid his sexual orientation, though he himself was aware of it at 10, he said. By November 1970, when he was scheduled to appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” with other gay leaders, he had still not told his parents that he was gay. But, by his account, he did tell them he was going to be on national television. Thrilled, they told friends and neighbors to tune in.

Mr. Evans later said he regretted his handling of the matter.

 

—  John Wright

Exporting U.S. hate

American evangelicals played a key role in the creation of anti-gay measures in Uganda that remain viable — and very dangerous

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

What? Africa does not have enough problems already with the struggles with civil wars, food shortages, severe droughts and the hangovers of apartheid?

Apparently some Americans — self-styled guardians of faith and family — think those problems are insufficient. Apparently they think it is necessary to add fuel to the flames of Africa’s anti-gay movement.

Here’s a part of what has happened and continues to happen in Uganda, a southwestern African nation whose 31 million citizens are among the poorest on the continent. (Uganda has natural resources aplenty, including copper and cobalt, crude oil and natural gas, however. So poverty does not afflict the political elite.)

In March 2009, Stephen Langa, an evangelical Christian, organized a conference in Kampala, Uganda, entitled “Exposing the Truth about Homosexuality and the Homosexual Agenda.” Langa and his cohorts sought to concentrate the minds of that political elite on the efforts of the LGBT community to “recruit and/or lure children” into the homosexual lifestyle.

Here’s where the U.S. comes in: Three American evangelicals — Scott Lively and Don Schmierer, who are white, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who is black — were featured in speeches and workshops.

Let’s begin with Lively, who organized an entity called Abiding Truth Ministries and has long been an anti-gay activist. He has sought to have homosexuality itself, all expressions and any public advocacy thereof, declared felonies.

He is best known in anti-gay circles for co-authoring The Pink Swastika, a book that blames homosexuals for the worst atrocities of the Nazis. Perhaps it is redundant to note that he also denies the Holocaust.

According to Boston.com, Lively moved from Temecula, Calif., to Springfield, Mass., in 2008, determined to “re-Christianize Springfield.” His principal vehicles are the Redemption Gate Mission Society and the Holy Grounds Coffee House.

Lively still opposes LGBTs, of course, but he now claims to be caught up in serving and saving the poorest people in Western Massachusetts. He has been interviewed several times since the Kampala conference, and he has repeatedly said that he did not push for the death penalty, just for “reparative therapy” to make everyone straight.

Schmierer has also been a homo hater for a long time. His principal identification is with Exodus International, which describes itself as an ex-gay ministry. One of his several books is An Ounce of Prevention, which purports to teach parents how to “pick out” a gay or potentially gay child, and turn that child toward the straight and narrow.

More alarming — because it uses newer media and because it came out just months ago  — is an iPhone application designed to straighten its users. “Truth Wins Out” objected, collected more than 150,000 signatures on a petition claiming the app contained objectionable material, and submitted the petition to Apple. Apple promptly removed the app from the iTunes store.

No word whether Schmierer himself, who’s an old, white-haired guy, has used the app himself.

Brundidge is a whole ’nother thing. Young, tattooed and dreadlocked, he claims to have overcome his same-sex attraction through the National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). That’s a New Jersey-based organization run by a man named Richard Cohen.

You can see Brundidge and Cohen performing some of NARTH’s “ministry and healing” exercises on Internet video clips, which are laugh-out-loud funny.

In any event, Brundidge graduated to heterosexuality or a facsimile thereof and began giving Tender Loving Care seminars in Maryland. In 2006, he became a “Sexual Reorientation Coach” (who knows how), and in 2007 he moved to Phoenix, Ariz., for the “opportunities” presented by Extreme Prophetic Ministries.

He counsels online and via telephone and speaks at churches. Believers have called upon him to raise the dead, but to date the dead have not responded.

So in March 2009, these three Americans went over and presented their anti-gay message, and within a month, Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati submitted a bill calling for the death penalty for many same-sex acts, not just by males but by all LGBTs, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

International donor nations objected to the death penalty, and since Uganda’s elite wanted to keep the money coming, they saw to it that the act was softened to demand only life without the possibility of parole.

Then this year on Jan. 10,  the UK’s Guardian newspaper published an article entitled “We are free to be gay in Uganda — for the moment.” Exactly two weeks later, Uganda’s best-known gay activist, David Kato, was beaten to death with a hammer.

“David’s death is the result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” said his friend, Val Kalende.

Uganda’s Minister of Ethics & Integrity (yea, right!) James Nsaba Buturo has now told his nation’s gays to “forget about human rights.” The anti-gay bill remains very much alive.

What? We couldn’t send food or footwear, books or bed nets? We had to send hatred?

Must be that America has an oversupply of hatred against our community.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Mayor Rawlings proclaims ‘Stand Up Against Bullying Week’ to mark Ben Cohen’s visit

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued a proclamation this week declaring Sept. 12-16 “Stand Up Against Bullying Week.”

Rawlings’ proclamation (click to enlarge) notes that “nine out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Stand Up Against Bullying Week coincides with a visit from international rugby star Ben Cohen, who’ll be in town for gay Pride and whose StandUp Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness about anti-LGBT bullying.

“It is an important issue to our youth,” Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said Wednesday. “Bullying is a real thing, and it’s important to bring awareness to it and to say it won’t be tolerated, and if it is happening, then others shouldn’t tolerate it. They should do something about it.”

The Stand Up Against Bullying Week proclamation was issued in response to a request from Jeff Hickey, a local gay activist who led the campaign to bring Cohen to Dallas.

Hickey has formed a group called Dallas Stands Up to host Cohen and spread the word about his visit Sept. 15-18. In addition to being a special VIP guest at the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Cohen will headline an anti-bullying forum at SMU, speak at high schools in Dallas and Fort Worth, and attend a fundraiser for the Stand Up Foundation at the home of a GOP state lawmaker.

“It’s been a pure grassroots effort,” Hickey said. “It’s actually proving to be a much more profound experience than I expected to be.”

Below is a press release from Dallas Stands Up with more details about Cohen’s visit.

—  John Wright

Was Gingrich glitter-bomb an embarrassment to the gay rights movement or just plain fabulous?

As you’ve quite possibly heard, anti-gay GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was glitter-bombed by a gay activist Tuesday, during a book-signing prior to a fundraiser for the right-wing Minneapolis Family Council. Watch video of the incident from the AP below.

Clayton M. McCleskey, a contributing writer for the Dallas Morning News, writes on the newspaper’s Opinion Blog that he thinks the incident was “an embarrassment to the gay community and to the gay rights movement”:

If gay rights activists take issue with Gingrich’s less-than-enlightened stance on gay rights, then there are many ways for them to raise the issue. Taking a bag of glitter and dumping it on Gingrich’s head is not one of them. That was a cheap shot. If the goal is to show that gays should be treated like the normal folks they are, is it all that productive to bring glitter into the debate?

According to Andrew Belonsky at Death+Taxes, the glitter bomb was not only productive, it was “fabulous”:

ACT-UP’s members enacted the most sensational and compelling of all gay protests: in 1987, they sprawled out at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway to demand more access to newly developed AIDS drugs, and that same year hung their famous “Silence Equals Death” banner in front of Ronald Reagan’s White House. Seventeen years later, ten nude ACT-UP activists protests the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Though some of the group’s protests were grim, they all effectively employed a blithe spirit, catapulting them onto front pages around the nation, and the world. So too has Erickson’s stunt, which will hopefully inspire more imaginative and playful protests that capture the nation’s attention.

What do you think?

—  John Wright

In Dallas, Scott Pelley ‘pressed the establishment on issues affecting gay men and AIDS’

Scott Pelley

The announcement that former Dallasite Scott Pelley will replace Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News is a good thing for the LGBT community, according to pioneering gay activist William Waybourn.

Pelley, a San Antonio native and Texas Tech graduate, spent 11 years in Dallas at KXAS-TV and WFAA-TV from 1978-1989, according to Wikipedia.

Waybourn, the former president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance who now lives in Virginia, had this to say about Pelley in an email to Instant Tea this afternoon:

“Scott Pelley was one of those reporters in Dallas who pressed the establishment on issues affecting lesbians and gay men and AIDS,” Waybourn said. “He interviewed me, Bill [Nelson] or John [Thomas] on a regular basis, always pushing questions that brought attention to our issues of the day.”

—  John Wright

Taking a stand for freedom

Russian activist hopes U.S. tour will focus attention on gay rights battle in his country, and that international attention will keep LGBTs there safer

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

A tide of revolution is sweeping the Mideast and Africa right now, proving to the world that citizens can stand up to unfair governments and make a difference. That’s a lesson that Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev has been intent on proving for more than five years, many times at great risk to his own personal safety.

Beginning in 2005, Alekseev has each year organized LGBT Pride celebrations in Moscow where he lives, and each year those celebrations have been banned in city officials there. But Alekseev and his colleagues have forged ahead, each year holding their events anyway.

Alekseev eventually filed suit in the European courts against Russian government officials, claiming that they were violating LGBT human rights by banning Pride events. Last year, the courts ruled in Alekseev’s favor, but last month the government officials asked the courts to reconsider the ruling, and the Moscow mayor vowed to once again ban Pride events planned for May.

Last Sept. 5, Alekseev was arrested at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was preparing to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva. There was at the time no clear information on who had taken the activist from the airport, why he was taken or where he was being held.

Interfax Belarus news agency reported that Alekseev had sent texts saying he was seeking political asylum in Belarus and was dropping his lawsuits in the European courts. However, friends and associates questioned those reports, saying that such statements were out of character, and helping focus international attention on his situation.

Alekseev finally resurfaced in Moscow, where he told his colleagues he was never in Minsk, never sent the texts and had no intention of dropping the lawsuits.

This month Alekseev, with the help of the Gay Liberation Network based in Chicago, is touring seven U.S. cities in hopes of raising awareness on the ongoing gay rights struggle in Russia. Prior to his visit to Dallas next week, Alekseev answered some questions, via e-mail, for Dallas Voice.

Dallas Voice: What happened that made you willing to put your personal safety on the line to fight for LGBT rights in Russia? Was there a single event or was it a culmination of things?

Alekseev: I never really thought about it, in fact, when I started and even after. If we go back to the origins, there was my dismissal from Russia’s most prestigious university where I was studying for my Ph.D., simply because I wanted to make my research on same-sex marriage issue. The faculty believed that it is not an appropriate topic for the Moscow State University.

But I am a person with principles and they were not able to persuade me to change this topic. So they sacked me. I sued them and I lost in Russia. Well, I had little hope to win. But now the case is pending with the European Court of Human Rights.

Working on this research made me look into activism. Quickly I understood that gay activism did not really exist in Russia. So I thought I could have an impact there. Then I came up with this campaign for Moscow Pride. It quickly became a hot topic for the media because the mayor immediately chose to confront us and try to scare us. But I was still so angry that I could not complete my Ph.D., that not the mayor or anyone else could frighten me.

Everything came very quickly after that. We had the first Pride. It was banned; I was arrested. We managed to put our cause in front of the media and, as a result, in front of the society. That was the aim.

After, we launched several other campaigns on freedom of association, same-sex marriage, the [men who have sex with men] blood ban.

We managed to change one thing: The MSM blood ban was repealed after our actions.

DV: Has there been a specific incident in which you feared for your own life, or the lives of family and close friends?

Alekseev: Russian authorities like to pressure people. Some of our activists were pressured. The police ringed their doors, told their parents that they were arrested while taking part in “illegal actions of faggots” and that next time there could be consequences for them or for their other children. Sometimes, it created dramatic outings.

My family doesn’t really care. My parents are retired. The only thing one could do is cut their $200 a month pension. Not a big deal.

And when police ring our doors or sometimes call by phone, it became my dad’s best moment of the day. He likes to drive them nuts!

As for my own life, of course I had fears. But the more you are in this fight, the less you think about it.

I know that my phone is constantly being illegally [tapped] and that I was followed several times while preparing the Pride events. In May [when Pride is held each year], I have to move from place to place to make sure I am not arrested before the day of the Pride. This has a huge psychological impact.

DV: What happened when Russian officials abducted you from the airport? Why do you think they let you go?

Alekseev: The only aim was to scare me and to pressure me to withdraw our historic case from the European Court of Human Rights, which at that point was in its final stages. Ironically, just two weeks after that, the judges met privately and decided the case in our favor.

During detention, I had to bear every possible verbal insult towards gay people, which was far from being very pleasant. But when I returned and saw all the international solidarity I was amazed. So many people did protests around the world and so many people sent messages of support. At this point, I understood that international LGBT solidarity really exists and that it is not an empty word. But we should realize that it should be expressed not only at such difficult moments but every day in our fight for gay equality. I think this media and international attention saved me then.

DV: What do you hope to accomplish with this visit to the United States?

Alekseev: In short, I’d like to give people a message that wherever they are, they can make a change.

It’s not about supporting a cause by giving money. I don’t come here for that. I don’t need financial support. I have food at home and I don’t need to get paid for the ideal I pursue.

I’d like to explain to people that if all of them stand at the same time, they can really achieve something. American activists are often seen overseas as being self-centered and not interested in international issues. Perhaps this has to do with a fear of being seen as too colonialist.

You know, if 1,000 Americans sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before her trip to Russia in 2009, I doubt she would have quietly dedicated a statue to an American gay poet hand-in-hand with the homophobic then-mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov.

That was very close to the place where weeks before we were arrested for trying to stage our fourth Pride. She made a very good advertisement for him, which was used against us at that time by his PR team. She did not challenge him on his homophobia while she said she cares for LGBT rights and wants to put it forward in her diplomacy. I saw how she cared.

This should not repeat in Russia or elsewhere. I know some usually say “We cannot care for all the world,” but often it’s the same people who care for nobody! When you want to change things, you don’t pick and choose usually. You just follow your instinct.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Israel appoints gay activist as labor court judge

(Dori Spivak) דורי ספיבק

While Israel’s executive branch has become quite conservative, it’s judicial branch always has been very liberal.

This week, LGBT rights activist Dori Spivak was appointed to the national labor court in Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli newspaper Ma’Ariv. While other openly gay judges have been appointed in the past, his appointment is being hailed as the first appointment of someone who has advocated for LGBT rights.

Spivak, a graduate of Harvard, is best known for serving as chairman of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. In 1997, he won a case in the Supreme Court that allowed Israeli television to air a program about gay teens.

Ma’Ariv, a moderate Israeli newspaper, opens its coverage of the appointment by saying, “The appointment of attorney Dori Spivak as judge to make waves.”

But the concerns the newspaper details have nothing to do with Spivak’s sexual orientation. They worry about his appointment to a court that has ruled in the past that a company doesn’t have a religion so that forbidding work on Sabbath is not relevant. They also voice concern over how he might rule on cases brought by settlers in the West Bank.

“Nevertheless, controversial political views should not disqualify a candidate for judicial office,” the newspaper concludes without mentioning anything about his sexual orientation.

All of Israel’s LGBT rights have been gained through the courts, including pension benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel, recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and adoption rights.

—  David Taffet

Janssons to speak at Truth Wins Out event

KC, left, and Larry Jansson

KC and Larry Jansson, the subject of last week’s Valentine’s article, will speak in Memphis on Feb. 21. That stop is the end of a 12-city tour for Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen.

The event will highlight the harm caused by programs that claim to turn gay people straight through prayer and therapy, according to a Truth Wins of press release. Besen said he chose Memphis as his final stop because Exodus International’s flagship ministry, Love In Action, is based here. The Janssons met while participating in the six-month program at Love In Action.

They will share how they tried to “pray away the gay,” according to the press release. Well, maybe Larry did. He called himself the more brainwashed of the two. But KC thought the rules were a joke. He attended because his parents sent him and his choice was to be homeless.

Truth Wins Out wrote this:

Besen’s multi-media presentation offers a unique, innovative and entertaining look behind the mask of so-called “ex-gay” programs. Besen is the author of two books including the critically acclaimed, “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth”. He is also noted for photographing “ex-gay” poster boy John Paulk in a gay bar in Washington, DC and helping expose the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s personal “ex-gay” activist Michael Johnston as a fraud.

The couple appeared on the Michelangelo Signorelli’s show on OutQ on Sirius radio today. Then on March 6, they will appear locally on Lambda Weekly on 89.3 KNON-FM at noon.

Larry called the attention they’ve gotten from the article overwhelming.

“It’s important to continue to speak out so that others don’t have to live through the pain we did,” said Larry. “It’s possible to live a happy and healthy life as gay.”

Sound like an “It Gets Better” video? They’re planning one soon.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Anti-gay activist calling for boycott of Chili’s; Maryland marriage marathon

1. In response to the gay boycott of Chick-fil-A, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera is calling for a boycott of Dallas-based Chili’s. LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, cites Chili’s support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which he accuses of promoting polyamory: “If you want to take a small step to stand up for family and marriage, take your family out to Chick-fil-A — and drive right by when you see a Chili’s,” LaBarbera says.

2. A Maryland Senate committee heard more than seven hours of testimony Tuesday on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the Senate puts the bill’s chances of passage at 60- 70 percent, and a vote could come next week. Maryland would be the sixth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage.

3.

—  John Wright