QUEER CLIP: ‘House of Boys’

A teen with a Flock of Seagulls haircut and upturned collar pops a zit in a school mirror while New Wave music drones on in the background. If this sounds familiar, you probably lived through adolescence in the 1980s. If you didn’t live through it, you have the opportunity to — and beyond — with House of Boys.

Gay cinema nowadays typically falls into one of three categories: Romances about coming out; coming-of-age period pieces set in the late ‘70s, ‘80s or early ‘90s; and contemporary dramas about the travails of sex in the post-AIDS era. House of Boys combines aspects of each of them.

Frank (Layke Anderson) is a twink in the pre-meth days of clubbing who alienates his parents and his best friend, eventually winding up as a dancer at the House of Boys, a brothel-like club run by Madame (Udo Kier).

Frank develops a crush on Jake (Benn Northover), his straight roomate who goes gay-for-pay to make a living.

House of Boys is basically Burlesque with men, Mohawks and leg-warmers (and without Cher) — an otherworldly allegory about humanizing the denizens of the gay subculture. As such, it’s both depressing and titillating. It convincingly recreates the era’s sexual openness, but also its dirty authenticity: Sex in the shower with a young punk may be hot, but you know the tub is moldy. (European films seem unnervingly comfortable portraying the murky reality of life — and Udo Kier in a gold bustier and blonde Marilyn wig is about as real and murky as life gets.)

There’s merit to that, but while the emotions may be genuine, the plotting is pure genre cliché from start to finish. Frank resents that Jake prostitutes himself for every customer but won’t get it on with him. Jake eventually sees Frank as a threat, but also develops an attachment to him. Another dancer dreams of a sex-change operation, but he’s obviously a tragedy waiting to happen. And Madame presides over everything with Kier’s trademark Easter Island-esque cold gaze.

Director Jean-Claude Schlim doesn’t let a lot of light in. The House itself is a shadowy den of social misfits who live by night, and the tone is rarely buoyant, despite the cast of pretty young boys who drop trou with impressive regularity. Like the boys themselves, this House lacks a solid foundation.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Two stars
One-week engagement starts Dec. 2
at the Texas Theater.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Judge apologizes for delay in ruling on trans inmate’s case

Michelle Kosilek

Kosilek’s case demanding that the state pay for her gender reassignment surgery dates back to 2006

DENISE LAVOIE | Associated Press

BOSTON — A federal judge has apologized to a transgender inmate who has waited years for a ruling on whether she can get a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation.

Michelle Kosilek, a convicted murderer, first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 11 years ago.

Two years later, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder, but stopped short of ordering surgery to complete Kosilek’s transformation into a woman.

Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the female hormones she was receiving were not enough to relieve her anxiety and depression. Kosilek argued that the surgery was a medical necessity and that the Department of Correction was violating her constitutional rights by refusing to provide the operation.

Since 2006, Wolf has heard hundreds of hours of testimony from medical experts and others, but has not issued his ruling.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, as Kosilek’s lawyers made additional arguments citing recent rulings in other transgender cases, Wolf apologized for taking so long.

“I deeply regret that my decision in this case has not yet been issued,” he said.

Wolf, the chief judge at U.S. District Court in Boston, has handled a number of noteworthy cases recently.

He presided over the trial of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who was convicted in June of conspiracy, extortion and other charges.

He also is scheduled to rule on a request for a new trial in the federal death penalty case of Gary Sampson, a drifter from Abington who was sentenced to death after killing three people during a weeklong crime rampage in 2001.

Wolf told attorneys for Kosilek and the Department of Correction that he knows the case “is extremely important … to all parties.”

“I will continue to keep that in mind,” he said.

Kosilek, born as Robert, was convicted of killing his wife in 1990.

Kosilek, now 62, legally changed his name to Michelle in 1993. She has received hormone treatments and lives as a woman in the state prison in Norfolk, a medium-security, all-male facility.

During the Aug. 18 hearing, Kosilek’s lawyer, Frances Cohen, said a recent ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of another transgender inmate bolsters Kosilek’s claim that prison officials are violating her constitutional rights by denying her the surgery.

In the ruling, the appeals court upheld a lower court judge who found the state Department of Correction had shown deliberate indifference to inmate Sandy Battista’s medical needs by repeatedly denying her request for female hormone treatments.

The court found that the department’s claim that its decision was based on security concerns had been “undercut by a collection of pretexts, delays and misrepresentations.”

Prison officials have cited similar security concerns in the Kosilek case, saying that allowing her to have the surgery could make her a target for sexual assaults by other inmates.

Cohen said the security concerns were also a pretext in the Kosilek case.

“It is remarkably similar to what we’ve been hearing in this court for quite some time,” she said.

But Richard McFarland, a lawyer for the Department of Correction, said the prison officials are genuinely concerned about security problems if Kosilek is allowed to have the surgery.

He cited the testimony of former DOC Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy, who said the department’s decision to deny the surgery had nothing to do the costs — about $20,000 — or the political ramifications of allowing an inmate to have a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation.

McFarland said the DOC has given Kosilek hormone treatments, female items and psychotherapy to help her deal with gender-identity disorder.

“We argue that the treatment provided to Miss Kosilek is adequate” and the surgery is not a medical necessity, McFarland said.

Wolf asked both sides to submit additional arguments in writing by Sept. 16. He tentatively scheduled another hearing for Oct. 11.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Rep. Sally Kern: ‘What I think doesn’t matter. What the Bible says is what counts’

Anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern and Democratic opponent Brittany Novotny, a transgender woman, appeared on KFOR’s Flash Point over the weekend (video above). Novotny says on her website she wanted to have a town hall forum where she and Kern could address issues of concern to House District 84 residents, but Kern wouldn’t agree to the format. So instead they went on Flash Point. The clip is worth watching in its entirety, but here’s a snippet:

HOST: Do you have a problem with Brittany’s lifestyle, somebody who’s transitioned from a man to a woman through surgical and medicinal means?

KERN: “Well that’s a great question and I have to answer it like this with another question. As Christians are we supposed to believe and obey the Bible?  The Bible says in Psalm 139, it says God created us, he formed us in our mother’s womb, and we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. And so what I think doesn’t matter. It’s what the Bible says is what counts, and that’s what I try to live my life by. But you know the Bible also says God loves every one one of us, has a purpose and a plan for every one of us, forgives each one of us if we come to him and humbly ask his forgiveness. I can’t judge anyone’s heart and have never tried to do that, although I’ve been accused of that. But you know, it’s not the norm, I’ll just say that.”

The race between Novotny and Kern was also featured in The New York Times over the weekend, in an article about transgender candidates across the country:

Not that gender issues have not been raised in some campaigns. In the Oklahoma House race, Ms. Novotny — who had a sex change operation in 2007 — shrugged off a recent e-mail from Charlie Meadows, the chairman of a conservative political action committee, which referred to her as an “it.”

“That’s just the typical politics I would expect out of that side,” she said. “And frankly it’s what voters are tired of.”

Read the full New York Times article by going here.

—  John Wright

Brittany Novotny fires back at Sally Kern

Brittany Novotny, the transgender candidate who’s challenging anti-gay Republican State Rep. Sally Kern in Oklahoma, has issued a statement responding to an attack last week from a Kern supporter who called Novotny a “confused it.” In the statement titled “How do we move Oklahoma forward?” Novotny notes that Kern issued a statement Sunday attempting to distance herself from the attack:

In a statement released today, Rep. Kern claims that she has “repeatedly asked [her] supporters not to use any degrading or insulting comments toward [me].” Unfortunately, the evidence indicates this is not the case. In a speech on August 7, 2010, Rep. Kern told supporters:

“And this year, in 2010 election, I have a very interesting race, I have an individual who was born a man, has had a sex change operation, and now considers themselves to be a woman. So, if you live in my district or know anyone who does, please get the word out. Because if I say anything about it, it’s gonna look like I’m smearing, and I’m not, it’s just a fact. And ‘they’ talk about it themselves. (Emphasis added).”

Does this rhetoric sound like someone asking her supporters not to use any degrading comments? Does this rhetoric sound like someone who is trying to keep the campaign about the issues facing Oklahomans?

When I announced my intention to run for this seat, Rep. Kern said she planned to keep this campaign focused on issues. As you are now aware, she has failed to keep her word on that count.

Novotny also posted the above video ad, accusing Kern of ignoring real issues to promote “her narrow social agenda” and “her own extremist interpretation of the Bible.” Ya think?

—  David Taffet

Kern supporters start slinging mud at Novotny

It appears that the mudslinging has started in the race for the District 84 seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where incumbent Republican Sally Kerns of Oklahoma City is facing Democratic challenger Brittany Novotny, a transgender woman also from Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee sent an e-mail to its members on Tuesday, Sept. 7, in which Novotny was described as “a confused ‘it’” who hates God.

The e-mail, signed by Charlie Meadows and headlined “Sally Kern’s opponent in Hollywood for a fundraiser,” said, in part:

“Brittany used to be a ‘he,’ had a sex change operation to make him into a ‘her’ but turned out to become a confused ‘it.’ Some have suggested that having a sex change operation is a person’s greatest act of rebellion and hatred toward God for His making them what they were.

“It is truly sad to see people reject God’s love for them by being willing to mutilate themselves. If they would submit their life to God, they could find the true the joy in life that will forever elude them while on their path of rebellion. ”

Kern is the legislator who in 2008 was tape recorded telling a Republican group that LGBT people are a bigger threat to America than terrorism. She recently defended those remarks, telling an Oklahoma City TV station that while there have been only three “real big” terrorist attacks on the U.S., society is constantly “bombarded with the message that homosexuality is normal and natural.”

In a statement released Thursday, Sept. 9, Novotny responded: “If Rep. Kern and her allies spent as much time focusing on Oklahoma’s future as they seem to spend worrying about my past, maybe we could keep teachers in the classroom and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

“This type of personal attack is what Oklahomans are tired of, and it shows why Kern and her political allies continue to be out of touch with mainstream Oklahoma values,” Novotny added.

Novotny also said that OCPAC’s claim that she hates God is “ridiculous,” and noted that she attends services at United Church of Christ.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas