Showing posts with label International Gay Issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Gay Issues. Show all posts

April 10, 2018

Asia's Out-Gay Icon Leslie Cheng is Dead But Kept Alive for the Last 15 years

This page published by the BBC
 For the past 15 years fans of tormented superstar Leslie Cheung, one of the first celebrities to come out as gay in Asia, have gathered at Hong Kong's Mandarin Oriental Hotel to mourn the day he took his own life. 
It's a poignant sign of why the daring and troubled star is still important today. 
One of Hong Kong's most popular male singers and actors of the mid-1980s, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing was not afraid of provoking controversy with his overt sexuality and provocative performances during a more socially conservative era. 
And 15 years after his death, Cheung is still attracting new fans, including teenagers and millennials.
Lam, a 15-year-old who attended 1 April's vigil, was only a few months old when Cheung died. She told BBC Chinese she had "discovered him on YouTube".
"He was charismatic; especially when he went's gorgeous," she said.
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Wu travelled from Hunan province on mainland China with his boyfriend to mourn the icon.
Wu told BBC Chinese he drew strength from Cheung's "spirit of being true to oneself".
"He showed the [Chinese-speaking] world that gay people can be positive, bright and worthy of respect."

Christopher DoyleImage copyrightBBC CHINESE
Image captionCinematographer Christopher Doyle says Leslie was "not only a great singer or actor, but a rarely-seen true star"

Born in 1956, Leslie Cheung was one of Hong Kong's most famous stars during the golden era of Cantopop in the 1980s.
He was dashing, stylish and fitted the public idea of a perfect heterosexual male lover. But in reality, he was in a long-term relationship with his childhood friend, Daffy Tong. 
It was not an easy time to be gay. At that time, homosexuality was still viewed by many as an illness and abnormality in Hong Kong, especially after the emergence of the first local case of Aids in 1984. It was not until 1991 that adult gay sex was decriminalised in the territory.
"The LGBT movement in Hong Kong took off in the 1990s, when the community finally became visible to the public," Travis Kong, an associate professor of sociology researching gay culture at The University of Hong Kong, told BBC Chinese. 
And it was at this point that Cheung became more daring in his work. 

Cheung as an androgynous Peking Opera star in Farewell My ConcubineImage copyrightTOMSON (HK) FILMS CO., LTD. 
Image captionCheung as an androgynous Peking Opera star in Farewell My Concubine

He first came to international attention with his portrayal of Cheng Dieyi, the androgynous Peking Opera star, for the film Farewell My Concubine, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1993. 
He went on to star in Happy Together directed by Wong Kar Wai - a gay cinema classic about a couple who struggle to find a peaceful co-existence.
"Happy Together is different. It is a stereotypical heterosexual romance, but played by two men," said Kit Hung, a Hong Kong director.
Meanwhile, Christopher Doyle, the renowned cinematographer who worked with Cheung on various Wong Kar Wai films, told BBC Chinese: "He was so beautiful. We both wanted to convey through my lens the most beautiful, sincerest side of him.
"He enters our imagination audaciously... always showing us better possibilities."

Leslie Cheung's waxwork at Madame Tussauds waxworks in Hong KongImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLeslie Cheung is remembered both for his films and music performances - and even has his own waxwork at Madame Tussauds

On stage, Cheung unleashed a sexually fluid charm.  His defining queer performance came in a 1997 concert where he danced intimately with a male dancer to his song Red. He wore a black suit with a pair of sparkling crimson high-heels.
At that concert he dedicated a classic love song to the two "loves of his life", his mother and his partner Daffy Tong. This is seen as the moment he came out of the closet. Cheung did not proclaim his sexuality as such, but confessed his love for a man.

Collage of screenshots showing Leslie Cheung wearing red heelsImage copyrightROCK RECORDS
Image captionCheung wore his iconic pair of red high heels in a 1997 concert

"In the 1990s, at times a gay man was still called 'Aids man' and 'pervert'," says Mr Kong. "In a society so oppressive to the LGBT community, the coming out of such a renowned superstar had a huge effect on the general public."
Despite his success across Asia, there were many who did not appreciate this side of Cheung. 
At the 1998 Hong Kong Film Awards, Happy Together was mocked by comedians, who described it as a film that would make the audience vomit. A music video he directed, featuring him topless with a male ballet dancer, was also censored by major local TV channel TVB.

Exhibition: "Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture"Image copyrightPAN LEI
Image captionCheung's versatile images on stage ignited controversies

In 2000 Leslie became the first Asian star to wear a tailor-made costume by French fashion master Jean-Paul Gaultier in a concert. With waist-length hair, clearly visible stubble and a muscular build, Cheung also wore tight transparent trousers and a short skirt. 
He ended the concert with his self-revealing ballad I. "The theme of my performance is this: The most important thing in life, apart from love, is to appreciate your own self," he explained.
"I won't hide, I will live my life the way I like under the bright light" he sang. "I am what I am, firelight of a different colour."
But he was dismissed as a "transvestite", "perverted" or "haunted by a female ghost" in local media. He would dismiss that criticism as superficial and short-sighted. 
He remains such an iconic figure in Hong Kong's awakening to LGBT issues that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is even the first stop of a walking tour on the city's LGBT history.

Crowds at Mandarin Oriental on the 15th anniversary of Cheung's deathImage copyrightBBC CHINESE
Image captionCrowds at Mandarin Oriental on the 15th anniversary of Cheung's death
Fans recreated Cheung's signature crimson high heels in RosesImage copyrightBBC CHINESE
Image captionFans recreated Cheung's signature crimson high heels in Roses

It was from here that he jumped to his death on 1 April 2003 after a long struggle with depression. It was a shocking moment for the city, and a devastating moment for fans. 
Tens of thousands turned out to bid him farewell and at the funeral, his partner Daffy Tong assumed the role traditionally preserved for the surviving spouse, a profound, public recognition of their relationship. 
Never legally married, Mr Tong's was the first name listed on the family's announcement of Cheung's death, credited "Love of His Life".
Same-sex marriage or civil unions are still not legal in Hong Kong, but in the city's collective memory, Cheung and Tong are fondly remembered as an iconic, loving couple.

Daffy Tong, partner of Entertainer Leslie Cheung, looks at his waxwork unveiled at Madame Tussaud waxworks in Hong Kong, 31 March 2004. Leslie, Cheung one of Hong Kong's most acclaimed entertainers, leapt to his death 01 April 2003Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDaffy Tong beside a waxwork of Leslie Cheung at Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong

Hong Kong still lacks anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT communities but queer identity and sexual fluidity are no longer so taboo and are part of the social landscape. 
Last year a museum in Hong Kong held an exhibition "Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture". The first exhibit visitors encountered upon entering the venue was a pair of sparkling crimson high-heels - the pair Cheung wore performing Red in 1997.
"The highest achievement for a performer is to embody both genders at the same time," Cheung once proclaimed: "For art itself is genderless."
If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, click here. In the UK you can call for free, at any time, to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066. In Hong Kong you can get help here.

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October 19, 2017

World Medical Body Condemns Forced Men Anal Exams As Unscientific and Unethical

A medical report filled out by a doctor in Kampala, Uganda, after conducting a forced anal examination on a man suspected of consensual same-sex conduct. 
A medical report filled out by a doctor in Kampala, Uganda, after conducting a forced anal examination on a man suspected of consensual same-sex conduct.
© 2016 Neela Ghoshal/Human Rights Watch

(Nairobi, October 17, 2017) – Doctors, medical professionals, and national medical associations should heed the World Medical Association’s October 2017 resolution to end forced anal examinations on people accused of homosexual conduct, Human Rights Watch said today. The General Assembly of the World Medical Association (WMA), an international organization consisting of national medical associations from 111 countries, condemned the use of forced anal examinations to seek evidence of consensual homosexual conduct.
Forced anal examinations, based on long-discredited 19th century science, often involve doctors or other medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into a person’s anus to attempt to determine whether that person has engaged in anal intercourse. The exams, relied upon as “evidence” in prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct in some countries, have no scientific basis, violate medical ethics, and constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture.
“The jury is no longer out. There is no excuse for governments to continue conducting forced anal exams on people accused of homosexuality,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch. “The World Medical Association has added its voice to an overwhelming consensus that forced anal exams are unethical, unscientific, and unjustifiable on any grounds.”
The World Medical Association resolution calls on doctors to stop conducting the exams. It calls on national medical associations to issue written communications prohibiting their members from participating in them, and to educate doctors and health workers about “the unscientific and futile nature of forced anal exams and the fact that they are a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” It also calls on the World Health Organization to make an official statement opposing forced anal exams as unscientific and in violation of medical ethics, which would build on an existing reference that condemns the practice.
The resolution, proposed by the South African Medical Association with the support of Human Rights Watch, has been through a year-long review and feedback process, allowing all members to comment in advance of adoption. It passed unanimously, with two abstentions.
At the General Assembly session, the association also adopted a revised “Physician’s Pledge,” which calls on doctors to refrain from discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation.
Several countries that have not yet eradicated forced anal examinations have made recent progress toward ending them, Human Rights Watch said. Governments in Lebanon and Tunisia have taken steps toward banning forced anal exams. Tunisia recently accepted a recommendation to end the exams during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council, although it remains to be seen whether Tunisia will rigorously enforce the ban. In both cases, national medical associations played a key role in shifting their governments’ positions. The Kenya Medical Association, in September, became the latest medical association to condemn the use of forced anal examinations, although the Attorney General’s Office has attempted to defend their use.
Other countries lag behind. In Egypt, men and transgender women arrested on charges of “debauchery” are systematically referred to the Forensic Medicine Authority, a branch of the Justice Ministry, for forced anal examinations, and the results are regularly used in court to put people behind bars on the grounds of their presumed sexual orientation. Since late September, according to Egyptian human rights activists, at least five Egyptians have been subjected to forced anal exams as part of a vicious crackdown after several young people waved rainbow flags at a concert.
And in Tanzania in late 2016, police resorted to forced anal examinations to seek “proof” of homosexual conduct for the first time, as far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, as part of a broader campaign against LGBT people and their allies. Neither the Egyptian Medical Association nor the Medical Association of Tanzania, both members of the WMA, have publicly condemned the exams.
Other countries in which Human Rights Watch has documented the use of forced anal exams between 2010 and 2015 include Cameroon, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Zambia. Human Rights Watch has received reports of government authorities ordering forced anal exams on people accused of homosexual conduct in Syria and the United Arab Emirates, but has not been able to independently verify these allegations.
“Doctors play a critical role in upholding ethical standards and are often part of the moral compass of society,” Ghoshal said. “In Egypt, in Tanzania, and in all countries in which people are being subjected to forced anal examinations, doctors should take the lead in ending these horrific abuses.”

Human Rights Watch "HRW"         

May 3, 2017

International Backlash to Gay Rights

This is an excellent current affairs news reading about what the gay community is experiencing in  away of a backlash for the Civil/human rights the community has obtained in the past 85 years specificably where the community finds it self in the United States with a leader who is the opposite of the past President. The way the United States go usually the rest of the modernized world eventually follows. 

No revolution worth its salt comes without pushback. The fight for gay rights—widely regarded as “the fastest of all civil rights movements” (over a short period of time, 20 nations have come to recognize same-sex marriage and an additional 15 now allow same-sex civil unions)—is no exception. A shooting rampage last June at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a terrorist who had expressed loathing for the LGBT community, was the deadliest assault ever on the American gay community and attests to the viciousness of this pushback. But that was only one incident. In recent years, there has been a global backlash against gay rights that runs from the United States, through many parts of the global South, to Russia and other parts of the post–Communist world.

The opposition to gay rights comes in two strains and reflects what the Pew Research Center has called “the global divide on homosexuality.” In Western Europe and the Americas, home to the world’s most democratically advanced states and the largest and most sophisticated gay rights movements, the gay backlash takes the form of a counter-revolution designed to intimidate the gay community and roll back gains in gay rights. Across Africa, the Middle East, and much of the post–Communist world, the parts of the globe where democracy, civil society, and human rights are either in short supply or struggling, the gay backlash consists of a “preemptive strike” meant to stop the gay rights movement before it can gain its footing. This involves passing legislation that criminalizes or re-criminalizes homosexuality and that bans the promotion of homosexuality. Both strains, however, serve to fuel anti-gay violence and discrimination, and have exposed the political, rather than cultural nature of the backlash. 


In Europe, there have been massive protests against same-sex marriage, especially in Catholic-majority countries. In May 2005, some 500,000 anti-gay protestors jammed the streets of Madrid to protest Spain’s same-sex marriage law. They were, of course, opposed to extending marriage to gay couples, but what truly mobilized them was that Spain’s same-sex marriage law was the first one in the world to put same-sex couples on the same legal footing as heterosexual couples: allowing for gay adoptions and access to reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization. Over the course of 2013, France’s “marriage for everyone bill,” which replaced a civil unions law that bestowed on same-sex couples most of the benefits of marriage, prompted more than a million people to take to the streets of Paris to oppose the bill. The protests were for the most part peaceful, but at least one demonstration in May 2013 turned violent, forcing the police to use tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators.

Across Latin America, the gay backlash has been felt most profoundly in Brazil, where the highest court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2011. Since then, Brazilian legislators have retaliated with a plethora of anti-gay bills that call for redefining the family to exclude homosexual couples, for establishing a national day of “heterosexual pride,” and for banning “Christ-phobia,” or the desecration of Christian symbols. The ban targets the provocative floats mixing religious imagery and sexuality typical of Brazilian gay pride parades. Although these bills don’t really stand much chance of ever becoming law (for one thing, they are of dubious constitutionality), they contribute to the homophobic culture that underpins Brazil’s massive problem with gay killings. According to the Group Gay da Bahia, Brazil’s oldest and most respected gay rights organization, since the mid-1980s, when Brazil became a full democracy, more than 3,000 LGBT people have been murdered. Brazilian gay activists have taken to refer to this wave of gay killings as the “Homocaust.”

It is in the United States, however, where, along with liberal democracy, the strongest backlash against gay rights can be found. We can count three distinct waves.  The first began immediately after the rise of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s and entailed nothing short of moral panic. Its most dramatic manifestation was country singer Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign, which succeeded in overturning an anti-discrimination ordinance enacted in Dade County, Florida, by depicting homosexuals as pedophiles. A second wave of backlash crashed in the late 1990s. Between 1998 and 2012, some 30 states enacted constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. By far the cruelest and most diminishing of these state bans was Proposition 8, which in 2008 overturned California’s same-sex marriage law. Among many other tactics, Prop 8 proponents compared the fight against gay marriage “to the battle against Hitler” and urged Californians “not to stand quietly and accept what happened in Germany.” To add insult to injury, Prop 8 threw into legal limbo thousands of same-sex marriages.

A third wave arrived in 2013 in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1997 law that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. A virtual tsunami of legislation intended to undermine LGBT rights has ensued: 254 anti-gay bills have been introduced, 20 of which have become law. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could in theory limit LGBT rights were introduced, a steep increase from previous years. The bulk of these laws are justified as measures to protect religious freedom. The passage of bills of this kind has increased by at least 50 percent every year between 2013 and 2015. Then there were the so-called bathroom bills, such as the one in North Carolina, which, before it was repealed, required transgender individuals to use public bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates. 

In 2009, the Ugandan government debated the world’s most infamous anti-gay legislation, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, universally known as the “kill-the-gays-bill.”  Ostensibly seeking to prevent “foreigners from coming into Uganda and spending millions of dollars to recruit children into homosexuality,” the bill called to punish by death those who committed the “offence of homosexuality” and to jail for up to seven years family and friends of homosexuals who failed to report them to the authorities. Western condemnation and threats of economic retaliation forced Uganda to withdraw the bill. But this was, for the most part, a pyrrhic victory. The bill was signed into law in 2014, with the death penalty exchanged for life in prison. Although it has yet to go into effect due to an intervention by the Ugandan Constitutional Court, the bill has spawned copycats across Africa, including Gambia, Liberia, and Nigeria.

Russia’s “gay propaganda law,” enacted in 2013, has also earned its share of infamy. It punishes anyone who promotes homosexuality with jail time and fines. So broadly written is the law that, in principle, it outlaws pride parades; public displays of affection by same-sex couples; gay newspapers and magazines; gay-themed literature, television, and films; and symbols of the LGBT community, such as the rainbow flag. Even an admission of homosexuality, unless the admission is made in order to denounce homosexuality, can be considered illegal. Similar legislation has been passed or is in the works in Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine.  

Darker still is the picture across Central Asia and the Middle East, where the gay backlash has unleashed a nasty wave of anti-gay violence. Since March, more than 100 gay and bisexual men have been reported tortured, held in camps, and killed in the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of Chechnya. For several years now, the world has been horrified by the ghastly antics of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), which has been beheading gays and throwing them from rooftops in the territories that it controls, such as parts of Iraq. In Southern Iran in 2014, two gay men were hanged as part of a wave of executions for “immorality.” That same year, seven men were arrested in Egypt after appearing in a Youtube video clip, depicting two men exchanging wedding rings. It was described as “Egypt’s first gay marriage.” According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the arrests are part of broader campaign by the Egyptian government to “arrest and routinely torture men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct.”


What is causing the global gay rights backlash is less clear, since societal acceptance of homosexuality in most countries has never been higher. A popular sociological explanation is that increasing visibility makes LGBT people an easier target for anti-gay rights activists. Suzanna Walter, author of All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America, makes that case, arguing that images of gays became ubiquitous in the American media during the 1990s, and this, in turn, led to increased violence against LGBT people. Although this visibility has had a positive effect, leading to greater acceptance of the gay community, the normalization has also galvanized staunch opponents. As Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The New York Times, “As the majority of society becomes more tolerant of LGBT people, some of those who are opposed to them become more radical.” 

Another popular explanation is the enduring strength of homophobia, which flows from the cultural heterosexism embedded in most religions. Public polls show that societal acceptance of homosexuality is intimately linked to levels of social and economic development and rates of religiosity. The higher the religiosity, the lower the acceptance rate of homosexuality, and vice versa. The polling data also show that among the major religious groups, Muslims are the least accepting of homosexuality and gay rights, followed by Protestant–Evangelicals, Catholics, and mainstream Protestants. These findings would explain why the gay backlash has been most severe in the most deeply religious parts of the world, such as African and Middle Eastern nations, and, among Western nations, more pronounced in nations with large Evangelical populations, such as the United States and Brazil, than Catholic ones, such as Argentina, Ireland, and Spain.

Decidedly less noted, and therefore less understood, are the political roots of the gay backlash. By openly embracing anti-gay violence and extremely homophobic legislation, many autocratic regimes across the world are doing what such regimes have done for centuries to groups as varied as Jews, heretics, and various ethnic minorities: scapegoating a socially despised minority as a way to consolidate power, to justify conservative policies, and to distract from other issues.

The governments of Egypt and Iran, for example, employ anti-gay violence in a way that is strikingly similar to the way terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, use violence. Beheading and hanging gays is as much about punishing individuals as it is about intimidating a community or an entire group of people. Russia’s “war on gays” is more a reflection of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to crack down on civil and political liberties than it is an expression of homophobia in Russian culture. Before Putin’s rise, Russia had decriminalized homosexual activity immediately following the fall of Communism.

Although homophobia in Africa is often seen as an “ancient hatred,” its history is surprisingly short. A study by Human Rights Watch revealed that roughly half of the world’s remaining anti-sodomy laws are holdovers from British colonial rule. After independence, post-colonial leaders in Africa kept the anti-sodomy laws in place mainly out of political convenience. Leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe discovered that they could score political gains by condemning homosexuals and demonizing homosexuality as a “Western perversion.” And not every African country discriminates against homosexuals. South Africa’s post–Apartheid Constitution was the first in the world to ban anti-gay discrimination, and in 2006 it became the first non-Western nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Politicians in the West, but especially in the United States, have also found that exploiting hostility toward homosexuality can score them political points, especially around election time. U.S. presidential candidate Pat Buchanan electrified the 1992 GOP National Convention with his fire-breathing “culture war” speech, in which he warned that the “Clinton and Clinton agenda,” (that is Bill and Hillary Clinton), would bring “homosexual rights” to the United States. Karl Rowe, the architect of George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, put same-sex marriage referenda in as many states as possible for the sole purpose of mobilizing so-called value voters. That year, 11 state anti-gay marriage referenda were put to the voters, including in the very important swing state of Ohio. The campaign also capitalized on the anger in conservative circles unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all remaining anti-sodomy laws in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump, despite his pledge at the 2016 GOP National Convention to protect LGBT Americans from violence and discrimination, ran on a platform described by gay Republicans as the GOP’s “most anti-LGBT platform” in the party’s 162-year history. The platform called for reversing the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling and for amending the federal constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Since the election, Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, or FADA, which calls for the federal government to allow individuals and business corporations to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. While these anti-gay stances no longer have the popular political appeal that they once had, they still serve the useful purpose of keeping social conservatives within the GOP’s fold.


If there is a silver lining to the gay backlash, it is that the backlash is forcing the international community to confront the issue of anti-gay violence and discrimination. In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, with the support of the United States, the European Union, and several Latin American nations, enacted the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. It was the first document of its kind for a UN agency. In May 2016, in the wake of the attack in Orlando, the UN Security Council issued a resolution condemning violence against LGBT people, the first time that the body had mentioned homosexuality. Soon after, the UN Human Rights Council announced the appointment of a “Gay Czar” to monitor LGBT violence around the world.

These international initiatives aim to undermine homophobia by sensitizing the world to the fact that despite securing rights once thought to be unattainable, gay people remain among the world’s most vulnerable minorities, even in some of the world’s most liberal societies. This is an unquestionably worthwhile goal. But faster and more effective change could come if the international community took a stronger stance against those regimes inclined to use gays as a political scapegoat and to employ homophobia as a political tool. The former administration of U.S. President Barack Obama took a strong stance on this issue, which is how Uganda’s toxic anti-gay bill was derailed. But based on his well-documented admiration for flagrant human rights violators, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, it seems unlikely that Trump will do the same.

Originally posted on Foreign Affairs

March 8, 2015

Out of the Closet Since 7 and Not Proud to be Gay

Gavin Fernando says he doesn’t understand the significance of the Mardi Gras parade.
Gavin Fernando says he doesn’t understand the significance of the Mardi Gras parade. Source: Twitter
OPINION( Appeared in Australia by  )
I’m not proud to be gay.
Out of the closet since grade seven. An unabashed Madonna enthusiast. Currently residing on the corner of Judy Garland Road and Smoulderingly Fierce Beyoncé Gif Lane.
Believe me, I’m not ashamed either. I just don’t understand Mardi Gras — the almighty gay pride parade.
I don’t understand the abundance of glitter. I don’t understand the hairy near-naked blokes grinding and wrestling in crotch-tight spandex at Fair Day, or swinging on float poles. I don’t understand the undeniable fact that sex — glorious as it is — is everywhere you look, walk and breathe. I mainly don’t understand the implication that I’m automatically connected to this display by means of my sexual orientation.
There is nothing wrong with flamboyance or sexual expression. But it’s discomforting being associated with an international event through such a shallow commonality. It’s like being signed up to a club you don’t actually want to be a part of, with no say in the matter.
I’m not a Friend Of Dorothy’s. Dorothy is more like that nagging acquaintance I stumble into on the street and promise I’ll meet for a drink soon, but never do.
Why should I feel ‘proud’ to be gay? The concept is as ludicrous as feeling ashamed to be gay. We’re proud of our achievements and goals; we don’t congratulate ourselves over things we didn’t control. I’m not proud to have black hair or relentlessly ethnic eyebrows. I just do.
At some point twenty-two years ago, I popped out of a uterus with both a penis and a penchant for penis. Don’t look at me, I had nothing to do with it. I was a sack of unsightly goo floating around in a womb, just minding my own business. No one’s fault — except nature’s. And maybe God’s. That’s right, Fred Nile — your mate.
Mike Sinclair and Steven Capp make their way down Oxford St in Sydney in preparation for
Mike Sinclair and Steven Capp make their way down Oxford St in Sydney in preparation for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Photo: John Appleyard. Source: News Corp Australia
Growing up, all I knew about the gay community was what I saw in Mardi Gras: sex, skin, booze, revealing outfits and perfect bodies combined with that bitchy face RuPaul makes when he bids the week’s runway loser farewell.
As a teenager my biggest concern — as opposed to coming out or learning what goes where — was that I’d one day feel obligated to be a part of it.
My observations at last year’s parade didn’t exactly include a conversation around gay rights. One fellow asked me for MDMA. Another bloke generously offered me MDMA. One particularly lovely young gentleman asked if I would like to insert something of mine into his mouth in the toilet cubicle. It was more or less a sweaty orgy of glitter-coated body parts.
My experience with the parade is not to suggest gay rights aren’t relevant in Australia.
They absolutely are, without a doubt.
With higher recorded rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse and ongoing reports of marginalisation, being gay in itself is still a battle for many.
Beyond Blue found LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidal tendencies of any Australian group — fourteen times higher than their heterosexual peers. The same report finds up to 80% will experience public insult.
On the flip side, there’s been some damn good progress. The number of same-sex couples recorded by census data has nearly quadrupled in the past twenty years, suggesting growing social acceptance. Public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high of 72 per cent — and growing.
Miss Ellaneous, David Dundee, Marzi Panne, Sianne Tate, Vogue Magazine, Danarose Dizon, w
Miss Ellaneous, David Dundee, Marzi Panne, Sianne Tate, Vogue Magazine, Danarose Dizon, who are all part of Darwin's first float in tomorrows Mardi Gras. Photo: Justin Lloyd. Source: News Corp Australia
Being gay is more normalised than ever: in fantastic Aussie icons like Ian Thorpe and Sia, who can come out without facing the same backlash they’d likely have experienced twenty years ago; in floats that support gay members of the armed forces, gay religious groups, gay parents and children; in slowly but surely moving away from discrimination.
But I fail to see this at the forefront of the Mardi Gras parade, when the main point of significance seems to be what you’re going to wear, how much skin you’re going to show and which diva tunes you’re going to blast while you’re grinding on a float.
I fail to see how sex and sexual orientation are interchangeable terms. I fail to see how leather-studded arse-cracks and sequined neon short-shorts should be construed as a political statement.
I’m sick of being asked what I’m going to wear, who I’m going to sleep with, or what drugs I plan on taking. I’m sick of the assumption that this is an annual holiday I need to celebrate.
I’m sick of the idea that you can “lump” a sizeable group together in a branded event, based on a commercialised, hypersexualised party. I’m sick of anybody automatically referring to me as ‘queer’.
Because I feel no different to my straight friends. Because my sexual orientation is so unremarkable — so batshit boring — that my idea of gay rights is holding hands with my boyfriend and walking down the street without anybody so much as raising an eyelid.
Because my sexual orientation is not a spectacle. Because being gay is not my most defining feature. It’s downright ordinary.
And that, right there, is equality.
Follow @GavinDFernando on Twitter

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