#boicotlacomay: No profit from homophobia and racism

January 25, 2013

boycottlacomay

In early January 2013, Puerto Rican chat show SuperXclusivo (featuring puppet character La Comay) was cancelled after a sustained boycott campaign. Spark writer Ian Anderson interviews Carlos Rivera, who co-founded the Facebook group and played a leading role in the campaign.

The Spark: What were the initial problems with La Comay, and SuperXclusivo, that triggered this campaign?

CR: For more than a decade, the show had had issues with hate speech and hate “humour”. In 2010 this came to head with extreme homophobic comments. The TV station was forced by a huge LGBTT campaign to create a public promise to change. A few months later the format re-emerged.

It also had moved from being a celebrity gossip and crime sensationalism show and into politics - supporting right wing politicians, draconian law-and-order “solutions to crime” and so on. The latest of this effort had been the unsuccessful attempt to eliminate bail rights earlier in 2012. When we won that referendum, we celebrated the fact we won not against the political establishment, but against La Comay. It was there I was drawn to the issue in a definitive manner.

The immediate trigger was the disappearance of a young man in the middle of a robbery. This kidnapping and eventual murder generated incredible social media attention and sympathy.

Then the show made hateful comments towards the victim, to the extreme of implying he had it coming for frequenting a red light district. The sympathy for the victim was high, so the comments fell on sensitive ears.

The Spark: Who benefits from this bigotry? What are the consequences?

CR: Basically the right wing and conservative hate mongers - and the colonialist project benefit.

The fundamental consequence was the agenda being set from the right and from the reactionary perspective - even on unpopular issues. For example, the majority of Puerto Ricans are opposed to the death penalty, and the colonial constitution prohibits it. Yet this show made it seem as it was an open question, and had an effect of putting the anti-death penalty forces in the defensive. The loss of this voice has already had an explosive effect - a visible one - in how the debates happen at the street level. There is a sense that the silent majority is progressive - which it is - but there was not this sense before.

The Spark: Your “Boicot a La Comay” Facebook page has over 75,000 likes, can you talk about this growth?

CR: About half of it happened in the first 24 hours. It was entirely grassroots. Read the rest of this entry »


“Stonewall was an unpermitted action” – Gay Liberation Front 1969-1979

January 19, 2013
Gay contingent, Vietnam War protest, 1971. Photo by Diana Davies, from the NY Public Library.

Gay contingent, Vietnam War protest, 1971. Photo by Diana Davies, from the NY Public Library.

This article is adapted from a public talk by Ian Anderson, active in the Workers Party and Queer Avengers. The talk was originally delivered at Wellington’s Marriage Equality Conference in November-December 2012. It gives a snapshot of the “Gay Liberation” movement of the late 1960s-1970s.

In 1969, the night of the Stonewall riot, was a very hot, muggy night. We were in the Stonewall [bar] and the lights came on. We all stopped dancing. The police came in…

We were led out of the bar and they cattled us all up against the police vans. The cops pushed us up against the grates and the fences. People started throwing pennies, nickels, and quarters at the cops.

And then the bottles started. And then we finally had the morals squad barricaded in the Stonewall building, because they were actually afraid of us at that time. They didn’t know we were going to react that way…

It was street gay people from the Village out front-homeless people who lived in the park in Sheridan Square outside the bar-and then drag queens behind them and everybody behind us. The Stonewall Inn telephone lines were cut and they were left in the dark…

All of us were working for so many movements at that time. Everyone was involved with the women’s movement, the peace movement, the civil-rights movement. We were all radicals. I believe that’s what brought it around.

You get tired of being just pushed around.

-Sylvia Rivera, interview by Leslie Feinberg (Workers World Party 1998)

The 1969 Stonewall Riots, which galvanised the Gay Liberation movement throughout the First World, are a well-documented but little understood rupture. On June 28th, 1969, a regular police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a queer-friendly bar, triggered resistance from marginal queer communities in New York City. This event can only be understood in the context of a wider process of social transformation, while the ensuing political project – “Gay Liberation” – contained internal contradictions which are still relevant today. Read the rest of this entry »


Same-sex mirages: Beyond the marriage debate

October 22, 2012

Equal marriage rally in WellingtonBy Anne Russell
Originally published on scoop.co.nz

A thousand people marched to Parliament in support of Louisa Wall’s same-sex marriage billon the 29th of August. As a conscience vote, the bill drew support from almost all parties, with the exception of New Zealand First, and passed its first reading with 80-40 votes. Such widespread support shows that the same-sex marriage debate seems to be almost an afterthought, piggybacking the Civil Union debate which happened in 2005. Moreover, unlike providing employment security, healthcare and housing for sexual minorities who have been discriminated against, changing the definition of marriage will not cost any money. Hopefully, the passage of the bill will be short and sweet.

 However, as the Wellington-based Queer Avengers said, “we’re only just getting started”. Jacinda Ardern’s same-sex adoption bill was drawn from the ballot on Thursday morning, and will make for a more difficult and prolonged debate. It seems that New Zealand culture is about to undergo a rigorous assessment of what constitutes both relationships and family. Read the rest of this entry »


Queer Avengers discussion: beyond marriage

July 24, 2012

By writers for The Spark

On Thursday the 19th of July, at radical social centre 128 Abel Smith Street, Wellington group The Queer Avengers held a discussion on queer activism and marriage. With two MPs’ bills in the parliamentary ballot box, the Queer Avengers decided it was time to take a stance on the question of marriage equality.

Until recently the Queer Avengers have largely abstained from the marriage discussion, with views ranging from a full endorsement of marriage equality to rejecting the institution of marriage altogether. The group had concluded that while members have a range of views on marriage, there should be no legal distinction between same sex and different sex couples. This discussion meeting aimed to flesh that position out. Read the rest of this entry »


Homophobia still a real issue in New Zealand

May 29, 2012

Article by Robert Read, a Workers Party supporter based in Christchurch.

James Froch will present a talk on Queer Liberation and Socialism at Socialism 2012.

On Saturday the 26th of May 2012 at around 7pm an 18 year old, Zakk Davies, was walking home after dropping some friends off at The Viaduct. He was approached by three males.

These males began to flirt with Zakk which he believes is because they had thought he was a female. Even though he was dressed like any other teen male on a Saturday night in jeans and a t-shirt, once they realized he obviously wasn’t they very quickly became aggressive towards him. They began to punch him until he fell to the ground at which point they proceeded to punch and kick him mainly in the abdomen.
He remembers, while they were kicking and punching him, they were shouting some of the most disgusting homophobic comments he had ever heard. He recalled that they were “Calling me disgusting and a burden on society”, but the worst comment he can remember was that they “wish they could do to the gays what Hitler did to the Jews”.

At some point they were kicking him in the head and he must have been knocked-out, as he awoke 3 and a half hours later in gutter. Bloody, crying and bruised he got up still not sure entirely of what happened and walked to the next place he knew would feel safe, his friend’s place.
He has posted on his facebook account a picture of his face, battered and bruised, with this statement.
“I am uploading this not for sympathy, but as a warning to the gay community. When in town at night, always stay as a group because homophobia is still around, and there are people out there that want to hurt you. Thank you to the 3 guys that decided to beat me up last night, for taking it out on my body and avoiding my face.”

His facebook profile has been flooded with messages of support and outrage that this is still happening not only around the world but in our own back yard. Zakk said his “spirit will never be broken” and that he strives to use his experience to help the gay community.

A comment from Gay Bi NZ online community personality Ricardo Edwards says “It saddens and angers me greatly that atrocities such as this continue against members of the gay community. Against members of the HUMAN RACE. This incident has further fuelled a desire that has already been burning in me for some time, and that is to rid our beautiful country of the hatred and bigotous attitude that still lingers in ugly pockets throughout our society. Our goal, our dream, and it WILL be our reality. True equality.”

Patty Boy and Zakk d’Larte performing at Out in the Square in Wellington


Queer Avengers leaflet: Germaine Greer’s transphobia, a “ghastly parody” of women’s liberation

March 14, 2012

Germaine Greer has a decades-long history of fighting for her vision of women’s liberation. She also has a decades-long history of attacking transfolk, targeting particular venom at transwomen even in recent years.

In 1972, Greer was arrested in this country for using the word “bullshit.” We’re here to say that transphobia is bullshit.

‘Outing’ transwomen

Over the 1980s and 1990s, Germaine Greer participated in a witch-hunt against transwomen in prominent positions.

In 1996, Greer outed Rachel Padman, a physicist at an all-women college at Cambridge University. She stated that the “dignity of this college is marred by this unfortunate event.” Greer apparently had no interest in the dignity of Rachel Padman, who survived Greer’s repeated tabloid attacks and retained her position at Cambridge.

Refusing imposed roles

Greer treats gender variance as a threat to women’s liberation, stating in her book The Whole Woman that by respecting the right to self-identify, a woman “weakens her claim to have a sex of her own.”

Any vision of liberation that doesn’t respect the right to self-identify, to refuse imposed gender roles, will simply reproduce oppression. We need to support liberation for all women, for all people, for the right to refuse all imposed roles.

Transphobia in the 21st Century

As transfolk have become increasingly organised and developed a louder collective voice, many feminists dropped the overt transphobia. However Greer continues to insist on the importance of transphobia to women’s liberation.

Caster Semenya, whose gender has been called into question.

In a 2009 article on Caster Semenya, a particularly “blokish” sportswoman, Greer took the opportunity to take a swipe at transwomen:

Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so.

By stubbornly continuing to attack women on the trans spectrum, Greer herself has become a “ghastly parody” of women’s liberation. Any liberation movement that limits itself to cis-women will not progress.

The Queer Avengers is holding two events on transphobia and alternatives in the immediate future:

Queer Avengers Discussion Group: Gender Trouble
What is the difference between sex and gender?
What is the relationship between imposed gender roles and gender identity/expression?
How can we fight imposed gender roles, and why is it important?
TONIGHT (Wednesday March 14th) 7pm Anvil House

Press conference on media coverage of gender variance
TOMORROW (Thursday March 15th) 4:30pm Anvil House


Queer Avengers press release: Germaine Greer glitter-bombed

March 14, 2012

On March 14th at the Embassy Theatre, members of the Queer Avengers “glitter-bombed” feminist writer Germaine Greer, touring New Zealand as a part of Writers and Readers Week.

Glitter-bombing, or throwing glitter on public figures, has gained prominence internationally as a way to highlight transphobia and queerphobia. Greer has a history of denouncing transwomen; outing prominent transwomen and describing them as “ghastly parodies” of womanhood.

Transphobic feminism is so 20th Century,” asserted Stacey of the Queer Avengers. “It wasn’t okay then and it’s not okay now. Women’s liberation must mean the right to refuse imposed gender roles, to fight for diverse gender expression.”

The Queer Avengers also handed out leaflets stating “transphobia is bullshit.” Greer was arrested in 1972 while touring New Zealand, for saying the word “bullshit.”

The Queer Avengers recently stormed Fairfax Media headquarters in Wellington for giving a platform to anti-trans sentiments. The group will be holding a press conference on media coverage of gender variance on Thursday the 15th of March, 1:30pm at Anvil House.


Fairfax opinion piece: Media profit from bigotry

February 29, 2012

As a result of Friday’s action against media transphobia, members of the Queer Avengers (and friends) were offered an editorial to counter Rosemary McLeod’s. This piece was co-written by Ian Anderson and Rosie-Jimson Healey.

EGO-TRIP: compound noun, informal. An activity done in order to increase one’s sense of self-importance.

One would think that giving birth is an activity unlikely to be deposited scathingly in the ego-trip category.

Perhaps bringing a new life into the world does increase one’s sense of self-importance; it is an astonishing example of the power of the human body when a perfect tiny human emerges from a uterus that has casually grown to 500 times its usual size.

Not to mention the presentation of a helpless, beetroot-coloured miniature human being. Even so, we don’t imagine many would link the term “ego-trip” to this particular moment in most parents lives.

However, this was the case in Rosemary McLeod’s piece that bore the headline Why I feel sorry for the children of ego-trippers (February 23). An innocent enough title, certainly not one that would sound immediate alarm bells in the reproductive rights, hate speech and eugenics departments. Read the rest of this entry »


Fairfax Report: Trans-gender community protest against column

February 24, 2012

About 50 protesters from Wellington’s Queer Avengers lobby group picketed the offices of The Dominion Post at lunchtime levelling charges of transphobia at the paper, its parent company Fairfax and the wider media.

The controversy arose yesterday when veteran Dominion Post columnist Rosemary McLeod published an opinion piece entitled Why I feel for the kids of ego trippers.

The column dealt with the issue of transgender parent Thomas Beatie who has given birth and appeared on television shows and in numerous media reports as a result.

Protester Sara Fraser said McLeod’s column was “appalling” and was part of a transphobic trend in the New Zealand media.

“She claimed not to know anything about the topic but still wrote about it.”

Ms Fraser said of particular concern was the use of the split pronoun he/she that McLeod used to refer to Beatie.

She said the over-riding issue was the column made transgender people look like unfit parents.

“Rosemary needs to wake up and smell the 21st century - such hatred is not acceptable in this day and age.”

Skye Shaddix, a 17-year-old female-to-male transgender person, said there was no reason why “trans-people should not be allowed to have kids.”

Shaddix and his 19-year-old boyfriend -  also female-to-male transgender - were considering having children in their late 20s.

“We should not be judged on how we were born - we have the working body parts, so why can’t we have the kids?”

The protesters gathered outside The Dominion Post‘s Boulcott St offices in downtown Wellington carrying placards bearing slogans like “transphobia is bullshit” and chanting “hey hey, ho ho transphobia’s got to go” and  “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t f#$k with us.”

Speakers at the protest said the media was profiting from racism, bigotry, homophobia and transphobia.

Queer Avengers’ Brooklyne Kennedy called McLeod’s column the “asinine rhetoric of the past” to cheers from the other protesters.

The group proposed a one day boycott of Fairfax’s Stuff website before going into the ground floor lobby of The Dominion Post to deliver a letter to management.

Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney said the column was carried on dompost.co.nz, and in print, in sections clearly  identified as opinion or comment.

“The piece represents Ms McLeod’s opinion and, while I accept that not everyone would agree with it, and may even have been affronted by it, I believe that when balanced against the principle of free expression, it would have been going a step too far to have banned it,” Ms Courtney said. [ed note: private newspapers select what to print and what not to print.]

- © Fairfax NZ News


Queer Avengers protest media transphobia

February 23, 2012

Members of the Queer Avengers, a queer and trans activist group, have called a protest against a transphobic article by Rosemary McLeod. The rally is taking place at 12:30 Friday 23rd February, outside the headquarters of Fairfax Media, who own the Dominion Post.

McLeod’s article states that transmen are in fact women, repeatedly using the pronoun “he/she.” Outrage has erupted online, on Twitter and elsewhere. The Queer Avengers event is circulating widely on Facebook, with over 100 down to attend in the space of an hour.

While a Dominion Post spokesperson says the article was merely Rosemary McLeod’s ‘opinion,’ protesters point out that the Dominion Post provide a platform for such opinions.

“They’re just profiting off bigotry,” says Queer Avengers activist Emily Haskell. “It happens throughout the media, and we won’t stand for it.”

McLeod asserts that she is worried for the kids of transmen. However the Queer Avengers note that in another article printed on the same day, a US study noted that children who express themselves in ways contrary to their percieved gender are often targeted for abuse, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder. “Transphobia hurts children and parents,” asserts Queer Avengers activist Stephen Jackson.

The Queer Avengers formed out of a ‘Queer the Night’ march with around 300 attendants in 2011. They have called a press conference on Thursday the 15th of March to discuss press coverage of gender variance, following on from the rally at Fairfax headquarters.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers