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Miners campaigner Gethin Roberts to visit Southmead Hospital to mark LGBT History Month

 

Aaron Sims, Reporter / Friday 12 February 2016 / News

Southmead Hospital

Mr Roberts will be visiting Southmead Hospital next week as part of a series of events marking LGBT History Month

 

A FOUNDING member of a lesbian and gay group that supported striking UK miners in the 1980’s, is visiting Southmead Hospital next week to help mark LGBT History Month.

Gethin Roberts, a founding member of Lesbian & Gays Support the Miners, depicted in the hit 2014 film Pride, will visit the hospital on February 17-18, as part of a series of events organised by North Bristol NHS Trust.
On Wednesday, February 17, Mr Roberts will be present at a special screening of Pride, taking place in the Hospital’s Learning and Research centre at 5pm, and the following day, he will take part in a seminar from 11am to 1pm.
To close the month Cheryl Morgan, a presenter on Bristol’ Ujima radio station, will be hosting a trans-awareness seminar on Wednesday, February 24 from 10.45am.

Both events are free for members of the public.

Unite the Union, Bristol Health Branch chairman, Phil Hedges, said: “We are delighted to support the events for LGBT History Month at North Bristol NHS Trust.

“Everyone is welcome to attend the events to find out more about LGBT people in a social setting and to recognise the struggle for rights at work.

 

Britain’s concentration camps for gay men

 

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Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

Stonewall Housing to investigate how the older LGBT community live

Gay Times LogoRainbow Flag

Stonewall Housing have announced a pioneering study into the need for specialist housing for the older LGBT community.

The housing advice and support provider has been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Commonweal Housing to carry out their study, which will establish the demand for dedicated LGBT housing.

CEO of Stonewall Housing, Bob Green, said: “The feasibility study is a great opportunity to really investigate the housing needs and requirements of the older LGBT community.

“At present there are no older LGBT housing schemes in the UK and we will be looking to Europe and the USA for examples of how such schemes can provide live in safe and supportive housing.”

In 2015, the National LGB&T Partnership survey found that 33% of respondents felt unsafe in residential settings and only 13% were satisfied with their care.

Bob continued: “We have worked with older LGBT people around the UK in recent years to ensure their voice is heard, and that housing providers recognise their needs – this study will take us one step closer to ensuring that the wishes of the LGBT community become a reality.”

The Stonewall Housing Feasibility Study will be released in April 2016.

Last year it was announced that Britain would see its first LGBT retirement home within the next three years, either in London or Brighton.

The organisation behind the project said: “If you don’t have your own children, and if you have fractured family relationships, which is a possibility, then you would not have the support networks that many older people count on.”

Will Stabbing Attack Tear Apart Israel's LGBT Community?

Fractured Gay Pride Flag

When an ultra-Orthodox fanatic named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people at the Jerusalem Gay Pride march in July — 16-year-old Shira Banki later died of her wounds — Schlissel also fractured Israel’s self-image as a global beacon for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

For years, Israeli diplomats have used their country’s impressive record on LGBT issues to score political points on the world stage. But the picture they painted was of Tel Aviv, the so-called gay capital of the Middle East, with its gay and lesbian bars and beaches, and miles of rainbow bunting unfurled ahead of the raucous annual pride parade. Forty miles to the east, Jerusalem’s gay community feels like a stifled minority.

As the broad LGBT movement in Israel takes stock of the attack, the differences between the two societies has come to the fore. Three days after the stabbing, Tel Aviv activists declined to travel to Jerusalem to protest the violence, instead staging a separate rally in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir park. The Tel Avivians had already planned a memorial service that evening to coincide with the six year anniversary of a fatal shooting at a local gay youth center. But Jerusalemites still felt stung by the decision.

“When this happened the expectation was that everyone would drop everything and come and be in solidarity in Jerusalem,” said Tom Canning, spokesman of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. “We wouldn’t be our small group of hundreds of activists, we would be our group of activists with thousands behind us. There was a strong sense of disappointment, I would even say disbelief, that [Tel Avivians] were deciding to go ahead with their own event.”

Tel Aviv’s rally drew major politicians, with impassioned speeches by Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. Though President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the Jerusalem protest, activists there bemoaned the disunity between the two communities that they said feeds into Tel Aviv’s image as the only safe haven for gays in Israel.

“The Tel Aviv-based organizations are giving hand to creating and strengthening an LGBT ghetto in Tel Aviv,” said Canning.

The gay rights movement in Israel has its roots in Tel Aviv in the 1970s, with the founding of the national Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association, known as the Agudah. One of the first public pride events took place in Kings of Israel Square, now known as Rabin Square, in the Tel Aviv city center.

In the 1990s, the fledgling movement was buoyed by a “legal revolution,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Alon Harel wrote in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Within a few short years, the Knesset banned workplace discrimination against gay people , the Israel Defense Forces ensured their equal treatment — 19 years before the United States army did the same — and, following a high court order, El Al airlines began giving free tickets to the partners of gay employees.

Then, in 2009, a gunman entered a Tel Aviv gay youth center and opened fire, killing two. Six years later, the perpetrator has still not been found. The attack traumatized LGBT Israelis, but it also sparked a national conversation about their rights. Today, Tel Aviv’s gay community is central to the city’s identity and politics. Even politicians from the right, such as Likud minister Miri Regev, have appeared at the city’s gay pride parade, which drew 100,000 Israelis and tourists in 2015. Contrast that to Jerusalem, where only left and center-left politicians show up, and marchers typically number only about 5,000.

For Tel Aviv’s well-established LGBT community, the next frontier is same-sex marriage. But while legalizing gay marriage would benefit all Israelis, it’s a distant priority for gay people in Jerusalem, who are focused on survival.

“There are two voices here,” said Sattath. “One is the voice of Tel Aviv that seeks freedom of marriage, like in the United States, and that is a very difficult goal to achieve, but it is a valid goal. The other voice is that of Jerusalem. The majority of gay Jerusalemites are so oppressed that they can’t even dream of marriage; they need education and societal change.”

Jerusalem’s activists say that they face a combination of municipal neglect and incitement from ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians who see their parade as an “abomination.” Jewish Home Knesset member Betzalel Yoel Smotrich even took to Facebook after the stabbing to call the parade an “attempt to besmirch traditional Jewish family values.”

“The message for years has been that we are desecrating the holy city of Jerusalem,” said Canning. “People say, ‘It’s horrible that someone stabbed us and attacked us, but why you are you doing this in Jerusalem?’”

On the official level, Jerusalem’s LGBT community has had to fight its way to recognition. For years, the Jerusalem municipality refused to fund the Jerusalem Open House, even though it provided services to thousands of Jerusalemites and thus was entitled to public support. In 2010, after years of legal wrangling, the high court ordered the municipality to pay $120,000 to the Open House in compensation.

The seemingly careless policing of Pride — Schlissel had recently been let out of prison for carrying out a similar attack on the same march in 2005 — only heightened the feelings of vulnerability among gay Jerusalemites.

Jerusalem’s LGBT activists say that education is the key to acceptance in their city and beyond. According to Sattath, all secular schools in Israel have the option to include an LGBT-themed curriculum. But she wants it to be a central component of Israeli education rather than an add-on. Eventually she would like to see LGBT issues addressed in Orthodox and Arab schools as well.

“Extremists have to be nourished somewhere, and they are nourished by a society that ignores us and silences us, and where homophobia is very, very prevalent,” she said.

Sattath said that she has been buoyed by the solidarity of other Israelis. Many showed support by changing their Facebook photos to a rainbow flag with a candle. Two Israeli celebrities — Labor politician Itzik Shmuli, of Lod, and Tel Aviv journalist Keren Neubach — publicly came out after the stabbing. But Orthodox gay Israelis in places like Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh found themselves burrowing deeper into the closet.

“[The stabbing] has created an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell the truth to tell their families, their close friends,” said Ron Yosef, founder of Hod, an organization for Orthodox gay men and lesbians.

In Jerusalem there is a feeling that LGBT leaders have no choice but to work within the city’s conservative culture to change religious attitudes about their existence. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, activists are vigilant about politicians trying to score political points at the expense of their community. Naftali Bennett, a minister from the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, was turned away from the Tel Aviv solidarity rally when he refused to sign a document to advance gay rights in Israel. Bennett’s party opposes gay marriage in Israel.

Jerusalem activists, by contrast, opted against such a litmus test at their own rally.

“This was in order to allow everyone from the entire political spectrum and the religious spectrum to come and speak freely against homophobia and violence,” Canning said. “We didn’t want to turn this into a political event.” Bennett chose not to attend the rally in Jerusalem.

After the protests, Tel Aviv activists made a belated gesture toward Jerusalem when the Agudah chartered a bus to Jerusalem for a vigil for Banki, the victim of the stabbing attack.

And some Tel Aviv activists are acknowledging it’s time to look past the Tel Aviv “ghetto” to Jerusalem as the new battleground for gay rights.

“The real fight is in Jerusalem,” said Mickey Gitzin, a Tel Aviv city council member and gay activist. “Many times our opponents want to keep us in the ‘ghetto’ in Tel Aviv. They say, ‘This is your city, stay there.’ But we are here, we are everywhere, and it is time for us to speak up.”

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at Zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter, @naomizeveloff

Read more:

Why Star Wars Still Gives This Gay Kid Hope

Jase Peeples (Right)

“Come on, son. We’re going to be late,” my dad said as he encouraged me to slip my 5-year-old feet into my favorite pair of red KangaROOS. “You don’t want to miss the new Star Wars.” I had no idea what this “Star Wars was, but the way my father, stepmother, aunt Cindy, and uncle Bruce were talking about it, I was certain it was supposed to be something good. However, I wasn’t convinced.

Even at 5 years old I had already begun to realize I wasn’t like other boys my age. I had no interest in sports, preferring instead to dance around my room to my copy of Disney’s Disco Mickey on my Fisher-Price record player and loving any chance I got to play with my older cousin’s Easy-Bake Oven rather than the Hot Wheels toys that littered my bedroom floor. I knew what I was “supposed” to like, but the things that caught my young eye didn’t often fall into the predetermined “for boys” category. I was a sassy, effeminate, imaginative boy who felt stuffed animals were superior to toy guns and loved gathering kids together on the playground to make up our own adventures in the merry old land of Oz rather than play something boring, like cowboys and indians, with the other boys.

So when we got to the theater and began waiting in what I was certain was the longest line ever, I was sure I was going to have to suffer through a film that couldn’t possibly be as good as my family said. But as the movie began and the words “The Empire Strikes Back” started to scroll up the screen, I was immediately transported to a galaxy far, far away. For the next two hours and four minutes I sat transfixed by the sprawling space saga, but as impressive as the universe of aliens, starships, and lightsabers was, I found I was completely captivated by two characters that had a profound impact on me that day.

Luke Skywalker was unlike any of the leading men I’d seen before. The typical hero machismo that Harrison Ford played up with undeniable charm as Han Solo was nowhere to be found in Mark Hamill’s portrayal of the less butch son of Skywalker. All the ingredients that make a great hero were still there — courage, strength, honestly — but because they weren’t dripping with the trappings of traditional masculinity, Luke resonated with me on a level I’d never experienced before. Looking back, I now understand why my heart beat a little faster every time a scene of Luke training on Dagobah in his sleeveless undershirt flickered across the screen or why I gasped when Darth Vader sliced off his son’s hand during their lightsaber duel. Luke was my first crush. Hamill’s portrayal of a kinder, gentler hero made the character feel approachable, and I was infatuated with him by the time the end credits rolled.

Jase Peeples (9 Years Old)

Pictured above: Peeples (at 9) posing with his a Speeder Bike and Scout Trooper action figure on Christmas Eve, 1983.

But while the young Jedi was awakening a force of one kind in me, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia made my young imagination jump to light speed. Every aspect of my own personality that earned me ridicule on the playground was a strength for the rebel princess. Leia was strong without compromising her femininity. She could serve sassy one-liners that rivaled Han Solo’s, and she still managed to look fabulous whether she was running through the belly of a space worm or brandishing a blaster on Bespin. I may have adored Luke, but Leia was my hero, and I soon became obsessed with Star Wars, snapping up every bit of merchandise I could get from anEmpire Strikes Back sleeping bag and T-shirts to the awesome action figures and play sets from Kenner toys.

Star Wars became a safe space for me, a fantasy world that was acceptable to visit on the playground or at home — one that never brought the ridicule that accompanied playing with Barbie dolls or skipping down the sidewalk singing, “Follow the yellow brick road.” My Star Wars action figure collection — which included Princess Leia in every available outfit — gave me the opportunity to role-play as characters that had a wide range of personality traits. I could be the sinister Darth Vader, the prissy C-3PO, the handsome Luke Skywalker, or the fierce Princess Leia. It only depended on the mood I was in.

When Return of the Jedi was released, my love of the space opera dramatically increased. The revelation that Luke was Leia’s brother made it easier to see him as an object of affection — though at the time I didn’t fully understand that’s what he was for me — since there was now no chance of a pesky heterosexual romance getting in the way. Their relationship was one that paralleled those I was forming with girls in my life at a time when other boys my age were just beginning to notice girls in another way.

Jase Peeples (9 Years Old)

Pictured above: Peeples with the Ewok Village play set.

Topping it all off was the introduction of the Ewoks, warrior teddy bears who could take down even the biggest bullies and were about the coolest thing I had seen.  Carrying around a teddy bear at my age would elicit giggles and laughs, but a plush Wicket the Ewok? Well, that was just awesome!

Years later I would realize many other themes inherent in the Star Wars films that resonated with me as a gay kid, and I discovered many others felt those stirrings in the Force as well. While the story of a young man who leaves behind his small town to become his true self isn’t exclusive to the LGBT population, there are elements within the films that parallel our lives, and viewing the movies through a queer lens only makes the journey that much more personal. It’s this universality that has made Star Wars a pop culture touchstone for so many different people, a modern myth for anyone who needed to overcome the adversity of their own Galactic Empire.

The Star Wars universe was not only a place where I could freely express myself as a boy who often felt like an outsider, it also gave me a way to connect with my peers socially that leveled the playing field. As I sat in the theater watching The Force Awakens this week, I realized how this new installment of the franchise has the opportunity to do the same for an even greater number of young people.

Jase Peeples and family.

Pictured above: Peeples rocks his favorite Princess Leia T-shirt. 

For the first time in a Star Wars film, a person of color isn’t a supporting character like Lando Calrissian or a wise teacher like Mace Windu who helps the heroes on their journey. Instead, John Boyega’s Finn is a character at the center of the story, finally giving young people of color a way to see themselves in a galaxy far, far away like they never have before.

Similarly, women hold positions of power in this film that were only hinted at in earlier instalments. Sure, Leia and Padme were strong, brave leaders, but as wonderful as they are, they were still side characters in a man’s story. In The Force Awakens, not only is Daisy Ridley’s Rey one of the two main characters, she’s a hero who greatly surpasses her female predecessors in the Star Wars films. She needs no man to rescue her and is fully capable of handling herself in a scuffle on the ground or a dogfight behind the controls of a starship. She’s stronger than Luke and twice as smart as Anakin.

However, Rey is far from the only powerful woman in Episode VII. From the return of Leia (now a general and the leader of the Resistance) to the mysterious Chrome-clad Stormtrooper Captain Phasma and the wise Maz Kanata (played by Lupita Nyong’o), it is the women who are both the action stars and the advisers in this film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has changed the game. Women and people of color are no longer represented by tokens and background players in a franchise that has been a global phenomenon for nearly 40 years. Images of Finn and Rey are currently plastered around every corner of the globe, even in countries where racist and sexist attitudes are more openly expressed than in the U.S., and those images bring with them the potential for social change around the world.

Jase Peeples and Family

It makes me smile thinking that a new generation of young girls and people of color will have an even better experience than the one I did on that Saturday in 1980. Millions of kids will leave the theater with a greater sense of what they can achieve because they saw someone like themselves projected on the screen. They won’t have to dig through alternate meanings or filter the movie through a different lens to feel included. Those images are already sculpted into action figures with multiple points of articulation, plastered on bags of potato chips, and adorn multiple pieces of activewear.

The images we see in entertainment influence our world view, not only in how we see ourselves, but in how we see others who are different. Disney and J.J. Abrams have used a globally loved piece of pop culture to move the needle forward for diversity with The Force Awakens, and that gives me hope that one day a young queer kid will have the chance to see a gay Jedi on the silver screen and realize that the Force is with him too … always.

JASE PEEPLES is The Advocate‘s entertainment editor and a contributor for Out and Plus magazine. He lives in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JasePeeples.

The 10 Best LGBT Documentaries of 2015 (USA)

 

Best of Enemies

This documentary covers the legendary televised 1968 political debates between liberal Gore Vidaland conservative William F. Buckley Jr., in which the two intellectuals didn’t always keep their rhetoric lofty — at one point Vidal called Buckley a “pro-crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responded by calling Vidal “queer” and threatening to punch him. Directed by Morgan Neville (an Oscar-winner forTwenty Feet From Stardom) and Robert Gordon, Best of Enemies is not only a master class in debate, it’s also one of the most entertaining films of the year.

Tig

In 2012, Tig Notaro made comic history when she joked about her cancer onstage at a club in Los Angeles. The heartfelt routine launched her into fame and the national spotlight. And Tig, a new Netflix movie, chronicles the aftermath, a story of a lesbian comedian and cancer survivor who is searching for meaning, love, and perhaps parenthood through surrogacy.

Tab Hunter Confidential

Hollywood’s all-American boy Tab Hunter is setting the record straight (by coming out as gay) in his new documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential. Based on his 2005 autobiography of the same title, the film by Jeffrey Schwarz (Vito, I Am Divine) explores how Hunter dealt with decades in the closet while making dozens of films and delves into as personal details like his love affair with Anthony Perkins. Sadly, Hunter’s struggle remains relevant in Tinseltown, as A-list stars are still grappling with the love that dare not speak its name. Perhaps they will find some courage from watching this insightful documentary.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story 

For nearly 30 years, Chuck Holmes’s Falcon Studios was the world’s largest producer of gay pornography, altering the way a generation of gay men saw themselves and their sexuality. Thestory of its founder is told in this insightful new documentary, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story,directed by Mike Stabile. Through archival footage and interviews with porn stars, as well as Holmes’s long-term partner, Steven Scarborough, the documentary shows how one man achieved wealth and fame by reinventing how mainstream culture perceived gay men, while navigating the dangerous early days of the adult film industry.

RELATED | An Oral History of Early Gay Porn

Do I Sound Gay?

Is there such a thing as “gay voice”? That’s what David Thorpe’s documentary explores, with input from celebs including Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Don Lemon, Dan Savage, David Sedaris, and George Takei. A hit at film festivals and with critics, Do I Sound Gay? features conversations with linguists, family members, and strangers on the street to weigh in about one of the most personal and perhaps revealing parts of ourselves: our voice.

Larry Kramer in Love and Anger 

It’s been a landmark year for Larry Kramer. The HIV activist turned 80, released the book The American People: Volume 1, and was nominated for a slew of awards for the recent HBO adaptation of his 1985 play The Normal Heart. And now he’s the subject of a new documentary, Larry Kramer in Love and Anger, which documents his fight as a firebrand activist to make AIDS a national issue and change public health policy. Don’t miss the making of one of the LGBT community’s great activists.

The Glamour & The Squalor

Directed by Marq Evans, The Glamour & The Squalor tells the story of the legendary rock radio DJ Marco Collins. As a gatekeeper and great lover of music, Collins helped make the careers of bands like Weezer, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam by broadcasting their songs to the public. But in his private life, the Seattle-based figure was battling demons and struggling to keep his sexuality out of the public eye. Archival footage, animated re-creations, and interviews with artists like Carrie Brownstein, Macklemore, and Collins himself help tell one of the year’s most glam tales.

The Royal Road

One of the year’s most poetic documentaries comes from filmmaker Jenni Olson, who in addition to her cinematic contributions, is known as one of the founders of PlanetOut.com. Olson calls her new film, The Royal Road, “a cinematic essay in defense of remembering” as well as “a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity, the pursuit of unavailable women and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voice-over cameo by Tony Kushner.” What’s not to love?

Mala Mala

Mala Mala is a timely new documentary that shows portraits of the transgender community in Puerto Rico. A hairstylist, a prostitute, an activist, and a RuPaul’s Drag Race star (April Carrion) are several of the subjects interviewed by directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, who capture the discrimination and hardship that can come from one’s journey to selfhood.

A Sinner in Mecca

A gay Muslim filmmaker comes to term with his sexuality and his religion in A Sinner in Mecca. In this documentary, Parvez Sharma embarks on a hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca) in Saudi Arabia, where it is not only a crime to be gay, it’s punishable by death. It is also forbidden to film in Mecca, making Sharma’s film an unprecedented view into a place and culture off-limits to most of the world

The 10 Best LGBT Films of 2015

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i-am-michael-x750_2It’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to carol. Or at least, it’s time to sing our praises forCarol and the other LGBT cinematic standouts of the year.

Making a film with LGBT characters and themes is no easy task, even in a post–marriage equality country like the United States. Yet around the world, brave filmmakers continue to try, and they often succeed in creating stories that increase visibility and move the cultural needle for the LGBT community.

The Advocate salutes all these filmmakers and would like to give special recognition to several standout productions. Thus, here is a list of 10 of our favorite films from 2015 (in no specific order).

The New Girlfriend
Channeling Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock, The New Girlfriend is a gender-bending new film by François Ozon (Swimming Pool). Set in France, the plot centers on the relationship between the characters of Claire and David. David’s wife (and Claire’s best friend) has recently died, and her passing makes David come to terms with their gender identity. Claire is at first alarmed, and then is seduced by “The New Girlfriend” in her life, as were we.

Carol
It’s New York in the 1950s. You’re working as a shopgirl in a department store, when suddenly, you lock eyes with a gorgeous older woman in a fur coat. You sell her a train set, but she forgets her gloves on the counter. Perhaps you should give her a call. So begins the electrifying romance between Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett), women who develop a friendship and then something far deeper in a time when same-sex love still dared not speak its name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), the film was adapted for the screen by Phyllis Nagy from The Price of Salt, a 1952 romance novel written by Patricia Highsmith under the cover of a pen name. At the time, the story was highly unconventional, as its lesbian characters did not die or “meet the right man” or join a convent. It took decades before the world was ready for a film adaptation. At long last, audiences can see Carol in all its glory.

The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne delivers an astounding performance as 20th-century transgender icon Lili Elbe in director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. An adaptation of a book of the same name by David Ebershoff, the film follows the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener (played by Alicia Vikander) as their relationship evolves while the two navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey to discover her true self. “I hope others are as inspired by Lili’s story as I was and continue to be,” Redmayne told The Advocate. “At a time in which there were no predecessors that she knew of, she still had the absolute knowledge in herself of who she was and what she needed to do to liberate herself. The fact that she valued life and authenticity enough to give her everything and anything, I think that is extraordinary.”

Grandma
Grandma marks Lily Tomlin’s first lead role in a film in nearly three decades, which is one reason to celebrate. Another reason? The lesbian actress portrays a lesbian character — Ellie, a poet whose partner has recently died. The film, which has generated much-deserved acclaim for Tomlin’s performance, centers on the relationship between Ellie and her granddaughter as they go on a road trip together and confront their pain. What are grandmas for, darlin’?

Tangerine
Tangerine is one of the year’s most acclaimed independent darlings. Directed by Sean S. Baker and Chris Bergoch, the film follows the story of two friends, who also happen to be transgender sex workers, Alexandra and Sin-Dee Rella, across the backdrop of the saturated streets of Hollywood. And it’s shot entirely on an iPhone 5s. The story goes: Sin-Dee, after being released from prison, discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a white cisgender woman. Furious, she goes on a hunt for revenge and solicits Alexandra as an accomplice. And in the process, the friends show the audience a side of Los Angeles that is rarely seen in media. Nominated for four Spirit Awards, including acting nods for its leads, Tangerine is a must-see film.

Bessie
Queen Latifah stars as legendary bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie. Directed by out filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah), the production charts Smith’s rise to fame through the 1920s and ’30s as one of the greatest talents of her time. It also stars Oscar winner Mo’Nique as her mentor (and rumored lover) Ma Rainey. Ooh-la-la! Don’t miss this Emmy Award–winning production.

I Am Michael
Michael Glatze, a former LGBT activist, ignited a firestorm of controversy when he publicly renounced his homosexuality and became an antigay born-again Christian. This “ex-gay” story is told cinematically in I Am Michael by writer and director Justin Kelly, who based the screenplay on a New York Times Magazine article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. Glatze himselfpraised lead actor James Franco, whose performance he credits with being part of his own “gigantic healing process.” The rest of the cast, including Zachary Quinto as his ex-partner, do a wonderful job of telling a story that could have been quite judgmental but succeeds in recounting one man’s struggle for identity.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, known for his 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin, is depicted in new, sensual light in the international biopic Eisenstein in Guanajuato. The film, which shows Eisenstein’s relationship with another man during his time in Mexico, has incited controversy in Eisenstein’s native Russia, which considers him a national hero from its cultural past. Directed by British filmmaker Peter Greenaway, Eisenstein in Guanajuato has been attacked for its accuracy (or lack thereof), but it has already proved itself a relevant, passionate, and much-needed film in a world that still tries to erase LGBT history.

Boy Meets Girl
Boy Meets Girl is a romantic comedy that crosses gender lines and is set (and was filmed in) rural Kentucky. The plot centers around four characters in a small town: a transgender woman (Michelle Hendley), a barista who aspires to be a fashion designer, a car mechanic (Michael Welch), a Southern belle (Alexandra Turshen), and a military veteran. As each of them grapples with love and identity, Boy Meets Girl itself becomes a quiet revolution in how a film with LGBT characters can be made.

Girlhood
French filmmaker Céline Sciamma is known for her coming-of-age classics like Water Lilies andTomboy, which explore how young people grapple with sexuality and gender identity. Her latest film, the acclaimed Girlhood, is no less revolutionary in its portrayal of a group of African-French teens navigating race, gender, class, and their own sexual identities in the Paris suburbs

 

Editorial

 

Now this list is what The Advocate has published, the question for our readers which LGBT film do they think is the best in 2015 – please let us know by writing in on our comments board and we will gather your votes and publish them.

 

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All of us: New educational resource to promote LGBT diversity in Australian schools

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27 November 2015

The program is funded by the federal government and will be available to teachers next year

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Targeted at Year 7 and 8 students (12/13 years olds), All of US is the first resource of its kind to be launched and funded by the Australian federal government’s Department of Education.

The practical teaching kit was commissioned by LGBTI youth group Minus 18 and Safe Schools Coalition Australia which has more than 470 member schools dedicated to promoting LGBT diversity and acceptance in schools and reducing bullying against same-sex attracted and gender diverse students.

All Of Us has been developed to have a real impact on student attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and to encourage whole school change that affirms and supports the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school,’ says the official website.

Comprising seven video lessons, student handouts and posters, the program will form part of the health and physical education curriculum, and available for download and to all schools in both the public and private sector.

The videos explore the impact of homophobia and transphobia on students and schools, and explain what it’s like for a transgender young person to come out and affirm their gender.

Claiming that the Safe Schools Coalition Australia will ‘teach kids gay and lesbian techniques’, the Australian Christian Lobby has called for the program to be axed, the Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier this month.

Sally Richardson, national program director of Safe Schools said the latest resource has been driven and developed by teachers, and was in response to teachers who have for a long time asked for ‘additional support in the classroom to help teach topics of gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex.’

New Proud To Play sports festival to be held in New Zealand this February

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on Dec 2, 2015

 

 

Proud to Play NZ

New Zealand organizers of the first-ever Proud To Play festival are excited to bring an LGBT sporting event to Aukland in 2016

 

first heard from Proud To Play organizer Craig Watson about a month ago. He was then, and remains, energetic and excited about his groundbreaking new LGBT sports event, set to hit Auckland this February. If you’re in the area, or have an interest in going, definitely think about participating. We have the feeling this is just the beginning.

Anyhow, here’s all the info from the Proud To Play organizers…

The very first Proud to Play sports festival will take place in Auckland, New Zealand, over 13-20 February 2016.  This new event includes 15 sports and sits alongside Auckland’s Pride Festival. 

The week-long event is aimed at the LGBTIF community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, takataapui, intersex, fa’afafine, and queer people), and their friends and whanau (family). 

It is expected about 500 people from across the Asia-Pacific region will register and the organizers expect the Auckland community will be a great host.

“We’ve been working closely with local, regional, and international LGBTIF teams and sports organizations,” Craig Watson, Proud to Play director, said. “Their advice is that we should expect around 500 people participating, which is fantastic and we know the community will show those from out of town a great time here.”

The 15 sports offered are: badminton, bridge, dancesport, dragon boating, golf, lawn bowls, netball, an ocean swim, road running, roller derby, swimming, tenpin bowling, tennis, touch, and volleyball.

All levels of participation are offered, from social and entry-level grades to competitive, and you don’t need to be a member of a team right now to participate as the organizers will find you a team once you register. 

The sports competitions will be hosted in quality venues across Auckland: the Trust Arena, the West Wave Pool and Leisure Centre, Pins Lincoln, and Te Pai Tennis Club. The ocean swim is part of the well-known Bean Rock Swim.

A philosophy of inclusivity, to break down barriers

The philosophy of the new Proud to Play tournament is based on the idea of playing sport in an inclusive environment – being proud to play, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Proud to Play has welcomed three well-known athletes as Ambassadors for the festival: Louisa Wall – now part of New Zealand’s government and the MP responsible for the legislation ensuring marriage equality – she represented the country in both netball and rugby; Robbie Mason, an Olympic rower for Team New Zealand; and Blake Skjellerup, a short track speed skater who represented New Zealand at the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

“It’s great to have an LGBTIF sporting event like Proud to Play in Auckland,” said Mason. “I hope everyone of all athletic abilities will sign up for at least one sport and take part”.

“Proud to Play is a community sporting event for everyone,” Skjellerup added. “Sexuality, ability, gender, everyone is invited to take part and that is what makes Proud to Play an extremely important and exciting event”

Registration is open now, and everyone is encouraged to BE PROUD TO PLAY. 

You can register for the very first Proud to Play tournament here.

Keep up to date with all the Proud to Play news here on Facebook.

Aotearoa New Zealand a proudly diverse country

Aotearoa New Zealand is a country with a diverse and multi-cultural population.  The Auckland region in particular is known to have a superdiverse population, with more than 25% of people living there having been born overseas.

New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote, and one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage.  New Zealand’s rainbow community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, takataapui, intersex and fa’afafine people – is protected from legal, social and economic discrimination. 

For such a small country, New Zealand has some world-renowned sporting successes.  While the All Blacks are the current Rugby World Cup Champions, the Silver Ferns national netball team have held second place in the World Championships since 2007.  Individual athletes of note include Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest; Danyon Loader, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer; Valerie Adams, world shotput record-holder; Lydia Ko, number one women’s amateur golfer; and surfer Ella Williams recently won bronze at the World Games in Nicaragua.

 

Lithuania lawmakers refuse to vote for Russian-style anti-gay propaganda laws

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