One Equal World

The British flag in rainbow colors.

Image credit: Shutterstock

“Queers” aired in the U.K. as part of Gay Britannia, a season of LGBTQIA-themed programming meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967, which (partially) decriminalized gay sex. Which is to say, the new laws made it so you couldn’t send an English or Welshman to jail for having sex with another man, if both were over 21 and neither was a service man or a merchant seaman. Scottish and Irish citizens of the U.K. still had until the early 80s before their laws would change, and any man could still be fined or given a court appearance for kissing another man in public, but it was still a large step, and largely put an end to the trend of chemically castrating gay men which had begun in the 1950s.

So Gay Britannia was not quite a celebration so much as a retrospective. And “Queers,” an eight-part series of monologues on being queer in the U.K., spans not only that fifty years, but the fifty before as well.

LGBT British actors, most of them well-known, perform the pieces in character. Ben Whishaw embodies a soldier returning from WWI to find more trauma at home. Alan Cumming plays a man in today’s world reflecting on gay marriage and its place in the fight for civil rights. Other actors, including Fionn Whitehead (“Dunkirk”) and Gemma Whelan (“Game of Thrones”) will cover the HIV crisis, and the impact of the Sexual Offenses Act itself.

Mark Gatiss, writer of BBC’s drama series “Sherlock,” is the lead of this project, and wrote one of the monologues himself. Each short, written and filmed independently, runs for about 15 minutes. They were aired on BBC4, the arts and culture channel, earlier this year and were also performed live at London’s Old Vic Theater in July.

BBC America will be airing the series beginning October 14th, though without the greater context of Gay Britannia.

Advertisements
An asexuality activist holding a sign that reads, "If sex without love can exist, love without sex can too!"

Photo credit: Shawn Goldberg / Shutterstock

Frigid. Distant. Cold. Unsharing. Incapable of love. Not relationship material. Robotic.

Most asexual people have run into all of these misconceptions by the time they’ve been through an adult relationship or two. Like most sexualities, asexuality is a spectrum, and unless one is rigidly careful to only date people exactly as ace as they are, they’re going to run into a mismatch of sexual needs.

That’s not as unusual as it gets made out to be. Allosexuals (people who experience sexual attraction) run into differing needs all the time. Differences in frequency, in kink, in stimulation—these can all be part of a healthy sexual partnership. And so can differences in attraction and need.

The key is communication, and sharing the work of compromise.

Some asexuals want no part of sex, and others are neutral on the topic. Some like sex as a fun activity, but don’t experience any yearning for it when it’s not on offer, or like sex quite a lot for itself but don’t experience any sexual attraction to any people, even their romantic partner. All of these are facets of asexuality.

In most mixed ace/allo relationships, sex is still on the table, though of course it’s up to the individuals involved. It’s vital that both sides be honest about what they need, what they enjoy, and where they need boundaries, and that they communicate that without pressure.

There’s no denying that sex is an important part of many romantic relationships. It is an intimate and bonding act to most people. But strong relationships will have more pillars than just sex, and if there isn’t room for compromise, in either direction, the partnership has other issues to work on.

Working together to find mutually satisfying solutions shouldn’t be a chore—rather, it should make a couple stronger.

A photo of Hudson River Park taken at sunset.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In June of 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo established a commission to seek out a design for a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida that had happened earlier that month. Submissions were accepted in October, and on Sunday, June 25th 2017, the winning design was announced

Anthony Goicolea, the victorious designer, was perhaps destined to win it. A Cuban-American who grew up in the south and now shares a Brooklyn home with his husband, he is a part of the communities hit hardest by the shooting, which stands as the deadliest civilian incident of gun violence in the United States.

His design is an arrangement of nine boulders, most of them bisected by thick, polished layers of refractive glass. The glass slices will act as prisms, using any available light to throw rainbows in all directions. The boulders, in their loose circle, will remind visitors to the space of ancient sites, like Stonehenge and burial mounds.

“This monument will serve as a communal space filled with light, color, and hope where the visitors can sit, mourn, love, and remember for years to come,” Giocolea stated. 

The site of the new monument, Hudson River Park, is Giocolea’s home turf. He often runs there. And it is an important place to the LGBT community as well; the Stonewall Inn is only a short walk away.

“It feels like there are certain shapes and patterns that are encoded in our DNA as humans that transcend any particular culture and speak to how we are unified in the larger scheme,” Giocolea added. “I wanted to create a space that feels familiar, even though it is new.”

While the announcement of the winning design was timed to coincide with NYC Pride festivities, there is currently no official date for the completion of the installation.

A photo of a legal document that's titled "lawsuit."

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Donna Kikkert calls herself a “mainstream” student. By that, the 59-year-old woman chasing her first degree at the University of Wisconsin means that she is straight, white, and Christian. She took a poetry class, and is suing the professor for choosing a reading selection that did not “serve her needs.”

Without naming titles, Kikkert claimed in course records that the assigned readings for her Creative Writing Poetry course focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest, and frequent swearing.” She had demanded more “classic” works, and when that was denied, she complained first to the professor, then to the university, and then, after her failing grade was upheld and the course was finished, to court.

Kikkert’s demands included not only an A grade for herself, but also that the teacher, Professor Patricia Dyjak, be fired or suspended without pay for a full year—four times the length of the course. Kikkert also made personal accusations of inappropriate behavior against Dyjak, accusations refuted by other students.

For generations, literature studies have included only the works of white men and the occasional white woman, only the experiences of the majority. Decades of poetry written by LGBT people, people of color, women, and other “fringe” populations have been left out of the curriculum, and now that they are there, the “mainstream” students feel attacked by their very presence.

There’s a supported study by Australian Dale Spender which indicates that men feel that women are dominating the conversation if women speak 30% of the time. One assumes the same winds up true no matter which majority and minority you substitute in.

Kikkert could have chosen to include the titles from her professor’s curriculum. That she didn’t implies that she knew an actual review of the content wouldn’t support her accusation. And even if those accusations were true, there’s nothing in the law or in the tenants of University of Wisconsin that requires a course to cater to her. That’s why the court not only dismissed her case, but also her request for free counsel.

A mass gathering of protestors in Taiwan who are holding signs in favor of marriage equality.

Protestors gather in Taiwan to voice their support for marriage equality.
Photo credit: weniliou / Shutterstock

Chi Chia-Wei spent more than five months in jail in 1986 for publicly being out as a gay man. That was when Taiwan was under martial law, and he secured a pardon before the year was out, but that was only the beginning of his fight for actual justice. In the 30 years since then, Chia-Wei has campaigned for gay rights in Taiwan, leading petitions and lawsuits against the island nation’s evolving government.

His work has finally borne fruit. In a ruling that may set a brand new precedent for Asia, Taiwan’s constitutional court announced on Wednesday, May 24th, that laws against same-sex marriage have been found unconstitutional. The legislature has two years to amend their Civil Code to reflect the decision or to pass laws specifically regarding same-sex marriages. If they fail to do so, those marriages will be legalized by default.

The justice’s wording called sexual orientation an “immutable characteristic that is resistant to change,” and therefore laws against same-sex relationships violate the personal freedom and protections of everybody.

While Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, has shown only lukewarm support for the cause and there have been outspoken rallies against it, the general atmosphere around this decision is not one of surprise. In 2013, the marriage of two transgender women was upheld. In 2015, the most recent year Chi applied for permission to marry his committed partner, the legislature was already considering changing Taiwan’s Civil Code, which they are now obligated to do.

Chi and many others are going to remain active in the legislative process surrounding the new decision. They are adamant that it is the Civil Code which must be amended, rather than a separate marriage law for same-sex couples.

“In Asia, every country’s situation is different,” Chi said after the announcement. “But this should certainly offer some encouragement to different societies to consider following in Taiwan’s footsteps and giving gays and lesbians the right to marry.”

A photo of the outside of a Target store.

Photo credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

This decade has seen a long parade of businesses publicly wearing the rainbow. It’s difficult to tell, in most cases, whether they’re honestly supporting their LGBT customers, or just courting an emergent customer base from an angle historically denied.

On May 12th, 2017, Target announced a new line of products to feature LGBT imagery, for the fifth year in a row. Their “Take Pride” products are mostly bold, rainbow-printed clothing, and each purchase will see half of the proceeds donated to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Optimistically, Target doesn’t seem to be only talking the talk. The Minnesota-based mega-corporation has also fiercely defended their policy allowing trans people to use their correct restrooms, and have made a point to be a good employer for trans and LGBT people as well. Many Target locations require gender inclusivity training of their management team members.

Furthermore, they coordinate volunteer opportunities for their employees at both the store and corporate levels to work with LGBT initiatives and charities, most of that volunteer labor matched by corporate contributions. They even used their commercials in 2014 to campaign for same-sex marriage, effectively putting their money where their mouth is.

The commercial with which they launched their newest line is a good one. It hints at the wealth and struggles of LGBT history with archival footage of major milestones, indicating a real recognition of the cause they are supporting, not merely a lip-service token.

The products themselves are summer-themed, whimsical, and fun. T-shirts featuring a dinosaur, unicorn, or pocket-cat waving a Pride flag. There’s even one with a rainbow spread like butter on toast. Shawls, pins, badges, and bumper stickers. A beach towel. Children’s tees declaring their love for moms or dads. Everything a person could want to let the world know on which side of LGBT history they intend to stand on.

A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

Image credit: Shutterstock

In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.