Hollywood Highs & Methodist Lows

Oscars and Indys honor queer-themed movie standouts!

Prayers for inclusion go unanswered in the United Methodist maelstrom over ordination and marriage rites!

Négar Djavadi’s Disoriental sees the swirl of world events through literary lesbian eyes!

Tunisia seeks to shutter queer advocacy group, transgender service members make U.S. Congressional history, British government blocks Northern Ireland marriage equality bill, and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of March 4, 2019

Hollywood Highs & Methodist Lows!

Program #1,612 distributed 03/04/19

Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Tunisia’s government appeals a court ruling allowing Shams, a leading LGBGTQ advocacy group in the North African country, to legally exist a new report details how Kenya is losing millions and millions of foreign dollars because of its anti-queer laws and reputation Trump’s failed summit with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un, and his “fixer” Michael Cohen’s 13-word description of the President of the United States in testimony before the House Oversight Committee, obscure the first time transgender people have ever officially testified before the U.S. Congress, as the House Armed Services Committee hears from some proudly serving transgender service members, while committee member Deb Haaland (D-NM) tearfully thanks them for their service the British government orders gay lawmaker Lord Hayward to withdraw a measure in the House of Lords to force marriage equality on lone major U.K. hold-out Northern Ireland because its paralyzed government has been unable to address the issue since early 2017 a fabulous troupe of drag queens “put on a show” at the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas to protest Trump’s border wall “national emergency” and raise money for abused LGBTQ refugees (written by GREG GORDON, produced with BRIAN DESHAZOR, and reported this week by MICHAEL LEBEAU & WENZEL JONES).

Feature: When Hollywood handed out its biggest trophies of the year, queer portrayals grabbed a notable number of them. Richard E. Grant was named Best Supporting Actor at the traditional Oscars-eve Independent Spirit Awards for playing a gay man opposite Melissa McCarthy’s lesbian literary sham artist in Can You Ever Forgive Me … proudly out singer Adam Lambert fronted Queen in the Oscars telecast We Are The Champions opening musical number … Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Regina King credited the gay creator of If Beale Street Could Talk in her acceptance speech … Bohemian Rhapsody’s Best Sound Editor John Warhurst and Best Film Editor John Ottman each gave shout-outs to the queer man whose story they helped bring to life … Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Mahershala Ali paid tribute to the closeted gay musical virtuoso he portrayed in The Green BookLady Gaga’s acceptance speech for Best Song (for Shallow from A Star Is Born) capped emotional thank yous with her trademark “believe in yourself” exhortation; and Best Actor Oscar winner Rami Malek honored Freddie Mercury, the unapologetically queer man he portrayed in Bohemian Rhapsody, during his acceptance speech (with Hooray for Hollywood intro music by NELSON RIDDLE & HIS ORCHESTRA, and the live performance of Queen’s We Are The Champions at the Oscars telecast as transition and outro music).

Feature: Personal “ah-ha” moments and the swirl of world events elevate Disoriental (by Négar Djavadi), a National Book Award finalist, to the top of the list for This Way Out Queer Life and Literature Commentator JANET MASON.

 

Feature: Aspiring openly gay United Methodist Church minister J.J. Warren gave an impassioned speech during a special three-day conference at the end of February that was intended to resolve the denomination’s issues around sexuality – though he and his fellow LGBTQ adherents and their allies were disappointed by the outcome (with intro/outro music from God Put A Rainbow in the Sky by REV. DOLORES BERRY).

“Satisfying your weekly minimum requirement of queer news and culture for more than 30 years!”

NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending March 2, 2019
Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, reported this week by Michael LeBeau and Wenzel Jones 

The Northern African nation of Tunisia is in the homophobic spotlight this week as the government tries to close down the country’s major LGBTQ rights group. A 2016 court ruling granted Shams the legal right to operate. But government officials insist that the group objective to protect sexual minorities is contrary to “Tunisian society’s Islamic values, which reject homosexuality and prohibit such alien behavior.”

According to Wikipedia, 99 percent of Tunisia’s 12 million people are Sunni Muslim.

The government also argues that because Tunisian law criminalizes same-gender sex, any group that defends those acts should not be allowed to exist. Article 230 of Tunisia’s Penal Code of 1913 jails consenting adults convicted of engaging in same-gender sex for up to 3 years.

Shams registered in May 2015 as a non-governmental organization supporting the rights of gender and sexual minorities. The Tunisian government soon filed a complaint against the group for violating the anti-gay sex law. But three years ago the court ruled that by merely existing, Shams was not in violation of any law – even though part of its work focused on getting Article 230 overturned. Gay Star News reports that a hearing was scheduled this week on an appeal filed by the government of that 2016 court ruling that allows Shams to exist.

Mounir Baatour is the President of Shams. He told NBC News that his group has “saved hundreds of young gay lives.” But he said that as of the end of 2018 there were 147 people in Tunisian prisons for offenses related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Baatour also believes that it’s not a coincidence that the government’s appeal of the ruling allowing his organization to exist comes during an election year.

Pink News reported this week on claims by the pro-LGBTQ group Open for Business that anti-queer discrimination is costing the East African nation of Kenya up to 1.3 billion dollars a year. The group’s conclusions follow last week’s delay of a much-anticipated announcement by the country’s Supreme Court in a case challenging the colonial-era law criminalizing same-gender sex as being “against the order of nature.” Convictions can bring up to 14 years in prison.

The Court announced that it will issue its ruling on May 24th.

According to the report issued by Open for Business, Kenya’s hostile environment towards LGBTQ people could be costing the country as much as 1.7 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product every year.

Much of the country’s economy is driven by tourism. Because of Kenya’s anti-queer reputation, the country is losing from 64 million to 140 million dollars a year in tourism income. The report cites the biggest impact of anti-queer bias as being healthcare costs, made even worse by the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the country, and the lack of access by LGBTQ people to treatment because of ever-present threats of anti-queer violence. The report estimated those costs at between 80 million and one billion dollars.

Open for Business is a coalition of multinational companies that advocate for LGBTQ inclusion around the world. Members include Virgin, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and KPMG.

An important hearing in the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives this week was dwarfed by President Trump’s failed summit with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un, and former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testifying in an open session of the House Oversight Committee about the character of the President of the United States.

[Cohen sound:] “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.”

In a week that also saw the release of a Reuters/Ipsos poll showing that close to 60 per cent of the American public supports military service by qualified transgender people, some of those enlistees became the first to ever formally testify in Congress. Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann; Army Captain Alivia Stehlik; Army Captain Jennifer Peace; Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King; Navy Corpsman Akira Wyatt; and combat veteran and Doctor Jesse M. Ehrenfeld all appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on February 27th to testify on the president’s proposed ban on trans military service. Now that Democrats control the House, Chairperson Jackie Speier of California convened the Armed Services Committee hearing. She’s introduced a bill in Congress to prevent Trump from enacting his ban.

The trans service members said in their testimony that the ability to transition to the other gender made them stronger and better members of the armed forces, while Pentagon officials defended Trump’s desire to bar people like them from enlisting.

One of the more poignant moments during the hearing came when New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, one of the first 2 Native American women elected to Congress in November, addressed the testifying service members directly:

[Rep. Haaland:] “I just first wanted to say to all of you that I’m so grateful for your service to our country. My dad was a 30-year career Marine and my mom was a Navy veteran. Like, as a country, all of us should value our veterans. And I just want you to know that, regardless of what the president says, there are millions of Americans who appreciate the service that you’ve given to our country. It’s not everybody who will make a decision to say I would die for my country, because a lot of people wouldn’t. And I believe if there’s one person that isn’t fit to serve, we all know who that is right now. Because that person devalues things that people want to do to make our country better and to move it forward. And although I can’t apologize for that person, I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that we can bring back some civility and respect to the people who are serving our country. So I just wanted you to know that.”

New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

Trump points to the “disruption” trans service members cause in the ranks to defend his ban. Virtually every credible researcher has found no such “disruption.”

The other argument is what Trump calls the “tremendous medical costs” associated with transgender troops. In reality, the Defense Department’s own numbers submitted to the Committee ahead of the hearings this week reveal those costs represent about point-zero-zero-one per cent of the U.S. military budget. In raw figures, that’s about eight million of the Pentagon’s 716 billion dollar budget. NBC News pointed out that transgender military healthcare costs amount to less than three trips the President takes on Air Force One to his private club Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida – taxpayers are paying about three million dollars each time Trump makes that round-trip.

Committee Chair Jackie Speier told the Washington Blade that she’s moving forward with her bill to block the ban, and said she might attach it to a defense spending bill.

In other news, the British government has forced gay politician Lord Hayward to withdraw his measure in the House of Lords to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland, the only major part of the United Kingdom without it. It’s one of the major issues that’s created a dysfunctional government in Northern Ireland since early 2017, with the ruling party blocking what is clearly more than enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill.

But British Equalities Minister Baroness Williams told the House of Lords that it remains a matter for the Northern Irish government. She said the primary objective of her government is “to restore the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly,” though she didn’t say exactly what Prime Minister Theresa May plans to do about that. May is, of course, currently frying bigger Brexit fish.

Interestingly, a report released by Parliament at the end of February concluded that marriage equality should be imposed on all U.K. overseas territories that don’t already have it.

And finally, a group of drag queens organized a show and fundraiser along the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas this week to benefit LGBTQ asylum seekers. Drag hostess Beatrix Lestrange said she and her “sisters” were protesting the president’s declaration of a national emergency to fund a border wall, and to highlight the poor treatment LGBTQ refugees have been getting from government authorities and fellow asylum seekers who were part of what Donald Trump has called the “southern invasion.”

Lestrange told reporters that she tears up “because they’re already fleeing … homophobia, transphobia, violence, trauma, only to come to the doorsteps of our country and encounter more of that.”

She posted the results of the drag show proceeds on Facebook: “We raised a total of $646 for trans and queer asylum seekers tonight in less than 2 hours!” she wrote. “We don’t want a wall,” she added, “we want JUSTICE for all asylum seekers, especially the most marginalized in the queer and trans community!!”

Lestrange challenged other LGBTQ groups across the country to protest Trump and his policies using their own form of activism.

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