LGBTQ

Clarisse Thorn's picture

[litquote] S&M stereotypes, parenting, and community action

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

 

The following quotation is from an essay that doesn’t just tear apart some awful BDSM stereotypes, but also makes a great case for coming together as a community and living our lives without shame … all in the context of parenting. It’s called “S/M Fetish People Who Choose To Parent”, and was printed in the anthology Speaking Sex To Power by one of my all-time heroes: the brilliant and inimitable Patrick Califia.

The state does seem to have a vested interest in preventing anyone who is sexually different from raising a child. Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of custody battles involving polyamorous people, pagans, transsexuals, sex workers, and members of the BDSM-fetish community, not just lesbians and gay men. The people who go through these battles usually do it alone, and they usually lose. But that story can change when there is enough publicity to generate community support.

In early 1995, members of the BDSM-fetish community in the US and Canada were appalled to learn that a couple in the scene had had their children taken away. The Canadian fetish magazine “Boudoir Noir” established a defense fund for the unlucky pair, known as the Houghtons. As we had for the Spanner defendants, the community banded together and raised enough money to allow Steve and Selina Houghton to hire a decent defense attorney. Selina ultimately pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge, and her husband to one count of endangering the welfare of a minor, a Class E misdemeanor. They were also ordered to continue to receive family counseling …. Although they did not receive jail sentences, their privacy and home life had been badly damaged by the intrusive actions of the police. When the Houghtons got their kids back, they moved suddenly, disappearing from the scene, probably to protect themselves from further persecution.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

News Flash, Pay Attention: HIV Is About Sex

Today is World AIDS Day. I don’t think about HIV as much as I did a few months ago, when I was still in Africa and my job was to help with the epidemic. But today, I’m thinking about it, and I have something very simple to say:

HIV is about sex.

One of the big lessons I learned about HIV in Africa is that many, many people will do amazing mental and rhetorical backflips to avoid talking about how HIV is actually spread. It’s astonishing. You’d think that when talking about HIV, you’d have to talk about sex; you’d be wrong.

In the areas where I worked, a massive percentage of people were infected with HIV. In a number of places it was about 25%. In some populations, it was more like 40%. Think about those numbers for a second — and remember that many people who had contracted HIV had already died. In other words, uncountable numbers of people had already died of AIDS-related causes, and among the people who remained alive, the percentages still got as high as 25% and 40%.

And yet I got the message over and over and over that we mustn’t talk about sex! For example, I was told by some school authorities that I could not give safer sex information to their students because that might “encourage the students to have sex”. In other words: God forbid we tell students where to get condoms and how to use them, because that might encourage them to think sex isn’t wrong and dirty. What the authorities were really telling me is that it’s more important that we continue to stigmatize sexuality, than it is to protect people from HIV.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Social responsibility, activism, and giving thanks

Tonight I had Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and her boyfriend. Some friends of my mother attended, one of whom is a lesbian who I’ll call Kay. Kay attended dinner with her mother, who is unaware of Kay’s sexual orientation. One of the reasons Kay’s mom doesn’t know about Kay’s sexual orientation is that Kay’s mom has already behaved quite badly towards Kay’s elder sister, who is an out-of-the-closet lesbian.

I knew this whole situation going in, and one thing that struck me was how much of a nice person Kay’s mom is. I mean … she’s really nice. I mean, she clearly tries to be a good person. She also tried really hard to help me do the dishes. (I didn’t let her because I wanted them all to myself.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to engage with people who have done bad things, or who are currently doing things I think are bad (like shaming their lesbian daughters). It wouldn’t have been right to throw my sex-positive ideas on the table while talking to Kay’s mom — mostly because Kay specifically asked me not to, ahead of time. But. The most powerful tool for getting people to reconsider their stigma against alternative sexuality is personal engagement. Don’t I have some responsibility here? Is there something I can do?

Other examples of this are rife. One very intense, very important issue I grappled with this week was having a friend email me to inform me that another friend — someone I like and admire a lot — has been credibly accused of sexual assault by a person who will never press charges. This has come up before in my life … every time it’s a little different, and yet so many things are the same: a person is assaulted, the news gets out among friends, the survivor doesn’t press charges, there is confusion among the friends about how to act, eventually things die down, and I feel as though I should have done more.

When I was in high school, one of my closest male friends raped a female acquaintance of mine. She didn’t press charges and they later had a romance that was, to all appearances, consensual. I pieced events together slowly — he did acknowledge what he’d done, though never directly to me. I didn’t know what to do, at the time, and I still feel as though I should have done so much more. He and I were so close. I never had the nerve to directly talk to him about what happened, because — even though we never talked directly about it — I saw evidence that he felt terrible about it, and I was sure that I could devastate him by talking about it more. But still … I should have talked to him.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Literary Quotation: Gay alcoholic heartbreak, breakup, and HIV

(Posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism)

I’m going to start posting literary quotations that strike me. This one is from Augusten Burroughs’ sweet memoir, Dry. I post it for no reason other than that it made me sigh.

On my bookcase at home, there’s a photo of Pighead trying on a leather jacket I bought him one Christmas. I can be seen behind him in the mirror taking the picture. I’m wearing a ridiculous red Santa hat and my wire-framed nerd glasses. In another picture, I’m swimming in some motel pool in Maine. It was the Lamp Lighter Motel, I remember. It was fall and the pool was freezing cold and had orange leaves floating in it. Leaves and beetles. This was one of our first road trips. We’d known each other for about a year. I remember that after getting out of the pool, we went back to the room and I took a hot shower. When I came out, we ended up fooling around on the bed. We stayed in bed for two full days, leaving only at night to get prime rib or spaghetti at the only restaurant in town that served water in glass instead of paper.

Back in Manhattan, I told him one night, “I think I’m in love with you.” We were leaning against the railing of the esplanade at Battery Park City, watching the planes circle in their holding patterns above us. For New Yorkers, planes circling above at night replace stars, in terms of romance.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex-positive in southern Africa

Right before I came out here, I was recruited by an online magazine to write about sexuality in Africa and my experience thereof. I wrote some columns, sent them to the magazine … and was told they weren’t quite right. So I sold them to CarnalNation instead! Here’s a roundup of my first four CN pieces; I doubt this is the last time I’ll publish with them, as CN (and editor Chris Hall in particular) is very awesome.

January 7: Rest In Peace, Pitseng Vilakati
I met an incredible, high-profile lesbian activist and wanted to be friends, but soon after she was murdered … and her partner charged with the crime.

January 14: Sexual ABCs in Africa, Part 1: Abstinence
In which I discuss how my relationship started with my current boyfriend, a Baha’i convert who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage (the pseudonym I chose for him was, therefore, Chastity Boy). I also describe some of my hesitations in promoting abstinence as a good sexual choice, even though it is a legitimately wise one in a place that’s so beset by HIV.

arvan's picture

Global LGBT movement not inclusive of other rights issues

Rasha Moumneh, a researcher for the MENA region at Human Rights Watch, gave a keynote address for the Outgames Human Rights conference on a plenary panel entitled: Our Rights, Our Differences: The Global and Diverse LGBT Community. In the address, she argued that the "global LGBT movement" depoliticizes gender and sexuality, and ignores the intersectionality of different forms of oppression, in the Middle East and the "global south" at large.

 

By RASHA MOUMNEH

 

It was the second staging of the Outgames, a week-long event that draws hundreds of LGBT activists from around the world and included tournaments in 38 different sports disciplines, a variety of cultural events, as well as a human rights conference "addressing issues and concerns of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people) community."


The reaction to Moumneh’s speech, according to Georges Azzi, director of the Beirut-based LGBT-rights organization HELEM, was mixed. “Some people stood up and applauded, while others in the audience stayed seated, did not applaud. There were definitely people who were upset; supporters of Israel in the community weren’t happy,” Azzi said. He added, “When I spoke in New York [at the Gay and Lesbian Center] after the Gaza war, the same thing happened. People got up and left, when we criticized Israel. We support all human rights [struggles].”

“Thank you, it’s wonderful to be here. I was asked to come here today to speak about the situation and progress of LGBT rights in the Middle East and North Africa. Obviously it’s impossible for me to cover the breadth of LGBT issues in the entire region in the space of 10 minutes, or even 10 hours for that matter, so I’m not going to. What I am going to do instead is posit some observations I’ve had about the international LGBT rights movement in relation to this particular region.

arvan's picture

Gambia: Human Rights and Homophobia

(Posted at IGLHRC)

The Gambia, led by President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, has had a track record of severe human rights violations with frequent use of security forces as a tool of repression. Jammeh came to power after a military coup in 1994.

Citizens are regularly detained without due process and, in 2008, three judges were unconstitutionally removed from office. Disappearances and unlawful killings of political opponents and human rights defenders have occurred without the Gambian government attempting to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

For more information about human rights violations in the Gambia, see Amnesty International’s 2009 Report here.

The government has also impeded the right to freedom of speech by routinely arresting journalists and, in some cases, charging them with criminal offenses for speaking out.

arvan's picture

Bisexual Artists: Submit your work for an exhibition hosted at Good Vibrations!

There is a call for art from bisexual people being placed here.  Please visit the site and respond to Jack Mohr directly, if you are interested in participating.

-arvan

I am a graduate student in the Sexuality Studies program at San Francisco State University, and for my Master's project I am organizing an art showing to promote bisexual visibility. I am seeking artists who identify as Bisexual (or with a label inclusive of bisexuality, such as Pansexual, Omnisexual, Ambisexual or Queer), to submit paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, or sculptures relating to their experiences of living as a bisexual person. This project is an opportunity for artists to represent what being bisexual means to them and to help promote the wide variety of people who are bisexual. Artists selected for the exhibition will have their work on display in the art gallery at the Good Vibrations on Polk Street from October 8 to November 26, 2009. Their will be a formal opening for the event at the beginning of the exhibition.

Deadline for submissions is August 1, 2009. To submit your work, please send and email to BiArtSF@gmail.com. Your email must include:

- A digital photograph of the work, and the title of the work

- The work's dimensions. Hangable works will be limited to 8' in height and 6' in length. Sculptures will be limited to a base of 2' by 2', with a height no greater than 8'. Works may be either pre-existing work or work created specifically for the event.

- A paragraph description of the content of the work and how it relates to issues of bisexuality, bisexual identities and/or bisexual visibility (no more than 500 words).

- Your name, email and phone number. Selected artists will not be notified until after the submission deadline on August 1.

- Please specify if digital photographs of your work can be used in promotional materials and other publicity for the event.

All artists must be available during August or September 2009 to discuss their work with myself so that I can design captions for each work and for exhibition programs. All Artists must also be able to transport their work to and from the venue. Paintings, drawings, photographs and prints must be delivered in hangable condition.

If you have any questions about the project or the submission guidelines, please email me at BiArtSF@gmail.com.

Jack Mohr, M.A. Candidate, San Francisco State University

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Interview with Richard Berkowitz, star of “Sex Positive” and icon of safer sex activism

Our second film at Sex+++ was “Sex Positive”, a fascinating documentary about the history of safer sex. I’ll be honest: I was psyched about “Sex Positive” from day one, long before I’d even seen it. It was the first film I chose for my film list. In fact, the whole idea for the film series came out of a conversation I had with Lisa (our lovely Hull-House Museum education coordinator) in which I said that I wanted to see “Sex Positive”, and then added, “There are so many sexuality movies I want to see. You and I should have a regular movie night!” She looked at me and said thoughtfully, “You know, I bet people besides us would come to that ….”

“Sex Positive” tells the story of Richard Berkowitz — and how he was one of the first to spread the word about safer sex in America. Berkowitz, a talented writer, started out as a hot-blooded participant in the promiscuous gay bathhouse culture; later, he became an S&M hustler. When AIDS started decimating the gay community, Berkowitz was instrumental in teaching his community (and the world) about safer sex. As it became clear to some medical professionals that sexual promiscuity spread AIDS, Berkowitz tried to tell the world about their findings. But there was a huge backlash against him — because in those days, the promiscuous bathhouse culture was seen by many gay men as a huge part of identifying as gay and sex-positive … and anyone who argued against it, or tried to modify it, was therefore cast by many people as sex-negative.

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