Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

I've been far too quiet on this blog, since I got distracted by the blue/white glare of Facebook. I plan to remedy that in the coming year, posting more links and essays here. So before we look ahead, I am taking a look back at the past year's people, events, and popcultural phenomena that impressed me:

Best Book I read this year:
The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Possibly the best book I read this decade
NYT review here

Most Interesting Film I saw this year:
Agora, directed and co-written by Alejandro Amenabar
based on the life of Hypatia of Alexandria, 4th Century A.D. philosopher/astronomer/atheist
NYT review here

Most Entertaining Film I saw this year:
The Social Network, directed by David Fincher, script by Aaron Sorkin.
Riveting writing by Sorkin, unusually understated direction by Fincher, and terrific performance by Jesse Eisenberg

Best Independent Film I saw this year:
Winter's Bone, writen and directed by Debra Granik

Best Impersonation I saw this year:
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in Howl
I wanted to love the film more (it's still quite strong) but Franco does give a stand-out performance.

Best Performance of the Year (male or female) in a film unfortunately almost nobody saw this year:
Patricia Clarkson in Cairo Time
Clarkson is the most reliable actor working in any medium. She must contain the stem-cells of subtext. She doesn't peform, she inhabits.

Best TV show I caught up with:
Yes, Edie, we agree, it's probably not a comedy, or a dramedy; it's just unclassifiably good. And we disagree with you, You are funny.

Best magazine I read this year:
Consistently the best in-depth coverage of different ideas, issues, and people. I swear it keeps me sane.

Loveliest book of poetry
A Strain of Laughter by Robert Patrick
(Disclosure: I designed the cover)

Most unusual photography book of the year:
(Disclosure: I helped produce and posed for this book)

Most Undeservedly Venerated Person:

Overhyped/disappointment of the year, movie: Tron: Legacy

Overhyped/disappointment of the year, television: (tie)
Betty White on SNL
The LOST Finale

Best song use in a movie trailer
“Creep” by Scala & Kolacny Brothers

Most chilling online animation:
“1945 – 1998” by Isao Hashimoto

Surprising Revelation of the year:

Least Surprising Revelation of the year:
In the text of his final speech as President, Eisenhower originally referred to the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.”

Favorite Outcomes:
Washington Senator Patty Murray’s re-election, and keeping the WA state legislature fully blue.

Least Favorite Outcome:
Vermont Senator Russ Feingold’s loss.

Biggest Canard of the year: “Gay Inc”
If you want change, be specific about who and what needs to change; don’t bandy about an amorphous pejorative. Enough of this cannibalistic Lavender McCarthyism; do your homework, propose specifc actions about specific people and organizations; be positive and constructive.

Dumbest Idea of the year:
“Close the gAy-TM”
Do we really need any more bullets to fire into our feet? If you liked the 2010 Lame-Duck session, remember it well, because starving the Congress of Democrats isn’t going to give you those kind of results again.

Silliest Facebook Phenom: changing profile pics to cartoon characters to “cause awareness” about child abuse. Slacktivism as its most obvious.

Cultural Phenomenon I still have yet to see a minute of:

Saddest Shock of the year:
The sudden death of good friend and great culture-warrior, Cary Toland

Important Concepts of the Year:
Victim privilege, failure fetishists, Obama-Derrangement-Syndrome (ODS) and Obamessiah Syndrome.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Status Update

An interesting blog post at inspired the following response, which was too long to fit in their comments field, so I'll post it here:

Great blog post, Todd, and thanks for posting it. A very important subject that's getting lost in all the hubbub over ENDA, DOMA, UAFA, DADT, and the other alphabetical legislative battles.

I'm 44 years old and HIV negative. I've been openly gay since the early 1980s, so my entire adult life has been lived dealing with the disease, with friends and lovers who have it, and with other negative men like me trying to stay negative. Ive dated both poz and neg guys, and I was okay with dating sero-discordantly. I did have two boyfriends break-up with me specifically because I wasn't HIV-positive, because they didn't want to deal with the stress over HIV differences, who "preferred not to be reminded of the disease during sex" and wanted to date other poz men instead (so they could have unprotected sex). I understood and respected their choice. (For the record, yes, I also have heard of plenty of rejection stories from Poz friends being treated less-than-sensitively by Neg guys--so there's pain on both sides of the viral divide.) But do know, Todd, that--believe it or not--some of us Neg guys are also feeling stigmatized--especially those of us who have been negative for decades and who dare advocate staying that way.

Todd says he wants more Neg boys talking about HIV? I'll make him a deal: we Neg boys will... if more Poz boys talk about, advocate--and practice--effective methods of prevention of infection, in addition to much-needed talk about sensitivity about stigmatizing people--all people--regardless of status.

And, yes, that means taking responsiblity for not spreading the virus.

That's not meant to blame anyone--it is proudly proclaiming, if not demonstrating by example, It's a Good Thing To Be Responsible Members of Your Own Community. (For a few years recently, my own city of Seattle participated in the admirable campaign "HIV Stops With Me.") When I even try to have honest and open conversations about HIV prevention, I often get shouted-down by Poz folks for being "insensitive" because I "don't know what it's like." (Okay, point taken: unless one is infected in-utero, every HIV-positive person knew what it was like at some point to be negative; but no negative person knows what it's like to be positive.) When I cite numerous examples of the current incentivization of risky behavior (the prevalence of "barebacking" in porn now, the glorification of "raw" or "natural" sex over safer-sex, and the sense of social pressure that it's more important for negative guys to self-censor any conversation for fear of offending positive folks than it is to talk effectively and openly about how to keep folks negative), I get called all manner of things. Yes, Todd, let's discuss stigmatization.

I know we're not supposed to say this, but an HIV-negative person only has direct control over infecting him/herself. Sure, we can volunteer for all the community groups or walk miles in AIDS walks, but when it comes to directly stopping actual infections, each Neg person can only protect his/her own body. On the other hand, an HIV-positive person has the power (dare anyone say responsibility) to prevent infecting every other person he or she has sexual contact with.

I realize to say this is not Politically Correct--some would say it's downright Sexually Incendiary--but it also happens to be true. Both Neg and Poz groups have to stand up and say they are going to be Reponsible Citizens, both to themselves and their own health, to their own viral-status communities, and most importantly to the health of others, both physically and in terms of the "health" and well-being of our Community at large. If we all did, the rate of infections would drop dramatically. And that goal is at least as important as making sure we consider everyone else's feelings, right? At least?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Handy LGBTQI Checklist

Before We Plan an Action--or Act—We should ask ourselves:

Self-Question 1: Does the Proposed Action have a Clearly-Defined Goal? Does it have a Clear Message? Does it have a Clear Plan so we look like Politically-savvy Activists (and not Disorganized Idiots)?

Self-Question 2: Does the Proposed Action Help Achieve our particular Political Goal? Does it work against our ultimate interests, either now or in the future? (Passing a bill or stopping anti-gay legislation, expanding equality or access, confirming a judge, etc.)

Self-Question 3: Does this Action Help or Harm the Image of Our Movement? Does it Help or Harm efforts to grow that movement and/or appeal to progressive allies to help us in the future?

Self-Question 4: Does the Action Unify Our Movement or Sow Discontent and Inflame Turf Battles? Does it compete with or reflect poorly on (or worse, disparage) other members or groups in our movement?

Self-Question 5: Is the Action happening simply to Articulate/Vent Our Frustration or Hatred of Our Enemies (or Impatience with our Allies), regardless of ultimate harm to our goals or to the movement as a whole?

Self-Question 6: What constitutes a Success or a Failure? How can we measure whether what we are about to do was effective or not?

Self-Question 7: How will we Use the Proposed Action to Grow an Active Membership, to Motivate the new (and existing) Members for Future Actions?

To be clear: the answers to these questions need not necessarily deter or prevent a particular action. But it is wise to enter any political action situation fully prepared and fully self-aware, with a good handle on the situations Three M's: Mission, Message, Motivation: What is the mission to accomplish? How clear is our message? What, honestly, is our motivation??

Please note the above graphic says "our" not "your"--I'm not pointing fingers or mocking GetEqual, a group that I myself am a member of. I'm asking us all to look inward as well as outward, call a truce to the turf war, focus our ire on the real enemies of LGBTQI equality, and unify to work hard to win those very real battles to come.

Remember the Past, Build the Future

Can we please call a truce in the GetEqual/HRC turf war and get back to work fighting the real enemies of LGBT equality?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And The Beat Go On

LGBTQI Movements For Dummies:
An Historical Primer

Stage 1: A diverse group of LGBT folks and allies comes together with the shared goal of acceptance, tolerance, diversity, and inclusion. They preach acceptance, tolerance, diversity, inclusion.

Stage 2: Once goals are established, mission and focus must be defined and actions planned. Camps form due to tactical disagreements, differences over messaging, focus, strategy. As the victims of oppression, their personal baggage begins to poison the clarity of mission. We are, after all, only human.

Stage 3: One camp urges a conservative approach, another urges bold blunt action, another camp tries to reconcile and re-unify. Fissures in the movement begin, and--ironically--acceptance gets tested by turf battles, tolerance replaced with ideological purity tests, diversity ideals invert into internal argument or unintended offenses caused by white privilege drives away people of color, and exclusion starts to supplant inclusiveness.

Stage 4: Cooler heads try to conduct civil discussion, but because this is identity politics--and thus the issues are very personal--feelings are as involved as brains. Disagreements fester until turf battles become public attempts for one "side" to destroy and supplant the other, sapping energy and focus, squandering political capital as the movement looks less and less reliable to political leaders and groups outside the movement. Panic causes some members to recommend purging anyone who isn't perfectly ideologically aligned with said group or groups, and constructive criticism or dissent is met with emotional rancor or accusations of being "as bad as the homophobes."

Stage 5: The negativity not only harms recruitment, but folks of varying levels of commitment to the cause start to peel off, discouraged by the experience or the emotional gridlock interfering with effective action, until only the Die-Hard activists remain, people who have not only poured their life into not only the cause, but also entrenched a personal stake in their activism. Again, feelings start to trump thinking, tempers flare, tantrums errupt. Internal name-calling is but one tell-tale sign of this period of political friendly-fire.

Stage 5: With a crucial bill up for a vote or candidate up for election, the fractured movement is unable muster enough unified effort for effective action. The bill or candidate fails. The finger-pointing begins, as each camp blames another for the loss. The public turf war often eventually abates, possibly with the destruction of part of the movement infrastructure, and a lot of demoralized and discouraged folks go back to their lives.

And we wonder why the Mainstream Political Community rarely gives the LGBTQI movement respect we insist we've earned.

Stage 6: The movement goes into a sort of coma, until the next crisis or political weather-change demands mobilization for response and action, and folks come together to work for Acceptance, Tolerance, Diversity, and Inclusion and... we return to Stage 1.

See: 1970s--Gay Liberation Front versus Gay Activists Alliance; 1980s--NGLTF, ACT-Up; 1990s--Queer Nation, the DADT/DOMA debacles; 2000-present-- NGLTF, HRC, GetEqual...

Graphic Art of Activism

Getting Busy Getting Equal

After getting sucked up into the echo-chamber of Facebook, I've been far too quiet on this blog. Much is happening in the blogosphere, especially among the LGBT activists and community. It's time I start weighing in outside my circle of FB friends. I'll be posting more in-depth essays in the days to come, as well as crosslinking stuff I find online. More to come, soon...