Erasing Gay and Transgender History

From The Huffington Post:


Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN) is a central San Francisco neighborhood association that meets monthly to talk “crime, cleanliness, beautification, and [the] strengthening of our community.” But that “community” part deserves closer examination, because for years the organization has been openly trying to erase the history of Polk Street as a sanctuary for lower-income gay and transgender people. Last month, it was at it again, censoring a queer activist group that criticized that erasure.

In January, the website of the queer direct action group Gay Shame was shut down as a result of a formal complaint by LPN Co-Chair Carolyn Abst. On the site, the group had mentioned Abst’s name, playfully but combatively, in a “wanted” poster describing Abst as “chairing the brutal gentrification squad commonly known as the ‘Lower Polk Neighbors.'”

Abst and Ron Case are the married couple who founded and have served as Lower Polk Neighbors’s Co-Chairs for years. Architects by day, neighborhood politicos by night, Abst and Case entered the scene in the pre-gentrification late ’90s, in seek of what was some pretty cheap real estate compared to Nob Hill, the posh neighborhood which borders Polk a few blocks to the east. Although the real estate was cheaper, it was still too expensive to translate to homeownership for most residents at the time. If the new residents could just push some of the old ones out, it could mean a spike in property values. Maybe they could create a Nob Hill of their very own.

Abst and Case convened their first Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN) meeting in late 2001. One of its first apparent missions: send local gay bars packing, and into the Tenderloin or out of business. (Gay Shame members regularly attended early meetings, and kept their own version of meeting minutes in a blog.) One of the first casualties was the hustler bar Club RendezVous at Polk and Bush Streets. As historian Joey Plaster wrote in the San Francisco Bay-Guardian in 2007, Club Rendezvous owner David Kapp told the Central City Extra that a “smear campaign” by LPN ended Kapp’s plans for staying in the neighborhood. Once RendezVous closed, the architecture firm owned by Abst and Case, Case+Abst Architects, received a contract to design the First Congressional Church, which now stands in its place.

Case went on to say that he didn’t want to gentrify the neighborhood, but only to “make it clean and safe.” That meant pushing queer and trans people, as well as closing a potentially life-saving needle exchange, out of the area. From the Bay-Guardian report:

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Equal marriage means gay relationships will stop being dismissed as inferior

From Pink News UK:

6 February 2013

Writing for, political commentator Charlotte Henry analyses the significance of this week’s historic Commons vote on equal marriage.

It’s fairly clear what the consequences for our community will be if, as expected, equal marriage comes to pass. More than being about a wedding, genuine same-sex marriage will mean gay relationships will stop being dismissed as inferior.

Ultimately though this change required politics to make it happen, and many of the consequences will be political too.

For Nick Clegg the situation is, for once, simple. He and Lynne Featherstone will rightly be seen as the driving forces behind this legislation, and receive credit from many for this.

Ed Miliband is also supportive of the legislation, and many of his party followed his lead yesterday. While the Lib Dems may have been the government driving force behind the legislation, it was Labour votes that helped it over the line.

Which brings us on to David Cameron. The prime minister deserves huge credit for taking on his grassroots and declaring his support at party conference, as well as determinedly making equal marriage part of the coalition’s agenda.

Cameron clearly saw equal marriage as a key part of his modernising agenda, and has the support of a Chancellor who by all accounts is quite liberal on social matters like this.

However, many Tory backbenchers and activists do not share their opinion, and are letting it be known in no uncertain terms.

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Superbowl Ads: Give Us 30 Seconds and We Will Give You Warped Messages About Sex, Gender, and Relationships

From RH Reality Check:

by Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check
February 5, 2013

I am not a football fan; I couldn’t even follow the game on TV until the advent of the computer-generated yellow line. (Oh, so that’s what they’re trying to do!) Still, I love the Super Bowl. I like the tradition of something that happens at the same time every year. I like the food (we always make chili and have recently added potato skins). Mostly, I like the thought that a significant number of people who I don’t know are doing the exact same thing that I’m doing at the same time–”event television” is rare in this age of DVRs.

Like many of those people, I pay more attention to the commercials than the game itself. In fact, I think it’s the only time I ever really watch commercials (as I mentioned, it is the age of the DVR). The problem is that as a sex educator and commentator, watching them kind of feels like work. I want to just enjoy them for the humor and the cleverness and marvel at how people came up with that idea, or alternatively complain about their lameness and failure to live up to the hype. But I spend so much of the rest of the year commenting on the warped messages society gives young people and adults about sex, gender, and relationships that each year, without fail, the Super Bowl ads serve up a microcosm of all these messages. For four million a pop, advertisers jam generations worth of bad messages into 30 seconds bits.

So as much as I want to sit back, acknowledge that advertisers have a product to sell (and that sex educators—with our insistence on appropriate messaging—would make lousy ad execs), I can’t. Like so many of my colleagues, I feel compelled to comment. The ads that set the sex education world all-a-twitter this year are pretty obvious and I am not the first to call them out.

There’s the Doritos ad where the daughter convinces her father to play “princess” with her instead of football with his friends by offering him a bag of the flavored chips. The gender messages in this one are pretty straight forward; girls like to play princesses while men prefer football (oh, and mom is out grocery shopping). Moreover, the humor in the commercial is based on the idea that men who wear dresses and make-up are inherently funny. To add to the effect, they cast stereotypically “manly” men—with beards and all. Jill McDevitt of thesexologist.orgcalls the ad “trans-phobic” because it suggests that men who put on dresses should “expect to be mocked.”

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Report: Catholic laundries enslaved women and girls in Ireland as recently as 1996

From Raw Story:

By Henry McDonald, The Guardian
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taoiseach Enda Kenny fails to formally apologise for involvement over female enslavement causing more outrage

After more than seven decades of exploitation and a 10-year struggle for justice, Ireland on Tuesday admitted its role in the enslavement of thousands of women and girls in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology from the government.

A long-awaited report headed by Senator Martin McAleese said there was “significant state involvement” in how the laundries were run – a reversal of the official state line for years, which insisted the institutions were privately controlled and run by nuns.

But the Irish Premier Enda Kenny’s failure to give the women and their supporters a full, formal, public apology in the Dail on Tuesday afternoon has infuriated the victims and their supporters, who said such an approach risked undermining Ireland’s attempt to right a historic wrong. Instead Kenny stated his “regret” about the stigma hanging over the women.

“The stigma that the branding together of all the residents, all 10,000, in the Magdalene Laundries, needs to be removed, and should have been removed long before this,” Kenny said. “And I really am sorry that that never happened, and I regret that it never happened.”

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See also The Guardian UK:  Magdalene laundries survivors threaten hunger strike

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Physicist Lawrence Krauss on teaching creationism: It’s a form of child abuse

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Solve the Real Problems – Poverty Retirement and Health Insecurity – and the Economy Will Recover

From Truth Out:

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Wednesday, 06 February 2013

The bipartisans in Washington are currently focused on Social Security and Medicare – not to improve health care and retirement, but to cut them. There is constant, exaggerated “sky is falling” deficit commentary about purported out-of-control spending caused by these programs, while the real twin crises of poverty retirement and health insecurity are ignored. Popular solutions to these crises exist that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare and spur economic recovery.

Facts You Are Not Being Told About Retirement and Health Care

We are in the midst of retirement and health care crises that are projected to worsen in the coming years, but we do not hear any discussion of real solutions to these problems. We do not hear the truth about retirement and health care in the corporate media or from either party. Here are some facts that paint the picture:

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Corporate Rule Has ‘Infected’ AFL-CIO Leadership, Labor Activist Contends

From Truth Dig:

By Thomas Hedges, Center for Study of Responsive Law
Feb 5, 2013

Longtime labor activist Harry Kelber will oppose incumbent Richard Trumka for the presidency of the AFL-CIO at the group’s convention in Los Angeles in September. Kelber feels an obligation to challenge a president who, he says, is pursuing wealth and prestige rather than the true ideals of labor activism.

Kelber contends that under Trumka’s leadership, the AFL-CIO has failed to address the mounting threat against labor in the United States from the loss of bargaining rights to the refusal to adjust minimum wage standards to the push against implementing the “card check” union organizing system.

The federation of labor unions is afraid of backlash, Kelber says. It supported Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections without pressing him on issues that, according to Kelber, should have been at the top of its list such as the Employee Free Choice Act to make union formation easier and single-payer health care.

Members “think there’s no chance of any improvement and so they’re not fighting,” Kelber explains. “In the ’30s they fought. They got Social Security, labor laws, the CIO. Now they’re getting nothing.”

Kelber was at the forefront of the 1930s labor movement, editing two worker weeklies, organizing with the CIO and supporting the Newspaper Guild strike against management in New York City, which caused a 114-day shutdown of papers there.

Now 98, Kelber is frustrated with a movement that, he says, cannot accomplish a fraction of what it did 80 years ago.

“Today,” he laments, “union members are passive.”

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