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All posts for the month June, 2011

Rag Tag Army

Published June 27, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

On the 28 June 1969, a rag tag queer army of accidental heroes when confronted by the NYPD during a public morals raid at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village struck back. The Stonewalls’ patrons at that time mostly drag queens, transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth, the most marginalised of us from within our community and without. This iconic battle known as the Stonewall Riots touted as the birth of the modern gay rights movement ironically was fought stiletto to billy club but not by the homophile organisations but the undesirables demanding the respect and dignity due them as human beings.

In the 1960s and 1970s a time of grassroot political action dominated by calls for liberation or ‘root and branch’ social reform, saw many confrontations between the people and authorities. Times were a changing fast, earlier movements included the homophile organisations whose aim was social respectability through integration and later through the Gay Liberation Movement we voiced demands for social reform.

Today

As we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century, we see gay rights organisations inheritors of the homophile perspective campaign for marriage equality, while kids kill themselves because of homophobic bullying. It seems unclear how a trip to town hall will change the norms underpinning this discrimination and persecution experienced within and by our communities.  The question here does marriage equality represent for some the opportunity to reconcile with patriarchal institutions in providing them a sense of social acceptance, while us undesirables still suffer the reality of social sanctions.

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NY 4 Marriage Equality

Published June 25, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Today, NY Senate passes Marriage Equity Act 33 -29, which enables long overdue recognition of same-sex civil marriages in New York State. I congratulate the many advocates for their commitment in prosecuting this hard fought battle for marriage equality and applaud these politicians for showing some leadership on this matter. On this day, New York leads America in taking another step forward towards full recognition of LGBTIQ Civil and Human rights. However, while buoyed by the Albany outcome the Rainbow Nation may want to take a moment to reflect on the journey from Stonewall to the present success.

Some 42 years ago, a rag tag army of the most marginalised members of the Rainbow Nation stood up to authorities and said through their action enough is enough. These heroes drag queens, transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth gave life to the battle for change. This event occurred at a time when the Nation sort change through the Gay Liberation Movement however it seems over time in seeking social respectability, the middle-class have sanitized our fight for change. Today, these marginal groups face the same discrimination from within the nation and wider community It is unclear how things have really changed.

As tomorrow and in 30 days, people will wake and the biases underpinning this discrimination will not have changed while challenged bigotry remains strong.  I do not believe marriage equality is the panacea for the discrimination experienced by people who identify it is but more window dressing in the campaign for social respectability. Admittedly, many would disagree with this view however, as a queer I feel strongly that contemporary activists while well meaning have missed the reason so many have spilt blood in this battle for change and not tolerance.

Men

Published June 24, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

I recently had correspondence with @GoodMenProject  a magazine site whose stated aim is to start a conversation about what it means to be a good man. The site seems open to feedback from readers however, the content seems mainstream with increasing number of articles relating to minority masculinities. You could call it a work in progress however the name confuses me good men, what does this value-laden label infer to the reader.  All I can go on is site content, which reflects a mainly white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied version of manhood.

In my opinion for what it is worth this conversation is long overdue however, I find this goal both exciting and intimidating as others may.  My enthusiasm for these types of opportunities is to engage with men in making sense of what it means to be a man. However, what often happens is that a minority hijacks these occasions to promote and perpetuate their political agenda either to reinforce the idealized masculinity or stereotype  and/or men’s rights rubbish. These situations are not conducive to a frank conversation, as men learn from birth not to question masculinity even if they spend the rest of their life trying to make sense of it.

This is why men rarely speak with each other about meaningful issues and are more likely to hide behind the stereotype or to engage in combat. Men do not talk to men about men’s business because they should already know the answers to their problems. A number of articles on Good Men demonstrate this with sensitive issues written by women and general articles by men have stereotypical themes like politics, sport and virility. The question here is where this conversation starts with a critique of masculinity, discussion of issues men face in their life, sharing stories of their lived experience to demystify what it means to be a man or something else.

In the Shed

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

John F. Kennedy

This is a cautionary tale of conformity by men to the narrative of the idealized masculinity, which requires some to find sanctuary in the closet or shed, As men, we seemingly adhere blindly to this myth as if some article of faith and in turn readily impose it on all. It is the root of all oppression, discrimination and subjugation in society.  The previous post concluded by drawing an analogy between the closet representing the oppression of queer men, and the shed of heterosexual men. This post provides some reflections the premise here is that one man’s closet is an others’ shed and sometimes you might find a closet in the shed. While both represent a prison, they also provide a sanctuary through a weird sense of anonymity.

The issue to free men from these sanctuaries or prisons means we have to challenge the need for their very existence. During the 20th century, masculinity faced a crisis its status as a sacred cow downgraded through critical inquiry by its detractors i.e. cultural diversity, women, and queers. The outcome of this inquiry masculinity is found wanting, more bravado than substance that actively seeks to maintain Anglo-European heterosexual able-bodied male individual, collective and institutional privilege.  Even in the diverse reality of their lived experience, men and their allies still hold doggedly to the fraudulent idealized model of manhood.

The question here is

Reform or Revolution

Coming out of the Shed the road towards a new way of

Knowing and Doing Manhood?

30 years

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

In Memory

Of

all who have died from HIV/AIDS

their Families, friends and communities who miss them everyday

On this the

30th Anniversary

Circus

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Barnum & Bailey have nothing on the three-ring circus that is Australian politics in a recent piece titled Courage and cowardice in politics the@rainbowreporter shares some commentary on how the greatest show in Canberra may shape Queer Oz.

In ring 1, bring on the bumbling or was that brawling clowns Abbott, Hockey and Turnbull vying for centre ring with some subtle and not so subtle pie throwing or are they grenades. This trio seem looked in some to the death competition for the Conservative leadership while putting on the mask of party unity which often slips in showing their real intent. The Clown Posse has no real leadership other than that motivated by personal interest this is a policy free zone obsessed with oppositional politics for its own sake.

In the centre ring, it is the PM trying to manage a team of prancing ponies with competing interests her intent is not that obvious in its execution. Her words and actions seem not that coordinated, leaving the audience somewhat bemused by her intent. Standing there in the middle it seems the ponies have the whip and a bridled Gillard endeavours to perform a range of tricks. Gillard does not seem to have the political skills and fortitude to manage these competing interests being dependent on the factional powerbrokers, regional independents and Greens to retain government.

In ring three, you have the Queers caged by historical persecution and institutional discrimination roaring out for these politicians to address our needs and basic rights. It is not as if the Rainbow Nation is unable to articulate these needs or reticent in doing so because we do this well. However, these calls fall on deaf ears of politicians concerned more with their own power struggles and in retaining privilege rather than dealing with issues faced by their constituents.  The question here is where there is a lack of leadership and political intent where do we turn now.

NO

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

#no2bullying #no2homophobia #no2suicide

On the news of another teen suicide due to homophobic bullying, it seems appropriate to make some comments. In clarifying, it is not clear whether the teen involved identified or not and no assumptions or implications are being made here. This is about our business in enabling kids to be who they are, unlike our detractors wanting to indoctrinate them through cohesion in conforming to some dated concept of gender identity.  We know the issues for the Rainbow Nation our susceptibility to bullying, mental health issues, substance misuse, and suicide.

Kids (25 & under), it matters not how they identify LGBQ, TT, I, SSA or Str8, that is not our business keeping them safe is our business. The point here is that all kids experience homophobic bullying no matter their gender identity and/or sexual ordination . This situation exists because of the narrow conceptualisation of gender or more precisely privileged masculinity as the default, which enforces compliance to  a specific set of social norms through bullying.

We know this from our individual and collective stories, this abuse in all its forms (i.e. physical, psychological and social) and the lingering deep emotional pain of rejection. Our expertise lies in the lived experience of bullying because of who we are young people seem more vulnerable to this violence. At a time in life full of discovery, confusion and contradiction, they face the excoriating pressure to conform or suffer social sanctions  and possible marginalisation.  In this time, some feel so isolated and disempowered they choose to act on their thoughts out of desperation resulting in their suicide.

This situation is not acceptable if we stand-by and let another young person bullied because of whom they are and is murdered because of the dysfunctional nature of gender. At some time as a society we need to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough what do we value more an insipid idealized masculinity or our children. As a community, the Rainbow Nation has a greater stake here in addressing bullying, homophobia and suicide equally, because they represent our oppression, persecution and marginalisation. As individuals, we have a duty to make this a better place than when we arrived, to stand up against injustice, be a good neighbour and keep people safe.

Please if you are, experiencing suicidal thoughts or feel emotionally unwell follow this link  or call Lifeline on 131114 (in Aus).