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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 18, 2002

 

Bouncing around for Hagan
Sister and wife team up to support candidate

Cleveland—A fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan on October 10 brought over 100 people to Bounce nightclub in Ohio City.

The fundraiser, aimed at the LGBT community, was held by Hagan’s sister, Susan, left, and his wife, actress Kate Mulgrew.

“I think it was incredible,” said Susan Hagan, an out lesbian. “I know my brother was touched by the outpouring from the performers, those who donated their time and talent, and the incredible work the host committee did.”

According to her, the benefit raised $8,623.01. “I have no idea where the one cent came from,” she noted.

“I was very pleased to participate in a fundraiser for my brother,” she continued, “and I’m happy Tim Hagan is my brother and not Newt Gingrich. Tim’s support of the LGBT community is unwavering.”

The former Speaker of the House also has a lesbian sister, Candace Gingrich.

“It is imperative for Ohio’s LGBT community to offer financial and volunteer support for Tim Hagan, as he is our first candidate for governor that has publicly stated his support for civil unions,” Cleveland Stonewall Democrats president Patrick Shepherd said, referring to Hagan’s statements at his first, informal debate with incumbent Bob Taft.

Shepherd also noted that, with further donations coming in following the event, the LGBT community in northeast Ohio raised over $10,000 for Hagan’s campaign in the last week.


 

16 local candidates share their views at Stonewall night

Columbus—Stonewall Community Action Network, the political lobbying arm of Stonewall Columbus, teamed up with the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans on October 10 to host a candidates’ night for local offices and positions to be decided at the polls on November 5.

Held at the Stonewall Center on High Street, the evening attracted an audience of 55 people, and 16 candidates or their representatives were present to ask for the vote of the community.

All the candidates were given two minutes to make their case in front of the audience. A lively question and answer session followed in which the candidates being questioned were given a minute each to answer the queries and concerns of the audience.

Many other candidates said they could not attend because six other candidates’ nights were being held by different constituencies across the city.

Most of the candidates present were running for an assortment of judicial offices. Adam Miller, a candidate for Probate Court judge, said that when elected, in his court, around the issue of adoption he would look at “whether you are a good parent or not and that’s it.”

“We won’t go probing,” he said, into extraneous issues. “The court should serve the community, and I mean the whole community.”

Patty Thomas, candidate for Domestic Relations judge, was represented by Bill Hedrick, current president of the Stonewall Democrats.

Michael Holbrook, candidate for judge with the Court of Common Pleas was represented by Trip Eagleson.

Three other candidates for the Court of Common Please were also present. John Johnson, Jennifer Brunner, incumbent Daniel Hogan, and Joseph Mas each made their appeal to the voters.

“The courts should be open for every citizen and that all people deserve a fair shake in the legal system,” Johnson said.

Several candidates for the Court of Appeals came to the event. They included Mark Froehlich, Lisa Sadler (represented by John Sadler of the Log Cabin Republicans), Gary Tyack, Deborah O’Neill (represented by Eileen Paley), and Judge Petrie.

The two candidates running for Franklin County Treasurer, Wade Steen and Richard Cordray, both spoke about the need to tighten the reigns at the office.

Incumbent Steen said that his office, compared to treasurer’s offices in counties of similar size, was the most efficient and cost-effective one.

Running for state representative in Districts 22 and 20 respectively are Kenneth Schweickart and Fran Dennis. Schweickart said that his opponent, incumbent Jim Hughes, had voted in favor of the “Defense of Marriage” Act, and against anti-discrimination measures.

The DOMA act bars state recognition of same-sex relationships, and could be used against local domestic partner measures. It passed the Ohio House last year, and awaits Senate action.

“You may as well call DOMA the anti-gay and lesbian act,” Schweickart said, promising to work for the LGBT community if elected. Dennis also shared his promise of taking gay and lesbian concerns to the Ohio House.

Kathy Kerr, speaking on behalf of U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce, said that Pryce, a moderate Republican, had been a long-standing ally of the LGBT community having endorsed ENDA, the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Kerr characterized this as “brave” for a Republican.

Most of the questions from the audience had to do with whether these candidates would work actively to end discrimination against LGBT people in the business and social realms of the community at large.

All the judicial candidates present as well as both candidates vying for the Franklin County Treasurer’s seat said that they would work hard to implement policies that further a non-discriminatory environment for LGBT employees.

 

 


 

Two interim directors to share David’s House top post

Toledo—Heather Stombaugh and Julie Embree are now sharing the position of executive director of David’s House Compassion, the only AIDS service organization in northwest Ohio.

The duo have been co-executive directors since October 1, when Skeeter Hunt was terminated from the position.

Hunt was the organization’s fifth executive director in five years, and her termination came two weeks after board member Jim Jeffries verbally attacked her three times in the lobby of the Center for Science and Industry in downtown Toledo, the site of the organization’s SRO Afterglow this year.

SRO Afterglow is David’s House’s largest annual fundraiser.

Shortly after the September 14 benefit, sources inside David’s House said that Jeffries’ wrath was directed at Hunt for her criticism at board meetings of the SRO planning committee.

“How dare you show your face here?” Jeffries yelled during one of his lobby confrontations with then-executive director Hunt. “Someone should call the police and have you removed.”

While some of Hunt’s dealings with the board were rancorous, her successors were kinder.

“Skeeter worked hard, but she and the board had different visions for the direction of the organization,” Embree said. “We wish her the best of luck.”

While Embree and Stombaugh’s current position are technically interim, the board is expected to take at least six months to find a permanent director, opening the process to Toledo’s LGBT and AIDS communities.

“They are not in a hurry,” Embree noted. “They want to reach out to the community to see what is the best way to serve clients.”

Embree’s permanent position is director of client services, while Stombaugh is the director of grants and fundraising. The tandem interim appointment is not unusual for the organization.

“We’ve had to step up before,” Embree said. “We’ve been without an executive director before. Heather and I have both been part of the agency for quite some time, and we have a wonderful working relationship.”

“I think the board recognizes that,” she concluded. “It’s great to work together.”

 

 


Team Columbus readies for Gay Games VI

Columbus--During the first week in November, more than 36 athletes and 10 dedicated supporters will travel nearly 9,500 miles from Columbus to Sydney, Australia to represent Team Columbus at the 2002 Gay Games VI. Team Columbus is a group of swimmers, triathletes, bodybuilders, runners, tennis players, and bowlers who will compete against more than 12,000 athletes from 72 other countries.

Columbus athletes have competed in the Gay Games before, most recently in Amsterdam in 1998.

“In Amsterdam, I was floored by the level of support all over the city,” said swimmer Julia Applegate. “As GLBT people, we are so often bombarded by prejudice, hate and discrimination. The gay games are a place to be bombarded by excitement, support, love and community.”

The athletic, cultural, and social events scheduled between November 2 and 9 will take place among some of the venues built for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The opening ceremony in Aussie Stadium is expected to attract nearly 40,000 spectators and will feature singers k.d. lang and Jimmy Sommerville.

Bowler Jeff Short hopes to complete all of his individual, doubles, and team events, despite some recent physical challenges that may prevent him from competing at his personal best.

“I’m looking forward to making a trip that has always been a ‘dream trip’ and being able to at least complete the elimination rounds,” said Short.

For new Ohio Splash swimmer Pud Baird, the Gay Games will mark her first international competition as well as a special personal milestone:

“My partner and I had attended Pride marches in Columbus and Washington, D.C., and knew what it meant to be ‘the majority,’ if only for once,” she said. “And this year was our twentieth anniversary of being together. What better way to celebrate our twentieth anniversary than by participating in the Gay Games?”

Another swimmer, Rick Edwards, looks forward to repeating the positive experience he had in Amsterdam.

“I think a sporting event like the Gay Games creates a healthy environment for gay people to compete and socialize in, without fear of being alienated,” said Edwards. “Competing in the gay games lets the world know that there are healthy gay people everywhere.”

Miguel Perez will represent Team Columbus in singles and doubles tennis competition.

“My goal is to be competitive and, more than anything, to have a good time,” he said. While new to the Gay Games, he has competed in local, national and international gay sporting events. “The incredible sense of community and pride one feels is truly amazing,” said Perez.

When Team Columbus formed earlier this year, organizers envisioned a team that would show the vibrancy of Columbus’ gay and lesbian community. Several events helped the group accomplish the goal of raising funds for uniforms and a team banner for the November 2 opening ceremony.

Separately, the Ohio Splash swim team raised enough money to cover swimmers’ entry fees and offer several travel scholarships to assist swimmers who would have been unable to make the trip otherwise. Most recently, Team Columbus held a pep rally at Wall Street nightclub.

See www.sydney2002.org.au for more information about Gay Games VI.

 


Flag-raising marks National Coming Out Day

Columbus--Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies at Ohio State University celebrated National Coming Out Day with a week of festivities and events.

On Thursday, October 10, the university’s LGBT student group Fusion and the office of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgendered Student Services held a flag-raising ceremony followed by a series of short speeches.

Sophomore Nick Harrod of Rossburg, Ohio, and junior Chris Hendrickson of Xenia raised the rainbow flag to fly alongside the American flag outside the Student Union. From there, a group of about 30 people marched to the intersection of High Street and 15th Avenue, one of the major student thoroughfares on campus.

There, several people spoke about the courage it takes to come out and why people should do so.

“Coming Out Day means a lot of different things to different people,” said Gloria McCauley of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, “from celebrating one’s self to being able to party and take pride in who we are.”

Linda Villarosa, a New York Times writer and featured guest at several Coming Out Day activities, said that even though she was completely out she found herself constantly coming out in different situations.

“I have been to New York Pride parades where there are thousands of people who are out and proud,” she said, “but what you are doing here too, with a smaller group, is just as important, is just as fantastic.”

Nick Harriod, Fusion’s treasurer, said that he was at the event “to show my support for those who have come out and to give courage to those who have yet to come out.”

“It is so terribly important,” he concluded, “to be able to be proud of who you are.”

 


Social justice center holds its first anti-violence
week

Columbus—The Ohio Center for Social Justice held its first Anti-Violence Week between September 5 and 12. All the events were held at the Thurber Center in Columbus.

Perry Slone, the director of OCSJ, said that the attendance at the events had been rather sparse partly due to the newness of the organization and partly due to competing events being held during the Anti-Violence Week.

“Next year we hope to coordinate better with other agencies doing the kind of work we do,” he said, “so that we might better reach people.”

Slone also said that with next year the fifth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming, OCSJ hoped to plan an anti-violence week with a special emphasis on anti-gay violence.

This year the events ranged from seminars and a resources expo to video screenings and a candlelight vigil. One of the videos screened was Scout’s Honor, which tells the story of Steven Cozza, a young heterosexual Boy Scout who has worked to end the Scouts’ anti-gay policies.

 


News Briefs

Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Brian DeWitt, and Patti Harris.

Resort plans dropped after site destroyed by vandals

Gruetli-Laager, Tenn.—A North Carolina businessman has dropped plans to open a gay resort in Grundy County after the site was heavily vandalized.

“This is a place I’m asking friends and guests to come to, and there’s no way I would do that without knowing they would be 100 percent safe,” Allan Winkler said. “I’ve already received ten death threats by e-mail.”

Winkler said he had planned the retreat for four years and expected it to open in the spring. He said only members were supposed to know the location, but someone somehow found it.

The security gate system was stolen and a one-story office building was demolished on the 75-acre site, he said. A water main was broken and the concrete septic tank lid was shattered.

Winkler said that it appeared that a tractor had been driven through the building, pushing it down. He discovered the vandalism on October 13, along with several dead dogs left at the site.

Winkler said he thought Grundy County was a good location for his Blue Fox Retreat because of its outdoor beauty. He said he had never before had problems with the local residents until a church raised a controversy last month about the resort.

Winkler called the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian civil rights group, about the vandalism.

Dyana Mason, southern field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., said she called the sheriff’s department about the investigation.

“If it does turn out to be a hate crime, we want to make sure justice is done,” she said.

Gruetli-Laager is 30 miles northwest of Chattanooga.

Fugitive killer is found dead

New York City—A fugitive who vanished seven years ago while awaiting retrial for killing a gay man was found dead in Mexico, a prosecutor said October 12.

Esat Bici, 30, and another man were found shot to death on Oct. 2 in a Tijuana apartment, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Mexican authorities said it appeared the shootings were drug related.

Bici, Erik Brown and Daniel Doyle--all members of a gang known as the Doc Martens Skinheads or Death Machine Skinheads--were convicted in 1991 of beating and stabbing Julio Rivera, 29, because he was gay.

In 1995, an appellate court overturned Bici and Brown’s convictions on procedural matters. Bici fled after being released on $350,000 bail.

The New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project had posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to Bici’s arrest.

Reports that Bici was touring in Europe in 1996 with the New York City hardcore band Madball prompted an international manhunt.

According to trial testimony, Bici, Brown and Doyle set out early July 2, 1990, to attack a gay person. They soon met Rivera and lured him into a Jackson Heights schoolyard where he was beaten and stabbed.

Doyle was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Brown pleaded guilty to manslaughter before retrial in 1996 and was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

Marriage ban issue won’t be revived

Boston—A Massachusetts Supreme Court justice on October 10 dismissed a lawsuit by anti-marriage activists who sought to pressure lawmakers into taking a second look at a proposed constitutional amendment.

The activists were upset that legislators killed the measure earlier this year. Last month, the state House and Senate voted to adjourn a joint session without taking a vote on the voter-initiated amendment, which would have defined marriage in Massachusetts as a union between one man and one woman.

Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage sued Senate President Tom Birmingham, D-Chelsea, who presided over the joint session, with the hope of reviving the question.

Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Spina dismissed the lawsuit because the group sued Birmingham as a private citizen rather than in his capacity as president of the Senate.

Spina said that as a private citizen, Birmingham has no authority over the Senate and as Senate president, Birmingham is shielded against the lawsuit.

Paris mayor leaves intensive care

Paris—Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who was hospitalized October 6 after being stabbed during an all-night public party at the French capital’s city hall, was transferred out of intensive care on October 11.

Delanoe underwent emergency surgery at Pitie Salpetriere hospital shortly after an assailant stabbed him in the abdomen during Paris’ “Sleepless Night” festival.

The openly gay Delanoe, 52, suffered injuries to the stomach, the intestines and the vena cava, a major vein that brings blood from the lower body to the heart.

Delanoe is expected to be released from the hospital in about five days but won’t be back at work for several weeks.

The suspect in the stabbing, Azedine Berkane, 39, has told investigators that he committed the crime out of a dislike of gays and politicians, authorities said. Berkane has been placed under formal investigation, one step short of being charged.

Psychiatrist appeals tuition repayment

San Francisco—A gay psychiatrist ordered to repay the U.S. Air Force $71,000 for his education argued to an appeals court October 9 he doesn’t owe the government anything and the military’s policy is discriminatory.

Dr. John Hensala, 38, attended medical school at Northwestern University, served his three-year residency at Yale University and received a two-year fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco--all with the understanding that, in exchange, he owed the Air Force four years of active duty service.

Shortly before he began his service, he came out. The Air Force promptly discharged him and demanded its money back, saying Hensala voluntarily failed to complete his service commitment.

In June 2001, a federal judge ruled in the Air Force’s favor, dismissing the case.

The judges peppered both lawyers with questions during their arguments. They were particularly interested in learning what Hensala knew about Air Force policy and when he knew it.

Judge Richard Paez asked the government’s lawyer: “Did he have knowledge that if he made these statements [coming out] that that would be considered a voluntary separation,” hence making him responsible for repayment?

“Defying the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy” was the “functional equivalent of a voluntary separation,” was the reply.

Hensala has contended all along he was willing to serve, but the Air Force simply refused to allow that.

The judges have no deadline to make a decision.

Teen sex law appealed to high court

Washington, D.C.—The Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Matthew Limon is appealing a 17-year prison sentence he got for having consensual oral sex with a nearly-15-year-old male. Limon, who had turned 18 only a week before the incident, would have been sentenced to a maximum of 15 months if he and his partner had been members of the opposite sex, because the “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals.

Under the Kansas law, consensual oral sex between two teens is a lesser crime if the younger teenager is 14 to 16 years old and the older teenager is under 19, and if the two “are members of the opposite sex.”

In papers filed October 10, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of Limon’s sentence.

“Because he had sex with another boy instead of a girl, Matthew Limon will be behind bars until he’s 36 years old,” said Matt Coles, the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project’s director. “After that he will have to undergo five years of supervision, and he will be permanently branded a child molester--all for a consensual act with a boy who was only three years and a month younger. If he were heterosexual, he would have been out of jail long ago.”

Senator defends ‘hairdresser’ ad

Red Lodge, Mont.—Sen. Max Baucus defended a Democratic Party advertisement that his opponent cited in dropping out of the race and said October 12 the response surprised him.

Republican Mike Taylor left the race Oct. 10, saying the TV commercial portrayed him as a gay hairdresser. The ad accused Taylor of mishandling student loan money while running a beauty school in the 1990s.

The TV commercial includes videotape of Taylor, 20 years younger and wearing an open-front shirt and gold chains while he massages a man’s face.

The videotape was from Taylor’s “Beauty Corner,” a television segment he hosted on a Colorado news program during the 1980s.

The ads were met with mixed reactions from gay groups and cosmetologists. Some argued that the ads amounted to gay-baiting on the part of the Democrat; others questioned what the point was, noting that being a gay man or a hairdresser did not preclude Taylor being a good senator.

Baucus made his first public comments on Taylor’s announcement Oct. 11 during campaign stops. Baucus said he was not involved in the advertisement and first saw it aired a week ago.

“It’s totally factual. It’s totally accurate,” Baucus said.

The Democrats’ ad cited U.S. Department of Education documents that concluded Taylor’s Institute for Hair Design provided loans to students ineligible for financial assistance and failed to properly refund student loan money when they left school.

Taylor had trailed badly in polls. His name will remain on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

Hate crime is charged in attacks

Los Angeles—Two teenagers were charged with hate crimes in separate baseball bat attacks on men they thought were gay, more than a month after protests over the lack of such charges in an earlier beating.

Investigators determined that the victims of the October 14 attacks were assaulted because of their perceived sexual orientation. One of the victims said his attackers used anti-gay slurs.

The attacks occurred just east of West Hollywood, where a Sept. 1 attack on a gay actor is being prosecuted as a robbery and assault. The decision by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley not to file hate crime charges in that case has prompted picketing of Cooley’s office and a petition drive to recall him. Cooley defended his action, saying investigators found the only motive was robbery.

In the most recent attacks, a 46-year-old man was struck on the head with a bat by a pair of assailants. Soon after, a 19-year-old man was assaulted, warding off blows from the bat but getting cut by a knife, authorities said.

Ever Wilfredo Rivera and Selvin Orlando Campos, both 19, were charged with two counts each of hate crime, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The hate crime counts can add up to four years on any sentence.

 


 

Being a kid is a drag, on screen?

A recent spate of films features children in cross-gender roles

Why would an eight-year-old boy want to wear a dress?

“Scotsmen wear dresses, they’re called kilts. King Tut wore a skirt . . . the Dali Lama wears dresses . . . great charioteers wore short skirts. The Siamese emperor wore a robe much like the kimono  . . . Muslim men wear dresses. Hungarian cowboys wear dresses. Men in Africa wear dresses. Angels wear dresses. Even the Pope wears a dress . . .” exclaims eight-year-old Bruno (Alex D. Linz) in The Dress Code (2000).

Bruno is explaining to the Mother Superior (Kathy Bates) of his Catholic school why he wants to wear a dress to school. His best friend (Kiami Davael), a tomgirl, prefers to dress as a boy, but no one’s that concerned about her.

It’s no longer politically correct to make fun of a “sissy” in public. But American audiences are more than willing, eager and encouraged to watch movies that make fun of and laugh at sissies.

But if you want to make Americans very uncomfortable, and want to bring the full wrath of the gender police upon you, just try to make a serious movie about a sissy.

Shirley MacLaine learned this lesson the hard way. For her directorial debut, MacLaine chose to bring to the screen the story of a boy who prefers to dress as a girl. She told TV Guide in January 2001, “There was this terrible humiliation of not being able to get a distributor. I went to every studio, and they adored the movie but said, ‘We don’t know how to market it.’ ”

Translation: We don’t know how to market it so audiences won’t feel threatened and uncomfortable.

Seriously suggesting that it might be okay for a boy or girl to cross gender lines is strictly taboo. In 2002, gender roles in our society are still fiercely enforced.

So why are we now seeing more and more movies depicting boys and girls in drag? Are the traditional gender cops such as parents, the church, the government, the military and peer pressure becoming more tolerant of sexual diversity?

Cindy Martin, the publisher and editor of Transgender Forum (www.tgforum.com) believes they are.

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen in the last year has been the adoption of anti-bias laws for transgenders in cities and counties far outside the elite liberal cities on the coasts,” she says.

“As we’ve become less exotic, parents may now be a little less queasy about seeing kids their own children’s ages depicted on screen as less than traditional. They still may not like the idea that their kid is ‘different.’ But, at least they know that the ‘unusual’ kid will probably not face the kind of ferocious bias they would have faced a generation ago.”

In the past, with a few notable exceptions such as The Member of the Wedding (1953) and West Side Story (1961), drag was primarily used as a sight gag and almost always featured an adult.

Serious dramas about boys and girls who freely choose to dress in “gender-inappropriate” attire and for the most part don’t care what anyone else thinks, began about ten years ago.

When it comes to frankly exploring sexual issues, European cinema is always a decade or so ahead of American film. So it makes sense that Agnes Varda’s French drama Jacquot (1991) would be the first film to cross adolescent gender lines. In this bio-pic about filmmaker Jacques Demy, the budding teenage filmmaker enlists the support of all the boys in the neighborhood for his movie. When one of the boys objects to dressing in drag as a girl, another boy gladly takes the role.

A few years later, British director and screenwriter Andrew Birkin’s Cement Garden (1993) took it a step further. This story of incest and survival revolves around four siblings who decide to survive on their own (rather than be placed in a foster home) following the deaths of their parents. The youngest boy (Ned Birkin), about nine years old, wears a dress through much of the film because he thinks he would rather be a girl.

Canadian writer/director Jeremy Podeswa’s The Five Senses (2000) went even further. Brendan Fletcher plays a teen voyeur who likes to spy on gay men having sex in a park. He also discovers that he likes to dress up in women’s sexy lingerie while wearing makeup and a wig.

These three films, however, were merely a tease. Director Alain Berliner’s 1998 French drama My Life In Pink (aka Ma Vie En Rose) went all the way.

In a brave and powerful performance, Georges Du Fresne plays a seven-year-old boy who becomes an outcast in his neighborhood, his school and in his own family because he wants to live and dress as a girl. When his family is forced to move to another town, the boy meets a girl who wants to live and dress like a boy. In the end, his family decides to accept him and let him be who he is.

But the cinematic home run was hit in 2000. British director Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliott made this difficult topic palatable to American audiences and even received an Oscar nomination.

Billy Elliott features Jamie Bell in the title role as an 11-year-old boy who prefers learning to dance to learning to box. While Bell pushes the gender envelope, his father and brother are homophobic miners who forcefully push back.

Bell doesn’t want to dress in drag, but instead discovers his best friend (Stuart Wells) wearing a dress and makeup. He’s accepting of his friend when he comes on to him sexually, but says that just because he likes ballet doesn’t mean he’s a poof. But it doesn’t mean he’s not, either. And the film is brave enough to leave the question unanswered.

Even though the British-made Billy Elliott was a critical and financial success, The Dress Code, produced the same year, was still a little too close to home for American studios to embrace.

So what, if anything, do these handful of films have to say about gender in America? Are these films simply a reflection of a society that now sexualizes children at a much younger age?

Cindy Martin believes that “All media is a reflection of social change. Kids are exposed to a lot of sexual imagery, but are kids really having sex at an earlier age than say 20 or 30 years ago? I don’t think they are, other than in the most distressed communities.”

Are children more aware of sexuality today and less threatened by diversity than in the past?

“There’s no question that in both grade school and high school the ‘diversity is good’ message is hammered into them. This began with sensitivity about race and ethnicity and has pretty naturally flowed into positive, or at least fair, messages to kids about homosexuality,” says Martin.

“American teachers are among the most liberal group of people in the country,” she continues, “and there is no question that they’ve eagerly embraced the diversity message. They’re faced with it every day!”

It may still be an uphill battle to honestly depict gender diversity on film, but Martin remains positive. “Even if these films are part of a fad, and I know they are, the very fact that they are produced at all speaks volumes about how far all of us have come on issues involving gender and sex.”   

Steve Stewart is the author of Out on the Screen: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Guidebook to more than 2,000 movies and videos from around the world, and the Full-Frontal Newsletter, a free monthly guide to nudity in the movies. Both are available at www.companionpress.com.

 

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