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March 21, 2003

You have the right to remain silent

Students at 84 Ohio schools quietly protest harassment

Cleveland--Students representing 15 high schools and nine colleges gathered at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center to end the Day of Silence on April 9.

The annual event is a national day of protest in which �students, faculty and staff take a vow of silence to protest the discrimination and harassment that can silence lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in schools,� said Chadwich Bovee, the media contact for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The Day of Silence is a program of GLSEN in association with the United States Student Association.

Around 200,000 people across the country were expected to take part in this year�s Day of Silence at roughly 2,000 schools.

At the Cleveland event, over 80 students participated in creative art and writing sessions led by a Baldwin-Wallace College art teacher and BW and Oberlin College students. The �Breaking the Silence celebration� also featured local bands Margot Catcher and Darling Waste, comprised of students from Cleveland State University.

The University of Cincinnati�s LGBT Alliance and the UC Women�s Center held a rally Zimmer Auditorium to mark the day, featuring city council members John Cranley and David Crowley, both of whom co-sponsored the gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance the city passed in February.

Kent State University�s chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a national gay, bisexual and progressive men�s fraternity, co-sponsored a day of silent protest with Pride! Kent, the university�s LGBT student organization. Bisexual singer-songwriter and activist Skott Freedman performed along with slam poet Buddy Wakefield in Kent�s end-of-day rally, following eight hours of protest in the Student Center plaza.

All told, 84 schools, colleges and universities in Ohio registered their interest in the Day of Silence at the website www.dayofsilence.org.

The Day of Silence was started in 1996 at the University of Virginia. Over 150 students participated in the first year�s event. The following year, Maria Pulzetti, one of the student organizers, decided to make the event national. She and fellow student Jessie Gilliam developed a program that could be adapted for different schools and campuses and started a website to bring it to the students across the country. Over 100 colleges and universities participated in the event�s second year, as well as some schools in Australia that heard about the Day of Silence and brought it there.

In 2002, over 1,900 high schools, colleges and universities participated.

 


 

Flex closes for 30 days, may seek new location

Columbus--Owners of a gay bathhouse at the center of a controversy closed the facility April 11 for 30 days, and may leave the newly-renovated building for another location.

The Flex bathhouse has been the center of neighborhood protest and opposition since it re-opened March 31 after being closed by the city for alleged code violations
March 3.

The facility is located in the old Livingston Theater in a distressed section of the Driving Park neighborhood in southeast Columbus. It was the former Club Columbus bathhouse from 1974 to 1996.

Flex, part of a chain of bathhouses operated by Fleck and Associates of Florida, say they have spent half a million dollars to renovate the building since last fall.

Neighborhood associations, including the influential Driving Park Commission, which is a part of city government, oppose the bathhouse.

The official position of commission chair James Johnson is that Flex would create problems with health, safety, behavior, and children.

Johnson says the facility is too close to the library across the street, schools and churches. All of these existed during the 22 years Club Columbus was there.

However, three members of another board, the Livingston Avenue Collaborative for Community Development, on which Johnson represents the commission, resigned in March in protest of Johnson and other members� attempts to keep the gay business out of the Driving Park neighborhood.

�I don�t agree with people making comments about anybody, or with the gay-bashing going on,� said one former collaborative member who agreed to talk only under anonymity.

Meets with city and gay leaders

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman�s office has become involved in attempts to resolve the tension, and Stonewall Columbus joined with the city�s Community Relations Committee in an attempt to bring all the parties together for discussion.

According to Stonewall Columbus Director Kate Anderson, Stonewall does not have a position on Flex or any other legally operated business.

Anderson said the Stonewall board believes the issues that neighbors have with Flex are that it is a business involving sex, not that it is a gay business, though a meeting is planned to evaluate that position.

Anderson said that about 15 gay community and business leaders met with Fleck management April 8. The group recommended that Flex get local representation to help with its image problem and hire a local attorney.

That recommendation led to Flex hiring openly gay public relations consultant Ric Wanetik. A new attorney has not yet been hired.

Voluntarily closed

Wanetik, who declined comment for this report, organized an April 11 meeting between Fleck vice president Walter Fisher, Columbus Director of Development Mark Barbash, and other undisclosed high-level officials.

Barbash described the meeting as a �private, confidential discussion.�

That meeting led to the decision that Flex would voluntarily close the facility immediately for 30 days and lay off all its employees, including manager John Logston.

Before his departure, Logston issued a statement saying, �Flex has heard the concerns of the community and met with representatives of the city. As a result of these meetings, Flex has agreed to close its Columbus center for the next 30 days to explore long-term solutions, including the option of relocation. We are closed, effective immediately.�

The next day, Minutemen United, a militant Christian men�s group from London, Ohio, led by talk radio personality �Coach Dave,� demonstrated at Flex.

City officials say that there were around 50 demonstrators, of which only 12 were Driving Park residents.

According to their web site, the Minutemen paraded, shouting, �get out Flex� then prayed �for the repentance and salvation of the homosexual patrons of the bathhouse.�

Anderson said Stonewall�s official role as a mediator is finished since the parties began talking. She added that one of the problems was that the Driving Park neighborhood leaders perceived the LGBT community as responsible for Flex and thought the LGBT community was ignoring their [neighbors�] concerns.

Owner will seek another bathhouse

Mark Wolfe, who purchased the building in 1999 and is leasing it to Flex, said he was not invited to any of the meetings with city officials, but was aware that the city proposed that Flex move.

Wolfe was also aware of talk that a third party was being sought to buy Flex�s option on the property. City officials deny that they are actively seeking a buyer, but others confirmed that it is being treated as a serious possibility.

Wolfe said if Flex moves without a buyer, he will find someone else to open a gay bathhouse in that location.

�That is what the building is,� said Wolfe, �and if anything, it will be easier to find someone since the remodeling was done.�

�I found Flex,� said Wolfe, �and there were others interested at the time.�

New ordinance allows baths

Mike Brown, a spokesperson for Mayor Coleman, said the city passed a new adult entertainment ordinance April 14 without language that would have prohibited bathhouses from operating in the city, as was speculated earlier.

But the new ordinance restricts new adult entertainment businesses to certain areas of the city.

Brown said Flex was told what those areas are and is free to look for a possible new site in those areas.

All interviewed refused to comment on the possibility that Flex would not find a new location and want to reopen the Livingston Avenue facility.

Will city act on protesters?

Asked what the city would do if protesters followed Flex to a new location, Barbash said, �The city would take a look at the law and enforce the law.�

Pressed as to why the city would enforce the law at a new location but is hesitant at the current one, Barbash said after a long pause, �I am not going to comment on that.�

The rift has exposed tensions and mistrust between the LGBT community and the African-American community.

The Driving Park neighborhood is predominately African- American.

Ronald Bryant, managing editor of the Columbus Post, a weekly African-American publication, said the black community and the black churches have issues of homophobia.

�They don�t tolerate [homosexuality] in their face,� Bryant said.

Another city official, who asked not to be identified, said having Flex stay where it is �puts at risk the efforts to build bridges between the gay and black communities.�

 


City sued over hate crime ordinance

Article 12 backers say it conflicts with their measure,
which city may seek to have voided

Cincinnati--Two backers of an anti-gay charter amendment and a city council candidate have filed suit against the city of Cincinnati, saying a gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance passed in February violates the charter amendment.

The suit, filed April 9 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, claims that the city abused its corporate powers by passing the law and asks that the court prohibit its enforcement.

Bringing the suit are Mark W. Miller and State Rep. Thomas E. Brinkman Jr., who are the remaining principals of Equal Rights Not Special Rights still living in the city.

ERNSR was formed to campaign for the Issue 3 initiative in 1993. Passed by 62 percent of the voters, it became Article 12 of the city�s charter, prohibiting the city from enacting any law protecting gay, lesbian, or bisexual citizens.

ERNSR is still chaired by Phil Burress, who is also the head of the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values.

Brinkman and Miller are joined in the suit by city council candidate Sam Malone.

The three are represented by Cincinnati attorney David Langdon, who represents CCV and the anti-gay American Family Association of Ohio, and Washington attorney Michael A. Carvin of the firm Jones Day, who defended the constitutionality of Issue 3 before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

The five-page suit, which cites no controlling case law, simply states that the ordinance violates the city�s charter governing its home rule powers.

Burress told the city �If you pass this ordinance, you will be sued� at a February 4 hearing on the ordinance. It passed five days later.

Langdon sent a letter March 4 to City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil requesting that she block enforcement of the ordinance.

McNeil responded March 14 that she would not act to stop the law on behalf of the taxpayers as requested by Langdon.

Prior to passage of the ordinance, McNeil issued an opinion to city council that the ordinance did not violate Article 12.

A similar opinion was issued in 1999 by McNeil�s predecessor Fay D. Dupuis.

Both opinions say that a hate crime ordinance that included sexual orientation would not violate Article 12 because they would be directed at criminals, not their gay or lesbian victims.

The ordinance�s sponsor John Cranley told the Gay People�s Chronicle at the time that such a lawsuit will be opened up to include Article 12 itself.

�If they litigate,� said Cranley, �the city will order its attorneys to re-litigate the constitutionality of Article 12 as well as defend this ordinance.�

At press time, the city had not yet assigned the suit to an attorney, and McNeil was not available for comment.

Langdon said he expects the case will ultimately be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.


Crumpton leaves CATF, Riley is interim director

Contract was bought out two months before it ends

Columbus--The board of directors of the Columbus AIDS Task Force bought out executive director Sue Crumpton�s contract on March 28, just two months shy of the completion of her two-year pact.

Stepping into the role of interim executive director is Aaron Riley, who assumed the position on March 31. Riley has been the director of client services for two and a half years. His predecessor, Lori Yosick, also became interim executive director during the search that yielded Crumpton.

Crumpton�s predecessor, Gloria Smith, had been the executive director of CATF for 13 years prior to her resignation, which she announced in April, 2000. A year later, the board announced that they had hired Crumpton, who assumed the position on June 4, 2001.

Despite the decision not to renew Crumpton�s contract, board president Jason Calhoun praised her work, noting that she strengthened CATF�s financial position, working them out of the deficit in which she found the organization.

�I�d say the Task Force is in very good position right now,� Calhoun noted.

Asked why Crumpton was released prior to the end of her contract, causing the Task Force to pay her despite her removal from the position, Calhoun said that the board made an evaluation whether to renew her contract and, �Once we decided, it was only fair to let her know.�

The choice of interim director was an easy one, according to Calhoun.

�We�ve been very impressed with Mr. Riley,� Calhoun said. �Sue [Crumpton] said he was executive director material.�

For Riley�s part, he has found the transition to be a smooth one, and noted that he has received a great deal of support from the staff.

�It is more work, but it doesn�t feel like more work,� he opined. �I view it as an opportunity.�

Calhoun cautioned that it was too early to estimate how long the search for a permanent replacement would take.

�We�re just in the process of starting to form a search committee,� he said.

Riley has yet to decide whether he will throw his hat in the ring for the post for which he was so highly recommended by his former boss.

�I haven�t really decided yet whether or not I�m going to go for it,� Riley noted.

At the moment, Riley is the only African American male leading one of the major AIDS service organizations in the state. He is also a board member at Stonewall Columbus, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and a member of the Central Ohio HIV Consortium and the Ohio Department of Health�s Ryan White CARE Coordination Council.


Authors kick off AIDS Taskforce Asian campaign

Cleveland--A new program of HIV prevention outreach to the Cleveland�s gay Asian male community was kicked off with the help of two noted Japanese-American authors April 14.

Al and Jane Nakatani, authors of Honor Thy Children, published in 1997, told a crowd of 100 to �break the code of silence and lift the cloak of shame� that can come from cultural expectations, so their gay children are not denigrated.

�There�s a direct relation between stigma, self-denigration, and HIV infection,� said Al Nakatani.

The Nakatanis, who now live in Maui, Hawaii, lost two of their three sons to AIDS and the third to murder.

Jane Nakatani said their youngest son Guy, who died of AIDS in 1994, was an AIDS educator and wanted them to write the book.

The Nakatanis, who are now gay civil rights activists, say they shut important parts of their gay sons� lives out their consciousness due to their own homophobia.

�When my sons became infected, I had to start changing,� said Jane Nakatani, �and I found out I didn�t know my boys at all.�

Their eldest son Glen was discharged from the Air Force after testing positive. He died in 1990.

The Nakatanis say their experience with their sons is �not unique at all� among communities of color, and that the messages heard in some of the communities of color leads to behavior that causes HIV infection, drug abuse, and violence.

The dinner, held at Bo Loong restaurant in Cleveland�s Chinatown, launched a postcard and billboard HIV prevention campaign directed at gay Asian men. The campaign is similar to those already running by the Task Force that are targeted to white men, African American men and women, high risk heterosexuals, and high school youth.

Two billboards featuring Asian models Brian Topaz and Tatsuya Nagashima have been posted in the Chinatown neighborhood as part of the Taskforce�s Art Action AIDS project. For Nagashima, posing for the photograph was his coming out.

The Taskforce is joined by nine other organizations in sponsoring the program, including the Asian Pacific American Federation, Asians and Friends Cleveland, BlackOut Unlimited, the Cuyahoga County Minority AIDS Coalition, and the Northeast Ohio African American Health Network.

 


OSU forum debates Supreme Court sodomy law case

Columbus--State sodomy laws now being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court were discussed at the Ohio State University law school on April 1.

OSU�s Moritz College of Law hosted a forum on Lawrence v. Texas, a case that may strike down 13 state laws against oral and anal sex.

In 1998, police responding to a false report of an armed intruder burst into the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence and arrested him and Tyron Garner for having sex. After spending a night in jail, they pleaded guilty, paid their fines and sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of Texas� sodomy law, which applies only to gays.

The high court heard arguments in the case March 26, and a decision is due by the end of June.

The OSU panel drew about 30 people.

The forum was organized by Chris Geidner and Shawn Brown of the OSU GLBT Law Association, and moderated by professor Sarah Cole. It included former White House special counsel J. Paul Oetken, co-author of an amicus brief filed in Lawrence; Anthony Varona, former Human Rights Campaign chief counsel and now a law professor at Pace University, and Marc Spindelman, OSU law professor.

Oetken focused his comments on the merits of the justices� questions and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Paul Smith�s arguments. Varona discussed the background of the case and took an optimistic approach, citing several recent cases where courts have decided in gays� favor.

Spindelman offered a radical feminist analysis of the Lawrence case. Noting that Smith was dismissive of Justice Antonin Scalia�s questions about rape, Spindelman made the case that the gay community needs to confront same-sex rape and sexual violence.

 


Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

News Briefs

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

Teen�s beating may be linked to Day of Silence encounter

Concord, Mass.--Police are investigating whether a beating that left a 16-year-old girl bleeding and unconscious in front of her house is connected to her encounter with a student who allegedly made anti-gay comments toward her a day earlier.

Caitlin Meuse was walking home from her friend�s house the evening of April 10 when she was apparently struck in the face with a blunt object.

A neighbor found Meuse in the street, unconscious and bleeding. She is recovering at Boston Medical Center from injuries including a concussion, missing front teeth, a fractured nose and deep cuts.

Police have said they �do not believe it was a random act.�

Meuse�s brother, Brian said �police are looking into� an encounter between Meuse and a female student Wednesday at Concord-Carlisle High School, as Meuse took part in the Day of Silence, an annual event at schools nationwide in which demonstrators refrain from talking to promote tolerance of LGBT students.

According to witnesses, the other student shouted anti-gay epithets at the youths participating in the Day of Silence. Meuse wrote the young woman a note, to which she replied by calling Meuse a lesbian.

Concord Police Officer Linda Layne said April 13 that there were no arrests yet in the case, but the investigation continued.

�She�s not gay, but very open-minded. If she believes in something, she believes in it 110 percent. If she could do it again tomorrow, she would,� said Brian Meuse of his sister.

Judge denies TG dad custody of boy

Chicago--A judge ruled a transgender man can�t have custody of a ten-year-old because the man is actually a woman and has no standing to seek custody because state law bars same-sex marriages.

Cook County Circuit Judge Gerald Bender on April 8 granted the boy�s mother sole custody. He did grant visitation rights to the father, whose first name is Sterling.

�[The boy] has bonded to Sterling, feels comfortable with Sterling and wants to see Sterling,� the judge wrote. But he said he could not violate state law.

The couple, who were not identified for the child�s protection, married in 1985 without disclosing that the groom was born a woman and underwent hormone therapy but still had female genitals. The mother became pregnant through artificial insemination.

Public Guardian Patrick Murphy, representing the child, said he was disappointed with the ruling and promised an appeal.

The child currently lives with his mother, but wants to live with Sterling.

Man can sue as spouse of deceased

New York City--A judge ruled that a gay man can sue a hospital as the spouse of his partner who died a year ago.

John Langan�s wrongful death lawsuit can proceed against St. Vincent�s Hospital in connection with Neal C. Spicehandler�s death, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John P. Dunne said in a decision released April 15.

Adam Aronson, a lawyer for the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal Defense, said the ruling is the first in the nation to treat a same-sex couple joined in a Vermont civil union as a married couple. The group represented Langan.

Langan and Spicehandler exchanged vows and rings in a civil ceremony in Vermont in November 2000, soon after the unions became legal. They had been together 15 years before their civil union.

Spicehandler was struck by a car on Feb. 12, 2002, and was taken to St. Vincent�s, where he died three days later from medical complications.

Langan sued the hospital as Spicehandler�s spouse, alleging that Spicehandler�s treatment by medical professionals was negligent and reckless.

In his 25-page decision, Dunne said that state law allows a common-law spouse from another state to sue for wrongful death and that same right should be afforded to a same-sex partner joined by Vermont�s civil union law. He noted that state law does not define �spouses� as being of different sexes.

Dunne cautioned that he was not ruling whether Langan should be considered Spicehandler�s spouse in New York �for all purposes.� The judge limited the ruling to his status for purposes of the lawsuit.

Governor signs rights, hate laws

Santa Fe--At a ceremony where he signed newly-passed GLBT civil rights and hate crime laws, Gov. Bill Richardson announced an executive order extending employee benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian state workers.

The civil rights law, the nation�s 14th to cover gays and lesbians and third to cover transgender people, cleared the legislature on March 21. The hate crime measure passed the day before.

Richardson estimated the partner benefits order he signed April 9 will affect about 300 employees.

A state employee and domestic partner must be in a mutually exclusive, committed relationship for the partner to be eligible for state benefits, the order says. The order requires the employee and partner to share the same primary home for 12 or more consecutive months.

Fortuyn assassin sentenced to 18 years

Amsterdam, Netherlands--The man who confessed to killing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison on April 15 for the first political assassination in the Netherlands since World War II.

Prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for Volkert van der Graaf, but said they were �not dissatisfied� with the verdict and were still considering whether to appeal.

The judges said they had considered as aggravating circumstances that the murder was premeditated and carried out �at close range and with deadly precision.� They also took into account that the slaying of the gay academic with anti-immigration views had damaged Dutch democracy. However, they said the chance of repetition was small and that the defendant deserved a chance to be rehabilitated and rejoin society.

Van der Graaf, 33, claimed he shot Fortuyn outside a radio station on May 6, 2002, to stop him from gaining power and carrying out his anti-immigration agenda.

Fortuyn scandalized Dutch politics by calling Islam a �backward religion� for its anti-gay views, blaming rising crime on the Moroccan and Turkish minorities and demanding a moratorium on new immigration. His leaderless party went on to make huge gains in the 2002 elections and joined a conservative governing coalition, but infighting among Fortuyn�s heirs quickly led to the collapse of the government.

Three held in bi man�s torture slaying

Salinas, Calif.--Dental records confirmed April 14 that a body discovered in northern Monterey County last week is that of a bisexual Salinas man who had been missing since December.

Investigators received a tip last week which led them to the badly decomposed body. Three people arrested in the case were charged April 14 with murder, torture and kidnapping

Hate crime charges were delayed pending further investigation.

Salinas police said the dead man had been identified as Robert Maricle, 30, who was last seen December 14 when he went to visit a friend at a Salinas apartment complex.

Dominique Daniel England, 23, Jeanne Soja, 29, and Daymon Schrock, 20, are being held on $1 million bail each.

Police allege the trio killed Maricle in part because of his sexual orientation.

Witnesses told police that Maricle was partying at Soja�s apartment with the trio on the day he disappeared. Court documents indicate that Schrock, who was jovial in court, has a criminal record for forgery, drug possession and shoplifting. He also told prison officials that he belonged to the Nazi Low Riders and the Peckerwoods, two white supremacist organizations.

Changes at �family values� group

Colorado Springs, Colo.--The anti-gay �family values� group Focus on the Family�s top leadership is being shaken to its core.

John Paulk, an �ex-gay� who manages the group�s Homosexuality and Gender Department, will leave on May 6 to be closer to his extended family.

Some supporters of Focus on the Family called for Paulk to be fired in the fall of 2000 after he was spotted visiting a gay bar. At the time, Focus chairman and president James Dobson said his actions �hurt the cause of Christ� but stood by him.

Dobson will turn over some of his own duties to former Reagan cabinet member Don Hodel and will spend more time speaking and writing, the organization announced April 11.

Hodel, a member of the Focus board since 1995 and a longtime friend of Dobson's, will become president and CEO on May 15.

Dobson founded Focus on the Family in 1977 in Arcadia, Calif. The group moved to Colorado Springs in 1991.

Hodel was president of the Christian Coalition from 1997 to 1999.

School says boy can be openly gay

Little Rock, Ark.--A school district being sued by a gay student says he can talk about his sexual orientation all he wants, as long as it doesn�t interfere with operation of the school he attends.

Therefore, the Pulaski County School District said April 14 in a U.S. District Court filing, there is no reason for the court to issue an injunction to protect his freedom of speech.

The student, 14-year-old Thomas McLaughlin, and his parents sued the district, claiming officials had restricted Thomas�s right to talk about his sexual orientation.

The suit also says Jacksonville Junior High School outed Thomas to his parents, forced him to read anti-gay Bible passages aloud, and suspended him for telling other students about the Bible-reading. He was also punished for agreeing with a female classmate that another boy was cute.

The McLaughlins, represented by ACLU attorneys, requested an injunction allowing Thomas to speak freely while the lawsuit is pending.

Jay Bequette, an attorney for the district, said McLaughlin�s free-speech rights are already protected under district policy.

On April 7, Bequette participated in a conference call with attorneys for the ACLU and U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele. After that call, the ACLU said it was satisfied with Bequette�s restating of district policy on free speech.

Indiana has second couples rights case

Indianapolis--A state employee asked the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn the denial of her request for paid leave to attend the funeral of her same-sex partner�s father.

The appeal by welfare caseworker Jana Cornell on April 8 was the second time in two weeks that the legal fight over rights for same-sex couples has gone before an Indiana court.

The previous week, a Marion Superior Court judge heard arguments in a case that three same-sex couples have brought challenging the state marriage law as unconstitutional. The same attorneys, Thomas Fisher of the attorney general�s office and Ken Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, are heading both cases.

Fisher said the state Family and Social Services Administration�s denial of funeral leave Cornell was not unfair or unconstitutional.

But Falk said the state already allows funeral leave in cases that extend beyond marriage and blood family, such as an unrelated individual living in the same household. He said the denial of leave for Cornell violated the equal privileges clause of the Indiana Constitution.

In the Marion Superior Court case, the ICLU is challenging the state�s marriage law on behalf of three same-sex couples who say that unions between such couples deserve full legal recognition.

Judge S.K. Reid heard arguments March 31 on the state�s motion to dismiss the suit, but a ruling is not expected until May at the earliest.

Rainbow flag to span Key West

Key West, Fla.--The California artist who created the rainbow flag as a symbol of gay pride is making a new version of the banner to commemorate its 25th anniversary.

Gilbert Baker, who lives in San Francisco, is sewing a 1�-mile long, 16-foot-wide version of the internationally recognized flag to be unfurled in Key West, Florida on June 15. After that, sections of the banner are to travel to 100 cities, including New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington D.C.

Baker�s creation is to be displayed along the entire length of the island�s main thoroughfare, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Baker created the original rainbow flag in San Francisco a quarter-century ago as a symbol of community pride in the face of anti-gay activities. He made a mile-long version of it in 1994 for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The 2003 flag will recreate Baker�s original eight-color design. The early flag lost two original colors: pink, because it could not be commercially reproduced at that time, and turquoise for logistical reasons, Baker said.

 


 

The untouchables of their time

John Greyson to present his story of 18th-century outlaw gay love

Canadian filmmaker John Greyson will be in Columbus to present his latest work on April 26. His most recent film Proteus, �a work still in progress� according to him, is a collaboration with Jack Lewis.

Greyson, born in British Columbia, today calls Toronto home after brief stays in New York and Los Angeles during his adult life. His previous works, which put him on the filmmaker�s road map, include the AIDS musical Zero Patience and the haunting Lilies. Having honed his skills in the 1980s in the video arts, Greyson naturally transitioned to film and digital media over the last decade.

His early works in video art were what he calls �experimental narratives mostly dealing with gay issues.� He said that with his early works his mission was to �try to expand the gay agenda,� to talk about issues that were not dealt with in the 1980s and are still not extensively discussed today. In particular, Greyson was drawn to AIDS-related issues as well as police entrapment of gay men.

At 46, Greyson acknowledges that he �became politicized fairly early during the late 1970s.�

�I was involved in a lot of peace movement stuff,� he said, �including some solidarity stuff with Nicaragua. It was such an energizing and mobilizing time.�

It was during this time that Greyson moved to Toronto and found himself getting sucked into that city�s politicized energy and activist milieu. He found that �there was such an attack on the gay community,� in particular the regular raiding of bathhouses by police.

Twenty-five years later, Greyson finds himself back in Toronto and things are �thankfully much different.�

�We are much more mainstream,� he said, �because we have a public voice and we are not such an easy target.�

He demurs from taking credit for helping to bring about the change with his films, but added, �I think that my films probably contributed to the dialogue around these and other issues.�

Proteus is Greyson�s first directorial collaboration with another filmmaker, South African Jack Lewis. While all the filming has been completed, the movie is still in the final stages of editing.

The film was digitally shot over Proteus 18 in Cape Town, South Africa. �This was a small-budget film,� Greyson said, �and was funded by both Canadian and South African agencies.�

Proteus is based on historical events in Cape Town. This film recreates a decade-long love affair in the 18th century in a penal colony on Robin Island. The two lovers were a Dutch sailor imprisoned for sodomy and a young Khoi herder. The Khoi were part of the Hottentot tribe and were the untouchables of that time.

The two were tried and their affair and legal battles are the grist of the film, based partly on court transcripts from the time.

In South Africa during the 1700s, sodomy was a crime deemed worse than murder, and the fact that these two young men were of different races complicated the matter.

�There were considered to be four main races, the Europeans, the Africans, the Indians, and the Americans,� Greyson noted. �The Hottentot were not even considered to be human.�

Grayson believes that, while not overtly activist, this film holds with his earlier work. He explained that he �has always been interested in history and how history has defined and redefined sexuality.� He has always been interested in �how marginalized people cope, particularly in the absence of resources.�

Even though this is the first time that Greyson has co-directed a film with someone else, he has �had an amazing ride with it.�

�It is the coolest thing I have ever done,� he added.

Greyson used his background from the arts scene and his experience with narrative structures and meshed it with Lewis� strength in documentary filmmaking. Greyson said that during the project, he was �both aesthetically and culturally challenged.�

The title Proteus refers to the herder of Poseidon�s seals in Greek mythology. The films sets up the device of a Scottish botanist who is in the region in 1735 collecting plants and trying to name a flower family. He meets the prisoners and their story unfolds.

One of the things that Greyson hopes the film will depict to its audiences is �how difficult it truly is to know history, particularly self-history.� This is always compounded by the fact that history is always written by the winners and rarely, if ever, have the marginalized had a chance to project their voices into the narratives.

Shot in English and Afrikaans, Proteus will start the festival circuit in June when editing will be completed. Eventually Greyson hopes that Proteus will find a distributor. While he is finishing up this film, he is already working on his next project, �a new, fictive opera about AIDS in South Africa.�

Greyson will return to his roots in video art, compiling an experience that is a series of video installations, making the audience move from room to room. Composer Dave Wall is collaborating with Greyson on this venture.

Greyson�s interest in AIDS in South Africa came partly from his contact with Jack Lewis� roommate, Zackie Achmat, an activist with the Treatment Action Coalition. Achmat actually sued the pharmaceutical companies who have refused to work to provide HIV drugs at affordable rates in countries where these treatments are simply unaffordable.

The day Greyson was interviewed, in fact, he was anxiously anticipating the outcome of some new rounds of civil disobedience that Achmat was organizing in that AIDS-ravaged region of the world.

�I think it is still hopeful because we are on the cusp of being able to do so much as long as there is the political will to fight the pharmaceutical giants,� Greyson said of the reports and statistics on AIDS coming out of Africa. �It is truly so easy because we have reached a stage where it would only cost eighty cents a day to treat the afflicted in that region if the pharmaceutical companies would give up their patents to allow for cheaper generics to be produced.�

�The world is notoriously slow many a time,� he said, �and so many people have to die before the world eventually gets it right.�

Of course, the situation was not helped any when South African President Thabo Mbeki said a few years ago that he didn�t believe that HIV caused AIDS.

�This man is a lunatic,� Greyson said. �Mbeki is a Rhodes scholar, and granted that he is conservative, [but] many of us are still trying to figure out what motivated him to spread such a ludicrous notion.�

Moving to activism closer to home, Greyson joked that he had �been at the U.S. consulate an awful lot lately.�

�It�s really great to see such a large anti-war movement,� he said. He referred to the 250,000 people who had marched in Montreal in March and seemed grateful for the resurgence of such a global outcry against the war in Iraq.

�I remember being in the States during part of Reagan�s administration and many of my friends and I used to think that that was the depths of evil. But this is a bigger depth of evil,� he mused.

Emitting a sardonic laugh, Greyson added, �This is such a level of lunacy that evil is not a very useful word.�

�The current Bush regime is an incredible indictment of the increasing rift between people and power,� he said. He believes that at least during the Reagan years and during Bush Senior�s rule �there was some pretense that the government was for the masses. Not so with the younger Bush.�

It is little wonder then that after his brief stints dwelling n New York and Los Angeles, Greyson found himself gravitating back towards Canada. It�s not simply the political milieu there that he prefers, but also the �great public support for the arts that exists in Canada.�

�Canada is a great place to make art,� he said, �and a healthy one because it allows many voices to be heard. That�s the reason I�m here.�

Greyson lives with Stephen Andrews, his boyfriend of six years. Andrews is a contemporary photo-based conceptual artist who he has known for 25 years.

Greyson will be at the Film and Video Theatre at the Wexner Center on April 26 at 7 pm to introduce the film. Tickets are $5 general admission, $4 for seniors, students and members. Call 614-2923535 or visit www.wexarts.org or for further information and reservations.

 

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