Cincinnati--A hate crime ordinance that includes sexual orientation passed the Cincinnati City Council on February 5 in a vote that observers say shows that the city�s anti-gay charter amendment may fall if it is put to a vote in 2004.
�The City of Cincinnati is coming to understand that discrimination is
discrimination, and that it is wrong,� said GLBT activist Bill Bridges
immediately following council�s
The vote broke along party lines, with six Democrats, John Cranley, David Crowley, David Pepper, Paul Booth, Minette Cooper and Vice Mayor Alicia Reece joining Jim Tarbell, a member of the local Charter Party voting for it. Republicans Chris Monzel and Pat DeWine voted no.
Mayor Charlie Luken has said he will sign the ordinance if council passes it. It will take effect immediately when he does.
Bridges also noted that all three of the council�s African-American members, Booth, Reece, and Cooper, voted for the bill. He said this could mean a decline in opposition to pro-gay legislation by black clergy, who helped pass the Article 12 charter amendment ten years ago.
The ordinance was sponsored by council member John Cranley, 28, a Democrat. It was sparked by the New Year�s Eve murder of Gregory Beauchamp, a 21 year-old gay man who was shot to death while walking with friends in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Two of the men were in drag.
Police consider Beauchamp�s murder an anti-gay hate crime. Cranley introduced his measure because neither Cincinnati nor Ohio hate crime laws include sexual orientation.
Cranley said the need for the ordinance came to him as he walked with GLBT activists in the city�s Martin Luther King Jr. march on January 21.
Two days later, Cranley met with GLBT leaders to discuss an ordinance expanding the city�s �institutional intimidation� law to include gender, sexual orientation, age and disability.
Previously, the measure only included race, color, religion, and national origin.
Cranley introduced the bill in council later that day with Democrat David Crowley as co-sponsor.
Cranley�s ordinance is nearly identical to one offered by Todd Portune in 1998 and 1999. Cranley was appointed to fill Portune�s seat when he ran for Hamilton County Commissioner in 2000.
�Maybe now was the right timing,� said Cranley, adding that he had the support of civil rights activists in both the GLBT community and the larger community.
Cranley added that he considered the ordinance to be a �major step forward� in repairing Cincinnati�s image, which has been tarnished by racial tensions and Article 12. The charter amendment prohibits any city ordinance giving �minority or protected status to people based on sexual orientation or preference.�
Article 12 has been the focus of the debate on Cranley�s bill. Opponents say it violates the amendment and have threatened to sue the city over it. Supporters say that while Article 12 may cover the victim of a hate crime, the new ordinance only deals with the perpetrator.
Supporters also point out that values have changed since 1993 when the amendment was passed as Issue 3, and see this ordinance as a sign that voters would likely repeal it if it were put on the ballot again. Such a ballot issue has been proposed for November 2004.
Cranley noted that the Baptist ministers who played a role in Issue 3 were �sitting on their hands� over his bill.
City Council�s Law and Public Safety Committee heard three hours of testimony the day before the full council voted. The committee voted 3-2 with one abstention to send the bill on to the nine-member council.
Committee chair Pat DeWine, who is one of two Republicans on the council and the son of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, made it clear early on that he opposed the ordinance. He opened the meeting by telling the standing-room-only crowd that any debate on the bill was �symbolic� because no one has been charged with violating the city�s hate crime law since it was enacted in 1996.
Of the 59 speakers at the hearing, only six spoke against the measure.
One of the opponents was Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, who spearheaded the 1993 Issue 3 campaign.
�Number one, if you pass this ordinance, you will be sued,� Burress told council members. �Number two, if you pass this ordinance, there will be a vote by the electorate in November, and it will not be a symbolic gesture.�
Burress� threat was based on his group�s claim that the ordinance violates Article 12. But two city solicitors have issued opinions, in 1999 and this year, that it does not.
Burress said later that his group�s attorneys, who worked on drafting Article 12, have said that it does. He said a suit would be filed in Common Pleas Court.
�If they litigate, the city will order its attorneys to re-litigate the constitutionality of Article 12 as well as defend this ordinance,� said Cranley.
Article 12 was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997, and the following year the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that ruling to stand.
Burress dismissed the suggestion that the small turnout of opponents at the hearing was a sign that CCV�s influence was diminishing.
�We didn�t try to get anyone there,� said Burress. �We did this ten years ago, and this fight was fought then.�
Then Burress attempted to downplay CCV�s anti-gay activity.
His group is presently working against a gay and lesbian civil rights ordinance in neighboring Covington, Kentucky. Last year CCV aided opponents of a domestic partner ordinance in Cleveland Heights, and they supported the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act passed by the Ohio House in October, 2001. Their lawyer David Langdon, who wrote the DOMA bill, argued against gays and transgenders in three Ohio Supreme Court cases in 2002.
�It only takes up about five percent of my time,� said Burress of these projects. �We�re about trying to reduce pornography. We do more to reduce crime in this county than anyone else.�
Brussels--Belgium became the second nation in the world to include gays and lesbians under the same marriage laws as heterosexuals on January 30, when parliament backed the move with a large majority.
�It makes it clear that any enduring and loving relationship is appreciated in the same way in our modern society,� said Kristien Grauwels, a Green Party legislator.
The Netherlands approved same-sex marriages two years ago. Unlike its northern neighbor, Belgium did not allow same-sex couples to adopt children. This was compromise between the more liberal Dutch-speaking parties and the more socially conservative French-speaking ones.
In the House of Representatives, the bill prevailed in a 91-22 vote with nine abstentions, with the opposition Christian Democrat CdH and the extreme right Vlaams Blok voting against it. The measure had been approved by the Senate in late November.
Belgium was already one of several European nations, including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, France, Germany and Portugal, with same-sex domestic partner laws that grant many legal, tax and property rights but fall short of marriage. Hungary and Canada recognize same-sex common-law couples. One U.S. state and two Canadian provinces have marriage-like civil unions: Vermont, Nova Scotia and Qu�bec.
Grauwels was disappointed the parties would not back the approval of adoptions for such couples.
�It still was a step too far for several parties� in this country, which has a long Roman Catholic tradition, she said.
In the Netherlands, one in every 13 same-sex couples, mostly women, have by now adopted children.
During the public debate and vote, dozen of lesbian and gay couples attended the proceedings, some holding hands as the legislators approved the legislation.
Because of international legal constraints it will be tough for Belgians to enter same-sex marriages with foreigners, since only the Netherlands now has a similar system in place.
Belgian law requires foreign citizens to obey the marital laws of their native countries when entering into a marriage in Belgium. This means that only Belgians and Dutch can enter into same-sex marriages there. The Netherlands allows foreigners to marry after they have lived there for six months, regardless of their home country�s laws.
Belgian same-sex couples wanting to live abroad could well encounter difficulties, warned Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen.
The first such marriages will be granted four months after the publication of the law in Belgium�s official journal.
Canada may well become the next nation with full same-sex marriage. Courts in Qu�bec and Ontario have ruled that the government�s opposite-sex definition of marriage is unconstitutional. The government is challenging the rulings in the Supreme Court, while also examining the options of nationwide civil unions or the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Cleveland--A spate of crimes in and around gay bars have plagued Ohio since fall, but police say that most of them are not hate crimes.
Bars have been robbed at gunpoint, patrons have been attacked after leaving dance clubs, and burglars have forced their way in under cover of darkness, making off with whatever they could carry.
On January 9 at 1:42 am, a man who had left Adams Street bar in Akron ten minutes earlier returned with a gun, demanding money. When the cash register could not be opened, he hit the bartender with the gun and took $10 in tips. Another customer tried to wrest the gun from his grip, but she was unsuccessful.
The suspect was described as a white male between 25 and 35 years old, between 5� 7�� and 5� 9� and having a thin to medium build. He had short, dark brown hair and scruffy facial hair. Police have not caught him yet, but reported that they were making progress in their investigation.
A similar incident occurred at the 5� Decision, better known as the Nickel, a lesbian bar in Cleveland. On October 8, a man with a gun entered the bar, pointed it at the bartender and ordered her to give him all the money. She complied and he started to leave, then turned back and demanded a bottle of liquor. He walked out with cash and Stolichnaya in hand.
This time, a suspect was caught within weeks. Jason Scott, 26, is now awaiting trial.
Leaving the Grid nightclub in downtown Cleveland at 3 am on the morning of January 12, Jack Taylor had walked a block and a half towards the bus stop on Superior when a man emerged from behind a parked car, brandishing a crowbar.
�Give me all your shit,� he told Taylor, according to police reports.
Taylor refused, and the man struck him in the head with the crowbar. The two struggled until a Tenable Security car drove by.
Security guard Jeffrey Holdeman got out, separated the men, and radioed police for help. Holdeman kept the two men there until police arrived.
Police said the man with the crowbar claimed he had scared off two other men who were attacking Taylor, but Taylor identified him as the attacker.
Police arrested James E. McFadden, who awaits trial on charges of aggravated robbery, a felony.
All three crimes were directed against gay men and lesbians, and all three were in or near gay bars. According to police, though, none of them were bias crimes. Rather, they were crimes of opportunity.
Police point to the location of the attack on Taylor, noting that it would be impossible for his attacker to tell whether he had come from the Grid, the Crazy Horse heterosexual strip club across the street, or another location in the area.
In the case of the Nickel incident, the alleged robber knew the ex-boyfriend of a woman who lives in the neighborhood. Police believe he simply figured the bar might be an easy target. He knew it was not that busy on that night, so the odds were good that he would encounter little resistance.
In a way, he was right. The bartender did the smart thing during a robbery: She gave the criminal what he wanted without resistance, protecting her and her customers� safety.
In the Adams Street robbery, police say an attempt at heroics like trying to wrest a gun away from a robber could result in the weapon accidentally going off. The move might anger the robber, leading him to shoot staff or patrons. This gun may not have been loaded, explaining why the robber used it as a club, but police stress that it is a risk not worth taking.
�What we normally tell people is, if somebody approaches you with a gun, don�t struggle because nine out of ten times, they�ll win,� said Columbus Police public information officer Sherry Mercurio. �Give them what they want, then call the police as soon as you can. We have officers with bulletproof vests. It�s not like on television where you can get shot and come back next week. Your life is more valuable than your credit cards or your jewelry.�
While these three were crimes of opportunity, not anti-gay bias, there have been crimes that specifically targeted LGBT people. Gregory Beauchamp was murdered in Cincinnati on New Year�s Eve while walking to a club with some friends, and his death sparked a renewed call for the addition of sexual orientation to the city�s hate crime ordinance. Last year, William Coffman was arrested for targeting gay men in a series of Columbus robberies in the spring that allegedly escalated into rape.
Other robberies have targeted gay businesses. Remo�s in Columbus was robbed last summer, while in May, a man grabbed some money from behind the bar at Twist in Cleveland and walked away.
Snickers Tavern, a gay restaurant and bar on Cleveland�s west side, was robbed twice in 2001 and once in October, 2002. All three times, someone broke in while the bar was closed. At Union Station in Cleveland on October 13, 2002, burglars knocked a hole in the wall during the night and stole $300 from the bar while doing over $7,500 worth of damage to the wall and to equipment in the bar.
While these crimes were committed in gay businesses, police do not consider them bias crimes. In one of the break-ins at Snickers, a former employee is suspected.
Police insist on the importance of reporting all crimes. Traditionally, the gay community is leery of law enforcement officers, but unless the crime is reported accurately, the police will never be able to catch the perpetrators.
Further, many cities in the state have LGBT organizations that compile hate crime statistics. The Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center; Columbus�s Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) and Stonewall Cincinnati, to name three, all keep records of reports of anti-gay crime, whether the police determine that bias is a motive or not.
Reporting the crimes to the organization, however, is up to the victims. Unlike a report to the police, reports to community centers can be made anonymously, but they are absolutely necessary for the purposes of getting an accurate picture of the number of attacks on LGBT people.
The Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, for instance, notes that no reports of violence have come in since October. This can mean no LGBT people have been attacked, but it might also mean that people are not reporting the incidents.
Even more important than reporting, though, is trying to prevent the need for a report. Brian Thornton, the staff member at the Cleveland center responsible for keeping the reports they get, notes that the most important thing is to keep safe.
�Always be aware of your surroundings, and try to stay in groups going in and out of the bar,� he said.
BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley echoes the sentiment, also noting that when going home with someone, always make sure that you tell others where you are going and with whom.
In the case of an anti-gay attack or harassment--covering anything from having a rainbow flag stolen from your porch or someone yelling an anti-gay epithet from their car to an actual physical attack or severe vandalism--BRAVO notes that it is important to report hate crimes.
�There are always options, whether the incident seems insignificant or feels hopeless,� McCauley said. �Reporting a crime can be an important step in the healing process for survivors of violence.�
McCauley gave three more reasons for reporting crimes.
�First, when incidents are left unchecked, sometimes they escalate into more hostile and violent forms of harassment. Second,� she continued, �your report might help to reveal a larger pattern of crime in your area. Finally, documentation counteracts denial. Policy makers are no longer able to say, �It doesn�t happen here�.�
Washington, D.C.--Days after a State of the Union address calling for $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa but barely mentioning the domestic effects of the disease, President George W. Bush has turned in a budget for 2004 with a 7% increase in AIDS funding at home.
Bush�s request for an African AIDS initiative would triple U.S. spending to fight the disease running wild on the continent.
Shortly after the State of the Union speech, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups and AIDS activists praised the administration�s commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa, but questioned Bush�s commitment to fighting the disease at home, noting that 900,000 people are infected domestically.
�Each year 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV,� Human Rights Campaign executive director Elizabeth Birch wrote in an open letter to the president. �Currently an estimated 900,000 Americans are HIV positive and evidence indicates those numbers are increasing, not declining or even holding steady. We hope you will encourage the Congress� budget conference committee to support Senate increases in funding for the Ryan White CARE Act and to submit higher funding levels for all federal HIV/AIDS programs in your FY04 [fiscal year 2004] budget request.�
Birch�s request was answered, at least in part. Bush�s 2004 budget showed a 7% increase in domestic AIDS spending, primarily for research and treatment, with little or no increase for prevention.
What angers activists more than the lack of increase in spending for prevention, however, is the president�s continued support of �abstinence-only� prevention programs.
�President Bush continues to place abstinence and ignorance over science and solutions,� National Stonewall Democrats interim executive director Chad Johnson said. �Despite contrary rhetoric, this budget demonstrates a complete lack of leadership on the part of the administration regarding HIV/AIDS.�
While Ryan White funding is increasing 5%, the Stonewall Democrats point out it has had no increases in the last three years. The additional funds fall short of inflation over that period, they say.
HRC also expressed distress at cuts in prevention funding, but noted that the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which helps people with HIV living in poverty get life-preserving medication, is slated to get a $100 million increase.
�It is extremely disappointing that the president would cut prevention programs domestically while increasing them internationally,� said HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg. �To effectively fight this epidemic, we need a commitment to science-based prevention programs both at home and abroad.�
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Couples to seek marriage licenses on Valentine�s Day
Toledo--When Valentine�s Day dawns on the Lucas County marriage license bureau, Dr. Thomas Meinecke and John Meinecke will be there, applying for their marriage license.
The couple are being joined by others across the country in a protest against laws banning same-sex marriage.
�We�re not asking for special rights, we�re asking for equal rights,� said Rev. Edwin Yates, pastor of Toledo�s New Life Metropolitan Community Church. �We�re simply asking for equality under the law and for an end to discrimination in marriage.�
Couples in other cities are planning similar outings, and have sent releases to media outlets to encourage the press to cover their attempts to get married.
�It�s time for the United States of America to catch up with progressive nations such as Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands which already provide for same-sex marriages,� said Yates.
Belgium and the Netherlands allow full gay marriage, while the other countries have sweeping domestic partner laws for same-sex couples. Two Canadian courts have ruled that current marriage laws violate the country�s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the equivalent of the Bill of Rights.
O.U. senate calls for partner benefits
Athens, Ohio--The Ohio University Student Senate passed two resolutions on January 29 supporting LGBT students and staff at the university.
The two measures passed with widespread support. One urged the school�s administration to offer domestic partner benefits to university employees who cannot marry their partners or choose not to.
Senators noted that the benefits had not been extended for fear of losing funding because of homophobic legislators, since O.U. is a state school. Others noted that a number of private colleges and universities across the state offer the benefits.
The second resolution urged administrators to increase funding to the LGBT programs office so that it could be open and staffed full-time.
Mickey Hart, the programming coordinator for the office, often works overtime without pay to keep the office running.
�The LGBT office does a lot of great stuff on this campus and could do even more with a full-time office,� Sen. Sara Mari Flores said at the meeting, according to the Athens News.
Drug-resistant staph seen in gay men
Los Angeles--An emerging epidemic of drug-resistant staph infections has broken out among gay men in Los Angeles County, officials said.
Large, painful skin infections began turning up early last fall among gay men,� and have surfaced with increasing frequency over the past months. Though doctors found the symptoms alarming, it took time to confirm that Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, was causing the skin boils, deep abscesses and surrounding inflammation.
�The concern is this organism could spread to and cause disease in the community at large,� said Dr. Peter Ruane, an infectious disease specialist in Los Angeles. �It seems to be able to attack normal skin in healthy people.�
The infection appears to be spreading through skin-to-skin contact, including sex, and it has proved to be impervious to common antibiotics. There have been no deaths, but the infection can be fatal if it spreads to the blood and antibiotics fail or it goes untreated.
Drug-resistant staph infections have long been recognized as problems in nursing homes and hospitals, but the current outbreak marks the first time the infection has been reported in the gay community.
Staphylococcus aureus lives on the skin�s surface, usually existing harmlessly in the nose, armpits and groin. Infections typically start in a cut or other opening, but the infections seen in local gay men took hold in unbroken skin.
Vatican denounces transsexuals
Vatican City--Transsexuals suffer from �mental pathologies,� are ineligible for admission to Roman Catholic religious orders and should be expelled if they have already entered the priesthood or religious life, the Vatican said in new directives.
The Vatican�s orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent the directives to the superiors of religious orders worldwide. The leaders were told to implement the directives or turn cases over to the Congregation for handling, Vatican officials said Jan. 31.
The directives were the latest in a series of Vatican pronouncements on eligibility for the priesthood issued ahead of a long-awaited set of guidelines for seminaries in accepting candidates for the clergy. Those guidelines, due out later this year, are expected to address whether gays also should be barred.
�In the case that there is a serious and irreversible pathology of transsexuality, [the candidate] cannot be validly admitted into the institute or the society,� said the document.
The Vatican distinguished transsexuals from intersexed people, who are born with gender-ambiguous genitalia or internal organs.
Death penalty OK�d for park murders
Charlottesville, Va.--U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against a Maryland man charged with the 1996 slayings of two lesbian hikers in Shenandoah National Park.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Giorno said the brutality of the slayings of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura �Lollie� Winans led him to seek permission to pursue the death penalty against Darrell David Rice. Federal authorities are involved because the crime occurred in a national park.
Rice, 35, of Columbia, Md., has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the killings and faces two additional counts of capital murder on grounds he intentionally selected his victims because they were female and gay.
Williams, 24, of St. Cloud, Minn., and Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, were found about a week after they set out on a camping trip in May 1996. Their bodies were discovered about a quarter-mile from Skyline Drive off the Appalachian Trail. Their throats were slit, their mouths gagged and their hands bound.
Rice is being charged under a 1994 federal hate crime law that includes sexual orientation. Most violent crimes are prosecuted on the state level, leaving them ineligible for inclusion in the law.
Rice, currently serving an 11-year sentence for assaulting a female bicyclist in the park in 1997, is scheduled for trial in the Williams and Winans slaying on July 24 in Charlottesville.
Bill would make virtual civil unions
Sacramento, Calif.--A bill introduced January 28 would expand California�s existing domestic partner registry to grant civil unions in all but name.
The bill would put gay and lesbian couples who register as domestic partners on equal footing with heterosexual married couples for things like child custody, financial support, debt assumption and community property.
A similar measure was proposed last year as civil unions, but backers decided that it would be easier to pass as an expansion of the domestic partner law.
That law was expanded last year to give registered partners a few state rights that married couples have. This bill would add the rest. It would not affect federal standing, such as for income tax or Social Security.
Supporters hailed the bill as an attempt to treat all Californians fairly, while opponents called it an end-run around a state law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The bill is one of four designed to create legal parity for gays and lesbians. The others would require state contractors to offer domestic partners the same health benefits as married spouses, expand bans on gender discrimination in housing and employment, and prohibit discrimination against foster children or parents by sexual orientation or gender identity.
The expanded domestic partnerships would not require couples to go through a ceremony like Vermont�s civil unions, and also would not require as much effort to dissolve.
The bills are being cosponsored by a newly-formed LGBT caucus in the state legislature. It includes State Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Assembly members Christine Kehoe, Jacki Goldberg, John Laird and Mark Leno.
Oldest gay bookstore stays open
New York City--The Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the nation�s oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, has been sold and will remain in business under new management, the new owner said.
Deacon Maccubbin, the owner of Lambda Rising Books in Washington, D.C., said he bought the store two weeks ago for an undisclosed amount.
The store�s previous owner, Larry Lingle, said last month that he would close the shop because it was losing money and was struggling to compete against large book chains.
�We think this store is way too important to let it close,� Maccubbin said. �It is more than a store; it is a part of our history.�
Oscar Wilde opened in Greenwich Village in 1967 with several dozen books on its shelves. It expanded as the gay civil rights movement in New York gained momentum, and soon became the inspiration for other bookstores devoted to a gay and lesbian clientele.
The bookshop is one of only two gay bookstores remaining in New York.
More charges in bat attack
Los Angeles--Three men accused of the September baseball bat attack on a gay actor in West Hollywood pleaded innocent on Jan. 31 to an additional and more serious charge of aggravated mayhem, authorities said.
Larry Walker, 29; his brother, Vincent Dotson, 18; and Torwin Sessions, 19, will stand trial on felony charges of assault, robbery and conspiracy. Dotson and Sessions are also charged with unlawful taking of a vehicle.
The charge of aggravated mayhem means the three men could face life in prison without parole, the District Attorney�s office said.
Dotson and Walker will return to court on March 6 for a pretrial hearing. Sessions was due in court Feb. 6.
Prosecutors said the aggravated mayhem charge was based on evidence and testimony by the victim, Treve Broudy, 34, during a preliminary hearing this month. Broudy said he was hugging Edward Ulett on a street when a car approached and two men, armed with a bat, began attacking him.
Broudy was in a coma after the attack and was hospitalized for about 10 weeks. He testified that he has lost half of his vision since the attack and has trouble hearing.
Ulett testified the men also came after him. He identified Sessions as the person swinging the bat.
The case became a rallying point in West Hollywood, a town known for its acceptance of gays, after Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley decided not to file hate crime charges. Prosecutors have said investigators determined the motive for the attack was robbery and not the victim�s sexual orientation.
A blow-by-blow interview with Tim Miller
Tim Miller, one of queer America�s sexiest and sauciest performers, returns to Ohio for shows February 24 at Cincinnati Playhouse and Feb. 25 at Kenyon College of his newest show Body Blows.
Based on Miller�s book of the same name, Body Blows explores the tangible blows, both given and received, of the performers� life and times as explored through his performances.
�Blow means many things,� Miller says, �including that queer basher�s blow, as well as the sweet blowing breath of a lover tickling over the eyes. The blows on your body from a cop in Houston or San Francisco, in addition to the exquisite, gentle blow of two men�s bodies coming together in love.�
Miller�s performances contain the feisty put-up-your dukes and stand-your-ground attitude from these everyday blows that comprises being queer in America. In Body Blows, Miller again raises his voice �to honor the Slings and Eros of outrageous queer fortune.�
Much of Miller�s performance work and activism the last three years have been committed to fighting for the immigration rights of lesbian and gay bi-national couples. His work Glory Box charts his eight-year relationship with his Australian partner Alistair McCartney and shares their struggles to make a life together in the United States, which has no immigration rights for committed gay relationships.
Miller�s performances have been at the center of the culture wars, the fights against AIDS and the struggle for lesbian and gay equality. Body Blows is a moving and eloquent tribute to a gay man�s life lived out and loud.
William Mann: Tell me about Body Blows, the new book and the performance.
Tim Miller: I am so excited about the book and this new kick-ass show based on the book. It was such a great experience getting to gather together my six full-evening performances from the last fifteen years into this book.
There are dozens of photos by renowned New York photographer Dona Ann McAdams spicing up the proceedings and giving the reader a real whiff of what the performances are like. I got to write essays for each of the performances about the real-life sexual and political pressure cooker the pieces got created in. The big fun came when I pulled several of the juiciest performance sections from these shows, added in a bunch of brand new things to create Body Blows, the performance.
WM: What�s the difference between seeing one of your performances and reading it on the page?
TM: When I perform I sometimes spit a little on people in the front row. Seriously, though you lose the wet immediacy of me performing when you read the shows in the book, you gain all that nuance of language and being able to spend more time with something that strikes your fancy.
The performances included in this book are the shows I have been presenting all over the world for the last 15 years. They mark a queer boy�s progress through a Whittier childhood, falling in love, learning German from a Mexican lesbian in High School, confronting HIV-AIDS, surviving earthquakes, learning about relationships, challenging the state apparatus, growing fruit, falling naked into a volcano, and facing being forced to leave his country to stay with the man he loves. All this and jokes too!
WM: What connects all the shows in Body Blows? Is there a thread that you see linking all these moving and sexy stories you have told in your performances?
TM: As I put the book together, I was struck by how much I wrote and performed about moments that are--in some way--a �blow.� The sexy pun is intended. These were both positive and negative blows. I tell the story of cutting off the end of my finger while working as a carpenter in Brooklyn, but it�s woven together with a sweet almost-dreamscape of the slow motion, on-the-moon gravity as two gay men�s bodies slowly orbit toward each other and touch skin-to-skin.
I think a lot of gay life can feel like that- we are always aware of the crap that homophobia throws in our way, but also constantly reminded of the incredible sweetness and joy that gay life and love offers.
WM: That joy really comes through in your celebration of gay love that really fills Body Blows.
TM: Both the performance and the book are really a road map of how I feel like my life has been blessed by the men I have been lucky enough to love. The men I have been close to are the great gifts that have challenged, changed and supported me through all these adventures of love and the trouble I always seem to get myself into.
WM: Speaking of love and trouble, you and your Australian partner Alistair McCartney have been one of the most visible gay bi-national couples in America among the tens of thousands threatened with being forced to leave the U.S. Where are you guys at right now?
TM: Here�s the update. Alistair just graduated from his MFA in creative writing in December 2001, so now things will get really difficult for us as his student visa expires.
Like every other gay American citizen with a foreign partner, we are screwed in the U.S.! We�ll be forced to leave the U.S. by the end of this year. Fortunately Alistair has passports from two countries where our gay people�s human rights are respected and he can sponsor me for immigration in either place. [Australia and the U.K., along with virtually every other western country other than the U.S.]
Obviously I will go with him and emigrate to England where we will have rights and our relationship will be respected. I won�t let the injustice in the U.S. destroy our family as it has done to so many other queer bi-national couples.
WM: You have been performing all over the U.S. for many years. What has Body Blows taught you about the state of queer America?
TM: When I look at these fifteen years of making these performances and doing the pieces all over the U.S.--from Chattanooga to Cleveland, San Diego to Boston--I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be telling these tales of sex and love and loss and hope. While I hope my shows have emboldened and entertained my audience, the truth is the thousands and thousands of people that have seen my shows have also totally inspired me with their courage.
One of the things I think theater can do quite well is to gather community into over-heated rooms in order to shine a light on systems of prejudice that are just so damn unfair. The sweaty reality of live performing has been a great place for me to cast my personal creative high-beams on the tasty pleasures and nasty injustices that queer folk face. I feel lucky that I get to gather with people in cities all over the country at my shows to raise awareness, encourage activism, stir the dating pool and test-drive strategies for lesbian and gay equality.
The right-this-instant heat of live performing is an especially handy cattle-prod to encourage people to get behind that steering wheel and hit the road. I believe the empathy and openness that comes through the seductive strategies of performance--compelling storytelling, the performer�s charisma (if it�s a good hair day), the group dynamic that comes with a live audience etc.--are the ideal laboratory for channeling of the audience�s psychic and political. I think theater is primarily a big mirror that can be held up to community. In that reflection we can see a human-scaled set of potential and roadmaps to new sites where liberation stories yet-to-be-told can flourish.
I hope the performance--and the book--can really invite people into the gorgeous journey we have all been on through life and love as we claim space for our queer selves.
Body Blows will be performed at Cincinnati Playhouse February 24 at 7 pm. Tickets are $10 each, with a special $6 price for students at the Playhouse box office, 513-4213888 or toll-free 800-5823208. Parking is free.
Miller will also perform at Kenyon College on February 25 at 8 pm. in the Bolton Theater. Tickets are free, and are available by calling 740-4275546.
Tim Miller can be reached through his web site, http://hometown.aol.com/millertale/timmiller.html. William J Mann lives in Provincetown, Mass. and is the author of The Men From the Boys and Wisecracker.
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