Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New York gets it right: Separate but equal is not the American way

Let's celebrate the passage of gay marriage in New York for the wonderful advancement in civil rights that it is. Let's thank NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo for being the champion of this cause. Let's recognize Rosie O'Donnell's hard-working brother, NY Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, for sponsoring the legislation. And let's also offer a very special congratulations to the lovely lesbians in Manhattan who are displaying their rings beside the historic front page of June 25th edition of The New York Times.

Now, let's also urge President Obama to recognize that he cannot be a true advocate for equal rights if he continues to oppose gay marriage. President Obama says his views are "evolving," and he recently has stated support for civil unions. While I appreciate that he is making some progress toward promoting equal rights for all American citizens, I am baffled that he cannot see how he is essentially promoting a "separate but equal" policy. As we know, the US Supreme Court in 1954 determined that this country cannot have separate but equal treatment of American citizens because separate is, in the words of the court, "inherently unequal" and a violation of the Constitution.

Let me offer yet another perspective on how far behind President Obama is in his reluctant and late support of civil unions: Republican candidate for president Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah fought for civil unions in his state TWO YEARS AGO. And our Democratic president is just getting there now? And in sentiment only; he has sent no bill to Congress. Mr. President, it's time to move ahead of Republicans in your position on gay rights. Support equality. Support gay marriage. It's the American way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A salute to out gay leaders in academe

We know that the academy attracts a lot of queers. Whether they are out is another thing. Last week, prestigious Amherst College named Biddy Martin, a nationally respected academic leader and out lesbian, as its president. Even though we have a long way to go, this can be seen as part of a positive trend in higher education.

Last year, a group of a dozen or so out queer presidents founded LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, which promotes LGBTQ rights, scholarship, and advocacy. In March 2011, members of the organization served on a panel at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, and they advised aspiring leaders in academe to be out and open with colleagues, search consultants, and the wider campus community, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. This strategy has apparently served Biddy Martin well, as she was celebrated with unbridled enthusiasm at Amherst.

LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education have posted a touching video on YouTube. The presidents and their partners offer inspiring stories about their success while being out. They say, "We're here to stay. We want to get to know you. Join us."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gertrude Stein is in the house

I'm sensing Gertrude Stein in the zeitgeist. There is a new book "Seeing Gertrude Stein" (University of California Press) and a show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. In conjunction, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will have programming celebrating Stein's immeasurable influence in the arts. Also, Stein is portrayed by the wonderful Kathy Bates in Woody Allen's new film, Midnight in Paris. And, since lesbians still often don't get recognized without some negative comment, a misguided writer in The New York Times Style Magazine recently referred to Stein as a "matronly frump" who has surprisingly turned into a style icon. Describing Gertrude Stein as a "matronly frump" is like calling Andy Warhol a homely virgin. It is so not the point. If that's all you can see about a genius whose influence in the arts is extraordinary, then you are really not qualified to comment. The rest of us can celebrate Stein, as SG did at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where her portrait by Picasso usually hangs. But currently it's in the show in San Francisco. At least one of Stein's trademark waistcoats will also be on display.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is this the real life? It's a boorish fantasy.

There are other lesbian websites providing extended witty recaps of the first episode of Season Two of "The Real L Word," which aired on Showtime last Sunday night. But I will strive for brevity. In the spirit of Dorothy Parker, I could just say, "I fwowed up." But I will elaborate. The show is terrible. Just terrible. It makes LA lesbians look grimy and inarticulate. Their behavior is boorish and depressing. As one writer at Autostraddle advises: "Watch this show like it’s a mockumentary and it’s actually really fucking funny." Indeed, I never thought I would say this, but Season One was better. I did not realize how good we had it with Tracy & Stamie and Jill & Nikki. At least those women seemed like reasonably educated people who practiced basic courtesy and hygiene. Okay, you could say, hey, don't watch the show if you don't like it. True. But, as I said at one particularly low point during the viewing at our house, "I feel like I'm monitoring this show rather than watching it." And that is because Ilene Chaiken is an important contributor to lesbian culture. Whether or not you like "The L Word" and its offspring, "The Real L Word," you must admit that whatever she does will make a significant contribution to how the world sees us and how we see ourselves.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Everyone is curious about Francesca Schiavone

The top search phrase leading to the Sapphist Gazetteer this week is "francesca schiavone girlfriend." Alas, I have no idea whether the adorable Italian tennis champion has a girlfriend—much less whether she is a lesbian—but I can say that we in the lesbian realm appreciate how cute she is. Look at the smile! So alive. And let's congratulate her on making it to the finals of Roland Garros, the French Open. Good luck on Saturday, Francesca! For two thoroughly charming tribute videos, click here (with nothing less than a Lou Rawls soundtrack) and here.

BTW, the only out active player I know of is Amelie Mauresmo. She retired two years ago, but she is attempting to come back to professional tennis. ESPN reported that she had been granted a wild card spot in mixed doubles at the French Open this year but was not allowed to play because "she is no longer in the sport's anti-doping program." Not sure what that means, but we'd love to see her back on the tour.

In the meantime, you can get your lesbian tennis fix by watching our beloved Martina Navratilova doing French Open commentary on the Tennis Channel. The Tennis Channel recently aired a wonderful documentary about Martina's amazing life story, "Farewell to a Champion." It's worth tracking down on your DVR. Personally, I was moved to tears. And my admiration spiked. Also, ESPN not long ago produced a terrific film "Unmatched" in its "30 for 30" series on the legendary rivalry between Martina and Chris Evert. In this clip, Martina talks specifically about how hard it was being out at that time. Chris Evert was the all-American girl next door, and Martina was portrayed as the bad guy. "Here I am this big, muscular lesbian from a Communist country," she said. "And the headline was, 'The good vs. the bad'. Here I was this villain, and it hurt."
But in the end, Martina, you are the hero.