News, politics and pop

Heroes and Zeros of the Year 2014

Richard Burnett
Commentaires
Richard Burnett

Here is my 19th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros.

Hero Pope Francis, for encouraging a Synod draft to state “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.”
 
Zero The Vatican and Pope Francis, for backtracking on the Synod’s “Homosexuals has gifts” statement after coming under furious assault from conservative Catholics. 
 
Zero Luka Rocco Magnotta. Enough said.
 
Zero The organizers of Ottawa’s 
Capital Pride, who ran that city’s Pride festival into the ground with an $86,000 deficit in 2014.
 
Hero Toronto, for hosting the world at their kick-ass World Pride 2014 festival.
 
Heroes Brewers Guinness, Heinekin and the Boston Beer Co. (maker of Sam Adams beer), for pulling out of the New York and Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parades because both parades refuse to allow LGBT marchers.
 
Zero Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, who finally died. Good riddance.
 
Heroes The donors who contributed $82,000 to pay for a “God Loves Gays” billboard unveiled Sep. 8 in Topeka, Kansas, home of the notorious anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. The billboard is expected to remain up until at least March 2015.
 
Zeros The thousands of athletes who attended the Sochi Winter Olympic Games and not once even spoke out against Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws. Apparently, winning a medal trumps everything.
 
Zero The International Olympic Committee, who defended the ejection by Russian authorities of Italian LGBT-rights activist Vladimir Luxuria, whose crime was walking around the Sochi Olympic park dressed in Rainbow colours. In a bit of disingenuous PR, the IOC in September added a pro-LGBT anti-discrimination clause to its host-city contract, when Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter already protected the rights of LGBT athletes.
 
Zero F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone for saying “I completely agree” with vicious homophobe Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s position on gay rights.
 
Hero Montreal singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, for slamming Russia’s “Gay propaganda law” onstage in Moscow on Sept. 18. He then dedicated his next song “The Gay Messiah” to his “favourite gay Russian,” composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Rufus follows in the footsteps of Elton John who previously rebuked Russian’s anti-gay laws onstage during a concert in Moscow before the Sochi Olympics.
 
Hero Former Olympic ice skater Johnny Weir, who was trashed by LGBT activists for joining NBC’s Sochi commentary panel, but behind-the-scenes secretly shot the documentary film To Russia With Love with LGBT athletes at Sochi.
 
Hero Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who ordered the Rainbow flag be raised at city hall in solidarity with LGBT 
Russians during the Sochi games. As Coderre told me, “It was the right thing to do.”
 
Hero Cyndi Lauper, who advocated in the U.S. Senate for the passage of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, and is the prime force behind building the new True Colors Bronx housing development for homeless young LGBT adults in NYC.
 
Hero University of Massachussets economist Lee Badgett, who made the economic case for promoting LGBT rights at the World Bank by estimating the annual cost to India of homophobia in that country is $31 Billion or more. 
 
Hero Trailblazing Vermont cartoonist and graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, who received a $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship. About her landmark cartoon strip Dykes To Watch Out For, Alison once told me, “I feel part of what my strip was concerned with over the years was to document the changes in attitude [to gay life], not just from outside, but also from the inside – how we think of ourselves.”
 
Zero Facebook, for demanding drag queens, transgender people and others to change their profiles to their “real names” or have their accounts deleted.
 
Heroes Drag queens worldwide, for taking on Facebook – and winning. Facebook not only backed down, they apologized. You’d think that since Stonewall folks would realize no one fucks around with drag queens.
 
micheal SamHero Michael Sam, for becoming the first out player to be drafted into the NFL. In the end, Sam did not make the St. Louis Rams’ 53-man roster.
 
Zero ESPN and unrepentant reporter Josina Anderson, for Anderson’s homophobic report of Michael Sam’s locker room shower habits. The report was widely condemned and blamed for Sam being passed over by every single NFL team.
 
Zero Michael Sam – yes, you read right – Michael, for telling GQ magazine when GQ chose him as one of their 2014 year-end ‘Men Of The Year’ cover stars, “If I had it my way, I never would have done it the way I did, never would have told it the way I did. I would have done the same thing I did at [university] — which was to tell my team and my coaches and leave it at that.” In other words, Sam says he should have stayed in his glass closet.
 
 
Hero The CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, whose GM Jim Popp wants to sign Michael Sam to play for the Als.
 
Hero Montreal Canadiens owner, president and CEO Geoff Molson, who says the Habs are ready for an openly-gay player: “Everyone and everybody is welcome in the Montreal Canadiens organization,” he says.
 
Hero Jason Collins, who became the NBA’s first openly-gay player when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets in February. Collins retired after the 2014 season. The NBA also donated all proceeds from the booming sales of Collins’ No. 98 Brooklyn Nets jerseys to two LGBT charities, the Gay & Lesbian Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
 
Hero Alan Turing, the gay man credited with breaking the previously unbreakable Nazi code machine called “enigma” during WWII, was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth on Aug. 19 – 62 years after Turing committed suicide because he was convicted of homosexuality and chemically castrated.  
 
Heroes Out thespians Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi, for playing a gay couple on the smash British TV sitcom Vicious.
 
Zeros Nigeria and Uganda, for passing draconian anti-gay laws; and Egypt, for their renewed crackdown on underground gay life.
 
Heroes African pop stars Salif Keita and Femi Kuti, who both publicly supported LGBT rights in Africa in 2014. “Homosexuals have the right to live and love,” said Keita, while Kuti wrote in an op-ed, “We have to keep talking about the issue of gay rights – citizens must have the right to be who they want to be.”
 
Hero  South African parliamentarian Zakhele Mbhele, Africa’s first openly-gay black MP.
 
FinlandHero Finland, who launched a range of Tom of Finland stamps to commemorate the “proud homoeroticism” of the influential gay artist.
 
Zeros Pro-Russian separatists, presumed to have shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board, including over 100 international AIDS researchers, activists and health workers on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, setting back the quest for an AIDS vaccine by several years.
 
Heroes Archie Comics and DC Comics, for pushing the envelope: In a July issue of Life With Archie, Archie Andrews takes a bullet and dies to protect his gay friend Kevin Keller from an assassination attempt; and in the new Multiversity comics series, Batman’s son Damian Wayne –who has taken on the identity of Batman – is taunted by Alexis Luthor, the daughter of villain Lex Luthor. She questions his relationship with Chris Kent – the son of Superman – when she asks him,  “Is Batman gay? Why don’t you and Chris finally admit you love one another, Batman?”
 
Zero Canada Border Services Agency, for detaining British transgender woman Avery Edison in an Ontario male correctional facility after she was detained at Toronto Pearson International.
 
Heroes Collectif Carre Rose Montreal, for reducing assaults and gaybashings in Montreal’s Gay Village, after meeting with police and city officials
 
Hero Montreal activist Ian Salt Bradley-Perrin, the Concordia University Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS co-ordinator who made the POZ Magazine 100, an annual list of leaders who are taking a stand against the disease.
 
Hero Montreal’s Phyliss Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale for Architecture. 
 
Hero Corrine Saenze, wife of top Texas anti-gay crusader Jonathan Saenz. Corrine divorced her husband to begin a romantic relationship with another woman. 
 
Zero American opera singer Valerian Ruminski, who was fired by Ottawa’s Opera Lyra company from their production of Tosca after he posted homophobic comments on Facebook.
 
Heroes Cher and designer Bob Mackie, who (after a public falling out) reunited just in time for the second leg of Cher’s ‘Dressed to Kill’ tour.
 
Hero Conchita Wurst, the Austrian recording artist and drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest
 
Hero Jamie Lee Curtis, who is producing a biopic about Glenn Burke, the first MLB player to come out as gay, back in 1978 before he was railroaded out of baseball for refusing to go back into the closet. On July 15, MLB finally honoured Burke as a baseball pioneer, 19 years after Burke’s 1995 death from AIDS-related causes. 
 
Hero Drag impresario and Trannyshack founder Heklina (Stefan Grygelko), for changing his18-year-old club night’s name to T-Shack.
 
Heroes Jordan Tannahill, Mariko Tamaki and Raziel Reid, queer winners of 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards.
 
Hero Dance diva Martha Wash, who’s iconic hit song It’s Raining Men recharted in the Top 40 in Britain to protest conservative politician David Silvester, who blamed storms and floods on the passage of same-sex marriage in the U.K. This past February Martha told me David Silvester’s anti-gay proclamation was un-Christian and “laughable.” Then she said, “My gay fans have been my largest supporters over the years. They have kept me working, and I thank them for that.”
 
Heroes Gay Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, trans fashion models Andreja Pejic and Geena Rocero, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Australian swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe, lesbian Mexican-American actress Emily Rios and 1990s Brit pop idol Kavanan, and the world’s first publicly-gay imam Daayiee Abdullah, all publicly came out in 2014.
 
Heroes The Godfather of House Music Frankie Knuckles, Vancouver bookstore Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva and trailblazing stand-up comic Joan Rivers all passed away in 2014. RIP.
 
 
 
Read Richard Burnett’s POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette at http://montrealgazette.com/tag/pop-tart 
 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at www.bugsburnett.blogspot.com .