Heroes and Zeros of the Year

Richard Burnett

I have long written my annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros in my syndicated gay column Three Dollar Bill, a tradition I am now continuing here in Fugues magazine. So, without further ado, here is my 17th annual column of the year’s heroes and zeros.

Zero Christopher Orlando, 18, was charged in January 2012 with third-degree assault as a hate crime for assaulting Benjamin Carter in the toilet at – can you believe this – The Stonewall Inn.

Heroes The frat brothers of McGill University’s Delta Lambda Phi, the first-gay fraternity in Canada, which chartered in February.

Zero Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, who said in March, “Better to be a dictator than gay.”

Zero The Malaysian prime mister’s wife, Datin Seri Paduka Rosmah Mansor, who told the Phnom Penh Post she blames HIV on gay people. “You have to nip it [homosexuality] in the bud,” she said.

Hero Soul singer Frank Ocean, whose public coming out in July provoked a seismic shift in the worlds of R’n’B and hip hop.
Hero Transgender woman Jenna Talackova for successfully challenging Miss Universe Canada after the beauty pageant disqualified her because she was not “naturally born” a woman.

Hero Chile, which announced in May it will pay for sex-change surgeries under its public health plan.
Zeros London WorldPride’s organizers whose enormous funding “shortfall” nearly derailed their July 7 event. Toronto will host WorldPride in 2014.

Heroes The 14 openly gay or lesbian athletes out of the 12,602 athletes who participated in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Zero Mary Cheney (daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney), who married her longtime partner Heather Poe. Cheney chaired her father’s anti-gay 2004 re-election campaign.

Hero Carla Bruni, former first lady of France, who publicly opposed her conservative husband Nicolas Sarkozy when she came out in favour of gay marriage in the December issue of Vogue.

Hero Yellowknife-based lesbian doctor Anna Reid MD, who in August became the first openly-gay president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Zero Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, who stood by their CEO Dan Cathy after he publicly voiced his opposition to gay marriage.

Hero Gay icon Liza Minnelli who won the 2012 Ella Fitzgerald Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, where she sang What Makes a Man a Man.

Zero Paris Hilton, who was recorded saying Grindr gays are “disgusting” and “most of them probably have AIDS.” Hilton later apologized.

Hero Dance diva Martha Wash, who celebrated the 30th anniversary of her gay anthem It’s Raining Men. About the song’s memorable video, Wash told me, “God, that was a cheesy video! We filmed it in an abandoned building [in NYC] in the dead of winter. There was no heat and everybody was wearing [winter] coats. That part in the video where we fall out of the sky, well, we landed on these mattresses and found out [the next day] they were infested with bugs. For days afterwards Izora and I were scratching [ourselves]! It was awful!”

Zero Iconic bisexual porn star Ryan Idol (a.k.a. Marc Anthony Donais), who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for beating his former girlfriend over the head with a toilet tank lid.

Hero Los Angeles County voters, who in November passed a ballot initiative mandating porn actors wear condoms during sex scenes.

Zero The Associated Press, for removing the word “homophobia” from its style guide

Zero Greek state television, the NET channel, for censoring a gay kiss between a visiting duke and Downton’s footman Thomas Barrow in the British drama Downtown Abbey.

Hero Montreal drag legend Mado Lamotte, who celebrated three milestones in 2012: the 10th anniversary of her world-renowned drag nightclub Cabaret Mado; the 15th anniversary of Mascara, now the biggest drag show on earth; and the 25th anniversary of the creation of the one and only Mado Lamotte herself.

Zero Alveda King, the anti-gay niece of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., who said in a PSA, “As a minister, I believe that the NAACP leadership and gay-rights activists have formed an unholy alliance by trying to convince you and me that marriage should be redefined.”

Hero NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, who said gay marriage is the “civil-rights issue of our times.”

Hero US President Barack Obama, who told ABC on May 9, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

Zeros The gay male couple on an Atlantis cruise, who were arrested in Dominica for
having balcony sex in full public view of the port and town of Roseau.

Zero Carnival Cruises, for banning passengers from wearing drag on its December 2012 drag-queen cruise. Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill quickly relented after the story went public.

Zero Queen Latifah, who said onstage during her May 19 concert at the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival in Southern California, “I've been waiting to do this for a long time.” Gay activists are still wondering, however, whether or not Latifah actually publicly came out when she told the crowd she was happy to be in the presence of “her people.” As former MTV executive Terrance Dean told me following the publication of his 2008 bestselling book Hiding in Hip Hop, “I think if Queen
Latifah came out, it would create a whole new precedent.”

Zero Toronto Blue Jays infielder Yunel Escobar, for writing “Tu eres maricon” (You are a faggot) on his eye-black for a Sept. 15 game. MLB suspended Escobar for a measly three games, as opposed to the 14-game suspension it gave pitcher John Rocker in 2000 for his anti-gay slur. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays donated Escobar’s three-game salary of $82,000 to GLAAD and the You Can Play Project – but not one penny to a Canadian LGBT organization.

Hero Puerto Rican featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz, who on Oct. 4 became the first boxer to come out while still active professionally. Said Cruz, “That’s what I want — them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word.”

Hero Adela Hernandez, 48, made history by becoming the first openly trans person to be elected to public office in Cuba.

Zero Uganda parliamentarians, who are still moving forward with their so-called “Kill-the-Gays” bill that would imprison and execute LGBT people.

Hero Montreal’s Blue Metropolis Foundation, which launched a new web platform to help fight homophobia, especially among young people and in schools. Blue Met will also inaugurate its LGBT programming when internationally-acclaimed gay author Edmund White (who suffered a stroke in May 2012) is feted at the 15th annual festival in April 2013.

Heroes Westmount resident Elissa Hamilton, who started an LGBT support group for queer youth in Westmount, and Montreal’s Gai Ecoute for launching its anti-homophobia register, to track anti-gay crimes throughout Quebec.

Hero DC Comics, who in June rebooted superhero Green Lantern as a gay man.

Hero Marvel Comics, whose Canadian superhero Northstar married his boyfriend Kyle in the June 2012 issue of Astonishing X-Men. Northstar — a.k.a. Jean-Paul Beaubier of Montreal — became the first major openly-gay superhero when he came out in Marvel Comics’ 1992 Alpha Flight #106 issue.

Heroes The group of investors who saved Toronto’s Glad Day bookstore from closing in February.

Heroes U.S. Sgt Brandon Morgan's homecoming kiss and embrace with boyfriend Dalan Wells went viral in the blogosphere after their picture was posted on Facebook.

Heroes Children’s book artist Maurice Sendak, the Queen of Disco and gay icon Donna Summer, former NASA astronaut Sally Ride, porn star Erik Rhodes, flamboyant Montreal fashion designer and stylist Gilles Gagné, Montreal-born NYC writer David Rakoff, gay icon Phyliss Diller, legendary Hollywood publicity agent Dale Olson, Sherman Helmsley (a.k.a George Jefferson on The Jeffersons), Whitney Houston (whose life love was her alleged lesbian lover, Robyn Crawford), Concordia student Jun Lin (who was murdered allegedly by fame whore Luka Rocco Magnotta), Ron Palillo (Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter), legendary WWII resistance leader Gad Beck and trailblazing Montreal drag queen Guilda (a.k.a. Jean Guida), all passed away in 2012. RIP.