arts and icons

Heroes and Zeros of the Year

Richard Burnett
Richard Burnett
Photo prise par © Robert Laliberté

Here is my 18th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros. 

Zero Lebanese security forces, for using discredited “anal probe” exams to test for proof of men being gay. The doctor checks for traces of sperm, and takes a picture to ‘study’ the shape of the hole – the larger the width the more ‘likely’ the person is gay. Human Rights Watch says the tests amount to humiliation and torture.
Zeros The Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are developing a medical test to “detect” homosexuals. Yousouf Mindkar, director of public health at the Kuwaiti Health Ministry, told the Kuwait newspaper Al Rai in October, “Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the Gulf Cooperation Countries. However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”
Zero Greece, for reinstating laws to arrest anyone suspected of having HIV. The law also allows authorities to publicize the names of HIV-positive people, and have them evicted from their homes.
Zeros The 1,000 people who protested same-sex marriage in Haiti (which currently bans SSM). Days later, across the Caribbean nation, Haitian gangs beat 47 gay men with machetes, sticks and iron bars, then looted and burned down many of their victims’ homes.
Zeros The 1,500 extremists who firebombed police protecting 150 LGBT activists taking part in an Oct 20 Gay Pride march in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.
Heroes  The 3.5 million people who attended the largest Gay Pride parade in the world, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 2.
Heroes The 100 people who marched in Uganda’s second annual Gay Pride parade, on Aug 3 in Entebbe. Police did not break up this year’s march, in a virulently homophobic nation where pending Nazi-esque legislation proposes the death penalty for gay people.
Zero The Canadian International Development Agency, which paid $544,813 to Crossroads Christian Communications, an Ontario-based evangelical group that helped  dig wells and build latrines in Uganda. However, Crossroads describes homosexuality as a “perversion” and a “sin.” After news of the funding broke in February, Canada’s International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino tweeted, “I have asked officials to review this organization before further payments are made.”
Heroes  The participants in the October 2013 Miss Jacaranda Drag Queen pageant in Zimbabwe, where sodomy is a crime and president Robert Mugabe says gays should be castrated. The winner was a 17-year-old whose stage name is Ezmerald Kim Kardashian. The event was the grand finale of ZimPride week, held discreetly in an isolated farmhouse on the outskirts of Harare.
Heroes  The highly-strategized grassroots campaign and its supporters around the world who helped free filmmaker John Greyson and Toronto doctor Tarek Loubani from jail in Cairo. 
Zero Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, who outed John Greyson in a nasty Oct 8 column, before Greyson and Loubani even left Egypt. The rest of the media kept mainly quiet about Greyson and Loubani’s sexual orientation – even though Greyson was very publicly gay (I interviewed him for an HOUR magazine cover story as far back as 1997).
Zero Pakistan, for blocking that country’s first gay website, Queerpk, deeming it “against Islam.” Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan.
Zero Tumblr, which in July banned the tags “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual” on mobile apps.
Hero McGill University’s Dr. Nitika Pant Pai and her team, who in October received a $30,000 award from the Accelerating Science Award Program in Washington, for creating a mobile app called HIVSmart to assist people as they take a home HIV test. Users are guided through a confidential process of self-testing, which contains information, instructional videos, a 24-hour help line and confidential linkages to care and counselling.
Hero  Vancouver’s Dr. Julio Montaner, a global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, who on Aug 21 was presented with the prestigious 2013 Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr Award by the Canadian Medical Association.
Zero  Pope Benedict XVI, whose virulently anti-gay papacy ended on Feb 28. The former pope’s staff declined to confirm or deny La Repubblica claims that Benedict’s resignation was over the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.
Hero  Pope Francis, who said in July, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”
Zero  The U.S. Boy Scouts, which while lifting the ban on gay youth members, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders when its new resolution takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. 
Hero  Kathleen Wynne, who became Canada’s first out LGBT premier when she became the premier of Ontario on January 26.
Zero  Polish democracy icon Lech Walesa, who provoked outrage in March when he said gays should sit at the rear of parliament or “behind a wall.” Walesa added gays have little significance as a minority and must “adjust to smaller things.” 
Hero  Convicted Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning, who announced he would undergo hormone therapy and live as a woman: “I am Chelsea Manning, I am a woman.”
Zeros  The mob who attacked 17-year-old cross-dressing Dwayne Jones in St. James, Jamaica, on July 22. Jones was “chopped and stabbed” to death, the rest of his body dumped in the bushes. 
Zero  Jodie Foster, for finally coming out, but in a passive-aggressive speech at the 2013 Golden Globes, in which she also defended noted homophobe Mel Gibson, rumou-red to be the biological father of her two sons. 
Zero Alternative singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked, who lived up to her name when in March she said onstage in San Francisco, that same-sex marriage will be the “downfall of civilization.”
Hero Vienna’s Leopold Museum, which presented its hugely successful Nude Men from 1800 to Today exhibition, despite a massive public outcry over its Vive La France promotional poster by French artists Pierre & Gilles which depicts three footballers wearing nothing but blue, white and red socks and soccer shoes. So posters of the three men were covered with lines of red tape to hide their crown jewels.
Zero Charles Lapointe, former head of Tourism Montreal who was heavily criticized in a Quebec auditor-general’s report for lavish spending at the taxpayers’ expense. Then in November, Lapointe – who helped put Montreal on the international gay map and received the Hanns Ebensten Hall of Fame Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association in May – heeded calls for his resignation as president of Montreal’s arts council.
Zero  Russian President Vladimir Putin for signing and enacting anti-gay laws in Russia on the eve of the 2013 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Calls for protests and boycotts have fallen on deaf ears in the head offices of Sochi’s corporate sponsors and TV broadcasters, as neo-Nazis continue to bash, torture and kill LGBT people across Russia with impunity.
Hero  The U.S. Supreme court, for striking down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, on June 26. The New Yorker magazine celebrated the victory by publishing artist Jack Hunter’s “Moment of Joy” painting – which features Sesame Street duo Ernie and Bert –on the cover.
Heroes  Hollywood actor Jim Nabors, Doctor Who star John Barrowman, Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz, LGBT activist and gay icon Larry Kramer, and Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto all married their same-sex partners in 2013.
Heroes  WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner and NBA centre Jason Collins (on the cover of Sports Illustrated); MLS Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers; famed record executive Clive Davis; and actors Victor Garber, Maulik Pancholy, Andree Scott and Wetworth Miller all publicly came out in 2013. Not surprisingly, in related news, a January 2013 Université de Montréal study reported that gay men who come out of the closet are less stressed and depressed than straight men.
Zero  The Village Voice, for laying off my friend and colleague, famed gossip columnist and NYC icon Michael Musto, who bounced back with new columns for both and 
Hero  Netflix, for launching its critically-hailed original series Orange is the New Black which features the transgender character Sophia Burset.
Hero  Cher, for her latest comeback which she appropriately launched by performing at the NYC Pride Pier Dance on June 30.
Heroes  Toronto’s Fab magazine (which ran many of my Three Dollar Bill columns over the years) folded; and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association president Michael Triplett, revered Montreal actor and author Greg Kramer, closeted NYC mayor Ed Koch and legendary Las Vegas female impersonator Kenny Kerr all passed away in 2013. RIP.
Read Richard Burnett’s POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette at
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at