Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fierce


Fierce....It's one of those terms that has passed from the gay lexicon into main stream consciousness. When some one dresses to kill for a Saturday night out we can say that they "look fierce". Well I wouldn't...but you might. While few of us could define it if put on the spot, all of us know it when we see it. It's that invisible something that makes you stop and stare in awe and(hopefully) admiration. Online definitions list it as having the qualities of savagery, aggression, and violence. And yet there is another side to being fierce, one that has nothing to do with aggression or how we look on the outside and can only come straight out of the soul. It is that quality of intensity, courage, defiance, and a rock solid core of inner strength that shines through no matter what may be happening to us.

It is most often that measure of the word that makes us stand up and take notice. Individuals, who for one reason or another have make us stand up and cheer for their sheer grit. This week I was inspired and humbled by two stories that reminded me what the true definition of "fierce" is. The first is a report about a Pride event held in Uganda..."kill the gays" Uganda. And Second is the drama unfolding with gay rights in St. Petersburg Russia.

While both may seem on the surface to be unfolding tragedies of human rights....they have also both offered us beautiful glimpses into the heart of courage and how we survive....

St. Petersburg and Madonna:


Russian gays have never had an easy time of it. In protests or Pride marches, violence against them is always  a very real and present possibility. If it's not from the onlooking crowd, then it's from the police who are there meant to keep the peace. And now the stakes have become higher as St. Petersburg recently passed a law banning anything it considers "gay propaganda"....a rather loose term that can include anything from the printed word, a pride march, or any public acknowledgment that gay people exist. Consequences can include fines and/or imprisonment for nothing more than saying the word "gay" out loud. My hat is off to anyone who stands up to be counted in Russia because I have seen the cost in images of bruised and bloody images. The gay community in Russia

This is the landscape that Madonna faced when playing in St. Petersburg recently. Everyone knows what to expect from a Madonna concert and her support of the gay community is well known. It was no suprise that a a government cracking down on anything they consider to be subversive gay propaganda would warn Madonna that they would take action against her if she violated their law. And of course Madonna being who she is, utterly ignored warning and announced that she was coming to St. Petersburg specifically to support the gay community. And furthermore, pink wristbands would be handed out at the concert to anyone who wanted to express their support for the gay community. This prompted threats by St. Petersburg City Councilman Vitaly Vilanov that he may attend the concert to "police its moral content"....and nasty cheap shots by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that: "Every former whore seeks to lecture everyone on morality as she gets older."

I'm guessing they didn't know who they were talking to as all your going to get from Madonna for comments like that is a hearty "F-U" followed by a determination to see this through. The storm was brewing and the stage was set.


True to her word, Madonna came through(Towleroad):


LGBT organization Coming Out, printed 330 rainbow posters with the saying "No Fear" that were distributed to the crowd. Although some posters were confiscated by security, their display had a huge emotional effect during the show. Many fans raised them during Madonna's speech, and she reacted by saying "No Fear, that's right" before insisting that fear was the basis of all discrimination, and that tolerance could only be guaranteed by love, the opposite of fear. During the performance of "Like A Prayer", while dancers were raising a rainbow flag provided by a member of Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network, Madonna took a "No Fear" poster from the crowd and raised it for 25,000 people to see. Same as for "Pussy Riot" support in Moscow, she had tattooed her back, this time with "No Fear." Gay bashing scenes from gay demonstrations in Russia, pictures of teenagers who died because of homophobia, and many gay and lesbian kisses were shown during the very political "Nobody Knows Me" Interlude Video. 
Madonna's support was extremely moving. Most of the mostly heterosexual crowd reacted positively to her message by raising pink wristbands that were distributed to everyone to support the LGBT community. The LGBT in the audience received Madonna's support with both smiles and tears, and gratified her with the universal message "We love you" at the end of the show.


Say what you like about Madonna. Everyone seems hold very strong opinions about her. My husband loves her and her music kept him alive when coming out nearly killed him. I for one have never been counted as a Madonna fan(mostly neutral) but when she did this I couldn't help but be moved by it and cheer. This was using her fame and natural inborn sense of defiance to help a community that really needed an advocate...and who could lift their plight into greater public awareness. As some one who watch's what is has been happening to the LGBT community in Russia...it's felt great to see the powers at be, wear a little egg on their face for all the blood worn by pride marchers, and to hear of others outside the gay community showing  their support. It warmed my heart and gave me hope.

Russian gay activists are a hardy lot and you have to be to withstand the verbal and sometimes physical abuse that comes with the being visibly gay in Russia. What Madonna did should never outshine the work they do...nor the risks they take to win the right to live without persecution, discrimination, or violence. But I applaud her for taking the stand and hopefully forcing the conversation about gay people back out into the open in Russia. In this instance...both Madonna and the everyday actions of Russian LGBT people show me what it means to be "fierce."


Ugandan Pride:

Next up is a set of images posted at The Advocate portraying a publicly held Pride event held this last weekend in Uganda. I know I don't have to give any background to my readers about Uganda's recent history of persecution of it's gays nor of the "Kill The Gays Bill" which still looms as a possibility. However, it is important to remember that this is also a country that sees gay men and women turn up dead and dismembered for being gay on a regular basis. The death of David Kato being one such recent example. That is what makes events like these acts of fierceness and images like these so moving:


This image speaks for itself. I saw this and was blown away. This...is fierce...



Humble beginnings...tremendous courage. This is how its done....



Lots of glitter, good friends, and lots of smiles...this is a part of every great Pride celebration. How can you not fall in love with these pictures? I love there smiles and they are making me smile in return as I write this post. How much more valuable are these moments given the cost at which they come...


 Bringing it home:

As a person who advocates for gay rights here in the U.S, following the struggles of other gay communities can leave you with a lot of mixed feelings. Sometimes it's rage mixed with utter helplessness...sometimes I feel very spoiled. But always I wish I could rush in and change things, either by the wave of a magic wand...or a well placed head butt. Not very diplomatic I know,but diplomacy doesn't seem to be very forefront in the mind of the people that would see us invisible either....what ever works.

I have written about both Uganda and Russia before...along with a handful of other nations that make life for LGBT people a daily struggle, Turkey and Saudi Arabia just to name a couple more(the full list is just too long and horrible). These are places where fighting for the right to marry is an unthinkable goal as of now. For many, activism means working toward a society in which it's safe to live...period, full stop. I have friends for whom my fervent wish is simply that they get to know what it's like to love and be loved...and to be able to live without violence...that is all that can be hoped for at this time. What kind of commentary is that about the world we live in and our place within it as gay,bisexual, and transgendered people? It seems we have so far to go and sitting on the other side of the Atlantic doesn't make this problem any less mine. I can not hold hands with my partner without the threat of someone attacking us...and until the day when violence is no longer a threat for any of us....we are all in this together.

Somewhere long buried in the archives is a post in which I blogged about living in America and fighting for something that seams so much like a luxury compared to what gays in Russia and Uganda are struggling to achieve.  In that post a commenter put me in check and said that what happens here in America...and every battle we win...gives hope to them that such things are possible. It was a heartbreaking pill for me to swallow...and it still is. However, I have come to realize that at the same time, as we watch and read of the struggles of LGBT people in places like Uganda, you feel a kinship.....knowing that it is only bare decades from when we were undergoing similar protests...and Madonna was there for that too. And so it seems we are giving something very important to each other. That is why...whether you live in Uganda, Russia, or places like Saudi Arabia....you need to know that we are watching you too.....sometimes helplessly....but always with hope. We mourn for your tragedies and celebrate your happiness as if we are right there with you...because, in a way, we are.

Most of what I have heard coming out of Russia and Uganda has been bad news. That is why it meant so much to me to read about these events. All of the people featured in this story have put me in awe in one way or another and relit the flame of hope. They remind us of who we can be...who we are... when the chips are down. Anyone who can show that much strength with only a well place gay flag or glitter and  a smile, blows me away and shows me of what it means to be truly fierce.

Until next time dear readers....



23 comments:

  1. "Killing gays doesn't solve anything." Too right! I can never understand the violence and threats of death, especially when it comes to people who are gay. That's like threatening death to air.

    Also, i agree with you wholeheartedly Bryan as always!

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  2. Well, this is using the word “fierce” in a way I haven’t heard for quite some time. Normally, I avoid saying “fierce” for the same reason I avoid saying “fabulous.” I needn’t go into why; you can figure that one out on your own. Using it as you have in this post, essentially restores it to its original meaning—courageous—before that word was taken over by the more feminine elements of the gay community. And, yes, Russian and Ugandan gay rights demonstrators are incredibly courageous—or “fierce” if you’d like—perhaps way more so than their counterparts are here.

    I’ve never related musically to Madonna or, for that matter, Lady Gaga because my gayness never has had a musical manifestation. I think it’s part generational because I’m a boomer—and I’m musically pretty hippie-ish, so my musical heroes have been more along the lines of counterculture icons, i.e., Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, Grace Slick, etc. But even Mr. Freaky here can appreciate both Madonna and Lady Gaga for their support and activism for us. But just don’t expect to find them in my music collection. One LGBT artist I DO like and would like going to see if she came to town is Melissa Etheridge. But she isn’t a flittery clubby kind of artist; she’s a ballsy wild woman and rocker who got her greatest inspiration from Janis Joplin, and Janis is about as raw, electric and primal as you can get. Hippies absolutely adored her back in the day…. And Jimi was their ultimate psychedelic guitar god.

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    1. What an odd coincidence. I just mentioned Melissa Etheridge and she was interviewed tonight (Sunday night)by Pierc Morgan. Watch out, Steeldrago. You're not the only psychic here anymore. :-D

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  3. I think it's great that those of us lucky enough to live in areas where we can get Not Married are fighting for the right to get Married.

    Sure, there are dozens of states in the US where you can be fired for being perceived to be gay. And sure, there are nations where you can be imprisoned or executed for being convicted for the "crime" of being gay.

    But every time we raise a little bit of awareness anywhere in the world, we make it a tiny little bit easier for everyone else in the long run.

    Every time we've gotten closer to full recognition in society, it's because we've reached. Let us continue to reach and strive toward full recognition everywhere.

    Then look at that globe at the top of the page and see how you are reaching people everywhere - even the Middle East and Africa, slowly spreading the message of our humanity, even into the world's darkest corners.

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  4. Sometimes it seems to me that homophobia is becoming more rampant in society. I wonder if this is true or is just that with the advent of the internet we are hearing about it more often...?

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  5. Jim I think its because we refuse to hide in the closets now...It brings out the hate that we are proud now and are no longer making excuses for who we are as people.

    Jay

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  6. Good point Jay! I've said it before and I'll say it again. I think a GOOD proportion of the hate comes from closeted gay people. They are so miserable with their "LIFESTYLE CHOICES" (Yes..we can use those two words in this case-being gay is not a choice but remaining in the closet is) that when they see a couple like you and Bryan or Dave and I that are out and happy in our lives they become angry and jealous. So many of these people are OBSESSED with gay people. Seriously..my straight buddies have NO CLUE about anything gay!! It doesn't affect them-they are too busy living their own lives. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked by straight friends "We have gay marriage now..are you and Dave going to get married..?" All we can do is be open and out AND educate!

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    1. I agree, we should be out and educate.

      I do wonder if the people worldwide is so homophobic, does that mean the vast majority of the people are actually LGBT themselves? Or was just vast majority of people who are just uneducated about the subject and just took the words of a homophobic liars? I don't know and i'm not trying to challenge you about homophobes are closeted gays, i do agree with it.

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    2. Jim,

      If these closeted self-hating gay people are that miserable and so upset at seeing your own happiness, why don’t they make another lifestyle choice? Surely, they can sense within themselves that their orientation wasn’t a choice and know that their misery is self-imposed. Is it all religion for them? If they have hate coaching pondscum for a minister, why don’t they just drop out of their present church and find another that isn’t so backward? If they have toxic bigots in their life, why don’t they just walk away from those bastards? They have the means to educate themselves on the biological basis for their own gayness and, in turn, they have the capability to educate the other “problem people” in their lives about it. They can drive home the point that the only thing separating those other people in their lives from them is a more fortunate birth outcome. They then have the power to be pretty in-your-face about it and tell those folks that having a tizzy over someone’s orientation is as retarded as flipping out over someone’s skin or eye color. Those straights who were told the real facts can and SHOULD be confronted that they now know better, that acting on their prior ignorance is completely unacceptable and, if they don’t start giving you the respect you’re due, it’s you who is through with them. You—i.e., figuratively only—have no space in your life for toxic bigoted assholes and, if they don’t knock it off, it’s goodbye forever. Admittedly, I’m kind of on a rant right now, but maybe we gay folks need to start getting aggressive with those problem people in our lives—with the exception of our employers. We may initially hurt some feelings being so aggressive, but they have it coming and maybe in time they’ll respect us more long-term. Being strong-willed and aggressive isn’t something they normally expect from us. They have that gay = weakness equation in their minds and a little shock and awe showing our strength would do them a world of good.

      Another thing, Jim. Those people who say you have gay marriage and aren’t you and Dave going to get married yourself. Yes, they need to be educated about Ohio law. But you ARE legally married in New York. You suit yourself and live your life as you please, of course, but I have noticed that I never see you wearing a wedding ring in your videos—and I presume you do have one—and that you virtually never refer to Dave in your videos as your husband. You say “partner” about 98% of the time. I merely wonder why that all is. If, for no other reason than amusing yourself pissing off bigots around you, had you ever considered introducing Dave to others as your husband even though it isn’t factually accurate under Ohio law?

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    3. Dave,

      Dave and I are not legally married in New York. We have thought about it just to set some sort of legal standard even though it is a worthless piece of paper when it comes to Ohio law. After 21 years together it should be "common law" right? lol We are however married in our hearts and no politician can ever take that away from us....

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    4. NOT married in New York? Then whatever I heard or thought I heard in some past OutLateButGreat video of yours, I heard or remembered it wrong. I know you describe yourself one way in your videos, but how do you normally characterize yourselves to family and gay friends in the physical world? And do you call yourselves anything different around straight friends, acquaintances or people you’re meeting for the first time? Depending on one’s outlook as you fight for equality, I can understand why it might be tactically useful NOT to call yourself married just yet, but reasonable minds could differ on that point. My own personal inclination in a like situation would be to refer to my other half as my husband because that would be an accurate reflection of what he is to me in my own heart and also reflective of the kind of vows we would have made to each other.

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    5. I would so go to your wedding I say wait a year till its legal here in CA again then have your wedding here :O)

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    6. I would LOVE that! Dave has a lot of family in CA. I hope Selena could be our flower girl. I just hope she's still a little girl when Prop 8 finally get's overturned! Who knows? The courts are really dragging their feet on that one...

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    7. Dave..when I meet someone new I usually say "This is my partner Dave.." Around coworkers and friends I usually use the word "hubby!"
      The whole "gays are ruining the sacred institution of marriage" crap makes me so sick. I have friends that treat marriage like changing shoes... yep 3 4 times. Pathetic isn't it?

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    8. If a bigot rants to your face about gays ruining the institution of marriage, your line about treating marriage like changing shoes 3 or 4 times could be used as a nice zinger to lob back at him. It’s flakey straight people who pull that kind of crap and, accordingly marriage as an institution has already been ruined by them. But for us, who fight for the right to marry, it’s more special to us and we value it more than they do and it may take gay people marrying to revive that institution into that’s taken seriously again. Chew on that you fucking bigoted douchenozzle!

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  7. Hello,
    I am sorry to bother y'all and post here again but I am getting pretty desperate for Gay Men to interview. I am about 6 men short and will be unable to finish my paper and research if I am unable to find more.

    I am engaging in research regarding Gay Men who come out later in life (after the age of 30) and who have been in a previous long-term heterosexual relationship (at least one year) prior to the start of their Coming Out Process.

    All that is required of the participant is a 45 to 90 minute long interview via video chat. All names and idnetities will be kept anonymous in the completed paper. This topic is particularly important to me since my Dad just began the Coming out Process less than 2 years ago. I saw first hand the struggles that he went through.

    If you know of anyone or you yourself would like to participate or have any other questions please e-mail me. a.fiebrantz@ttu.edu

    I am sorry to post this again I just really need more people to interview or I won't be able to publish my study which would be rather unfortunate.
    Thanks so much
    Aly

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  8. This is such a beautiful post...so well written and such an important message.

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  9. i saw that picture of the guy in in the flag with the flag nip covers...i said 'thats fierce!' the instant i saw it.

    misery loves company and people too often make themselves feel better by throwing others under the bus or under the ground.

    the biggest obstacle for those of us 'outside looking in' in practical regard, i think, is knowing how to help. we can throw money to causes and groups all we want but it can be hard to trust that they are really doing what they say.

    a fellow pagan and i were talking the other day and he made the comment (paraphrased) that we were being good other texans not rocking the boat or challenging the status quo and we are not out proselytizing as we are subjected to every day with the false jesus loves you crap that gets spouted by people who have no idea who that being was let alone the essence of his message so leave us to live our lives in peace you childish ignorant hypocrites. he was a little nicer and not as direct in the truth telling on their 'hats' but it was there... (for clarity we have no problem with the true believers who actually live the values of community and brotherhood that jesus espoused..and for myself i do not deny any truth.) that is a truth, it has been a long standing tradition of you can disagree, you can believe as you wish and we can more or less discuss it outside church and outside the voting booth (not that i will really be listening to you anyway) but you better be there sunday morning and wednesday night and by God if you think your going to vote contrary to 'good christian values' keep your ass at home we have the shotguns ready if need be. the absolute truth here is this, if, as men, we dont grab our cocks and stand up and, as women, grab our boobs and stand up and speak the truth then the only voices heard are those of liars and hypocrites and those values that have real meaning to our own lives get buried under silence that is so loud it deafens the soul. be fierce in your own life in your own way. it was not long ago that we ourselves here in the USA were targeted for death and destruction in violent and bloody means or worse yet 'treatments' that did and do nothing but kill the soul of its victim. o wait....

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    1. You sound pretty direct against bigots. If they aren’t challenged, they’ll think they’re right and that they had the last word. This kind of reflects my own personal philosophy of dealing with them. My motto is, “don’t coddle a bigot, crush him instead.” I can be brutally sarcastic towards them and have actually been so on this blog more than once. The most recent instance of that was in the Chick-Fil-A thread where I lobbed a bomb having Dan Cathy contributing to preacher-designed electrified fence enclosures for us and how his cult-like followers would follow up with a flash mob First Amendment demonstration wearing “eat mo’ chicken, buy mo’ fencin’ “ tshirts. Then again, it’s easy to get really mouthy towards them when sitting in front of a computer screen. It’s another thing to verbally mow them down in person. So how will I be in person when put to the test? I really don’t know because I’ve never really been in that situation. On my last job, when I heard homophobic banter, I let it go because I was new, I was believed to be straight and I wasn’t in a comparative position of power. Outside of the workplace though, I at least hope I would let bigots have it when they start spewing their bile but, then again, I need to be actually put in that situation before I know for sure how I’ll react.

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    2. there is an appropriateness..but yeah. im not talking about being belligerent or being antisocial about the topic but if its a situation where words will do some good i have no problem telling 'them' how the cows ate the cabbage. i have learned to be the asshole, being nice and polite does not work. unless your niceness is a courtesy because you have authority. otherwise 'nice' is perceived as weak and people will walk all over you.
      when people have earned the title i have no problem using inflammatory commentary but that is reserved to drive home points about corruption and racism, they should be offensive to everyone as are the phrases.

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    3. I’m almost getting to the point that if one of them gets belligerent with me I’d want to get as belligerent back if not more so. The trick will be not to get SO carried away that I end up being tied up by the ankles and towed along cross country by Bubba’s and Lil’ O’ Fahmah Jethro’s “fag-drag” pickup truck on their way to the nearest Republican madrassa. Hopefully I can cut myself loose befo’ Lil’ O’ Fahmah Jethro flames mah ass w his lil’ o’ shawgun after our lil’ o ’cross country rahd. Gaul-aul-lee!! :-D :-D Tonight’s episode of the Dukes of Hazard was brought to you by the Bryan Fischer Underground Choo-Choo Ministries and The Dan Cathy Gay-Electric Fence Yo’ Way Ta Bettah Chick’n Foundation. :-D :-D

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  10. As a Russian myself i don't think Russia will change anytime soon. It's been in grained into them from a young age.

    What needs to happen is the fall of Vladimir Putin and his United Russia hate gang

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    1. Hairfire91,

      I looked at your blogger profile and you’re fortunate to live here in America and, if you happen to be gay yourself, you can still marry the one you love in New York. What is it with Russia? I would think with decades of communism, they would be on the secular side. Or are they really hyper-religious like the deep South here or Iran? I certainly wouldn’t think of Putin as a theocrat like any self-respecting Republican presidential candidate almost always is here, but I could be wrong.

      You might find it interesting that I draw a parallel between the deep South and Iran. The only thing separating our own religious extremists from that region from those in Iran is that our own wackos haven't resorted to terrorism, at least not yet. I wouldn't put past our own hyper-religious wackos to engage in shooting or bombing at pride parades. I think they're certainly crazy enough for that kind of thing.

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