Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Tribute to Rodger McFarlane

Last week I learned that Rodger McFarlane, a long time leader in the LGBT community, committed suicide. Rodger was the former executive director of the Gill Foundation, an AIDS activist who helped start ACT UP and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Rodger was also an athlete who competed in international triathlons. He accomplished more in his 54 years than most of us will who live to be far older than he was when he died. Rodger suffered from debilitating back problems and other health issues that severely limited his ability to travel and do the work he loved and that apparently was the main factor in his decision to end his life.

I knew Rodger because he supported It Takes A Team. He not only provided us with generous financial support, he also gave me lots of great advice about fund raising strategies. I never met Rodger face to face, but we had several phone conversations in which he exhorted me, who hates to ask people for money, to be more bold and confident. We have an important project in It Takes A Team, he told me, so sell it. You can do it.

It meant a great deal to me to have someone of Rodger’s stature in the LGBT community support ITAT and believe in us the way that he did. In these rough financial times especially, I am trying to channel Rodger’s fund raising pep talks. I will miss him as will everyone who knew him.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Ever Pride House At Winter Olympics

A group called GayWhistler (for Whistler Mountain where many of the winter Olympic events will be held) has announced that they are sponsoring a Pride House for LGBT Winter Olympians and their friends and family to hang out during the games next winter. On the one hand, any progress in recognizing and supporting LGBT Olympic athletes and coaches is a step forward. Having a Pride House, modeled on other national houses that are available for Olympians from different countries to gather, is a positive step.

On the other hand, the Pride House is not connected in any way with the official Vancouver organizing group or with the International Olympic Committee. It isn’t even clear if the Pride House will be publicized in any official Olympic publications or information distributed to athletes. It is a strictly local endeavor to welcome and support LGBT athletes and coaches at the Games.

Eleven openly gay, lesbian and bisexual Olympians (I don’t know of any trans athletes) competed in the summer Games last year. I suspect there will be even fewer openly LGBT athletes in Vancouver since the number of athletes in the Winter Games is smaller. I always assume that there are many more closeted athletes and coaches who will be competing. So, the point of having a Pride House is not necessarily to accommodate large numbers of LGBT athletes, it is more of a symbolic presence.

It reminds me of some research I did a few years ago looking at the Safe Schools program for LGBT students here in Massachusetts. There were gay students we talked to who never went to GSA meetings, but it made a difference to them that there was a GSA in the school. They felt safer even though they did not belong to the GSA. Maybe Pride House will serve a similar function for the LGBT athletes and coaches competing at the Winter Games.

Since the Olympic movement has not been known for its gay friendliness, it would be great if there was some kind of endorsement of Pride House as a way to make all athletes feel welcomed and safe, but we will need to wait until another Olympic Games for that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cal Women’s Basketball’s GLBT Pride Day

This article about Cal-Berkeley was in Athletic Business this month (in the interests of disclosure, I am quoted in the article). I wrote a blog post (February 11, 2008) about the Cal-Berkeley Women’s Basketball GLBT Pride Day promo last year when I first found out about it.

This article provides a little more detail including an interview with the Athletic Department’s Director of Game Day Experience (who knew this was a position?), Megan Mosness. Even though college basketball season is long past, it is would be a good time to start a campaign to get your favorite women’s or men’s athletic program initiate their own version of an LGBT Pride Day at a game.

You can find out who to contact by going to the athletic department web page. Shoot them an email. Call them up. Talk to the Game Experience Director or her/his equivalent. Get your friends to do the same. I bet Megan Mosness would be willing to share her game plan for this event with athletic staff from other schools. We shouldn’t let Cal-Berkeley be the only school with an LGBT Pride Day, should we?

Also, as an aside, read the comments in reaction to this article below the article itself. There aren’t many and most are positive. The only sourpusses seem to be stuck somewhere in a right wing time warp spouting tired crap about promoting an “anti-family” environment and being “exposed” to gay men or lesbians at sports events like we were the Swine flu. Maybe we could suggest a quarantine section at the game for those suffering from the contagion of homophobia.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Johnny Weir: You Gotta Love Him (At Least I Do)

On February 5 I discussed Skate Canada’s attempt to “rebrand” men’s figure skating as macho and dangerous with their “Tough” campaign. Though they claim it isn’t, this is all about disassociating men’s figure skating from its gay image. It’s like women’s sports that push the pretty and sexy girls into the spotlight as their “marquee” players in an ill-fated attempt to downplay the presence of lesbians. It’s insulting and futile. We are here. We are queer. Get over it.

Anyway, here is an ABC News video about the Skate Canada campaign featuring Elvis Stojko, Mr. Butch Macho himself, speaking on their behalf. Never mind that sequins and colorful costumes are not associated with a gay gene and neither are butchy moves on the ice linked to a straight gene. It ‘s all drag, really, just like Quentin Crisp says.

Now, back to Johnny Weir… He who has refused to say whether or not he is gay, but whose skating style is everything Skate Canada is trying to make us forget. This next video clip is Johnny Weir thumbing his nose at Skate Canada. Maybe he isn’t doing it on purpose, but his performance is everything the gender police at Skate Canada fear: He wears tights, he has on flamboyant make up, his moves are sexy, but not in a macho way,including an exaggerated limp-wristed kiss blown to the audience. The music is Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, which is so gay, I could not help dancing in my office chair as I watched the clip. And guess what? The crowd loves it. He could have used “I Am What I Am” for his music. That was his message.

We just had Northampton Pride this weekend so maybe I am just feeling the love in an extra special way today, but you what? I love Johnny Weir. I love his sequins and tights and coquettish moves. I love it that Johnny is going to be Johnny and he doesn’t have to butch it up for me to appreciate his toughness. Check this out and enjoy. Happy Pride!

Hat Tip to Outsports where I first saw the Johnny Weir video .