Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 HEROES AND ZEROS OF THE YEAR



Vienna’s Leopold Museum courted controversy with its Nude Men from 1800 to Today exhibition


Here is the expanded version of my 18th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros which originally ran in the January 2014 issue of Fugues magazine.

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.

Beth Ditto married her longtime partner

Kristin Ogata in April

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. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

MARIELA CASTRO ON LGBT RIGHTS IN CUBA AND GROWING UP CASTRO


Mariela Castro received the international Grand Prix award at the Gala Arc-en-Ciel in Montreal (photo by Andre Querry)

Bugs' sit-down one-on-one interview with Mariela Castro originally ran in Daily Xtra

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the niece of former president Fidel Castro, was in Montreal recently to accept an award for her work promoting the civil rights of LGBT people in Cuba.



Mariela Castro (Photo courtesy

Conseil Québécois LGBT)
Castro received a warm standing ovation at Montreal’s sold-out Corona Theatre at the 10th annual Gala Arc-en-Ciel, the awards ceremony honouring LGBT activists and presented by the Conseil Québécois LGBT each October. Previous winners of the gala’s international Grand Prix award include Svend Robinson, Louise Arbour and South African Supreme Court Justice Edwin Cameron.

“I am honoured to receive this award, which I dedicate to my mother, feminist and revolutionary Vilma Espín, who, since the first years of the Cuban Revolution, defended the rights of historically marginalized social groups in colonial and neo-colonial-dominated Cuba,” Castro told Xtra. “I also accept this prize as recognition of the work of those working with me, who have greatly contributed to our work at the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).”

Castro is a sexologist and the director of CENESEX. Since 2004 she has been the driving force lobbying for healthcare for transsexuals in Cuba and in 2008 won approval from the public health ministry to offer free sex-reassignment operations to Cubans. Castro is also president of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Centre for the Study of Sexuality, president of the National Commission for Treatment of Disturbances of Gender Identity, member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing, Confronting and Combating AIDS, and an executive member of the World Association for Sexual Health.

Along the way she has publicly advocated for same-sex unions in Cuba, and her organization CENESEX has given sensitivity training to Cuban police and continues to campaign for effective HIV/AIDS prevention.

“Just because someone is not heterosexual does not make them any less human,” she says.