Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Dance of Queer Love

The Wild Reed's 2019 Queer Appreciation series continues with the sharing of a queer love story/dance choreographed by Matthew Richardson . . . and performed in a Roman Catholic church no less!

Beautifully set to Jeff Buckley’s popular recording of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah,” the work is one of a number of dances that Richardson is creating for his CircusQueer Project.

The video of this powerful work of art is followed by Catherine Buck's article about its meaning and making, an article first published June 3, 2019 on the website of New Ways Ministry. Enjoy!

Historic Montreal Church Is Backdrop
for Queer Love Story Dance Video

By Catherine Buck

New Ways Ministry
June 3, 2019

The dancers soar across the church aisles and the altar, embrace as they spin and cover each other in blue and red chalk. They do this after opening video clips of homophobic protests and violence have flashed across the screen. All of this accompanied by Jeff Buckley’s popular recording of Leonard Cohen's song, “Hallelujah.” Near the end the two men share a brief kiss. The final image is a large banner they create that reads “Choose Love,” raised high over a backdrop of stained glass.

This dance performance video, entitled Hallelujah, was set and filmed in Quebec’s historic Church of St. Pierre Apôtre. Its a queer love story produced by Matthew Richardson – and the church leaders were happy to host it.

“They welcomed me, my message, and our creation with open arms,” said Richardson,the show’s creator and a former Cirque Du Soleil performer. Hallelujah is one of five dances he will direct as part of his CircusQueer Project. The video is deeply intimate in a deeply Catholic setting. In a review by the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDGLN), dancers Guillaume Paquin and Arthur Morel Van Hyfte are described as “only [the] heart” of the video, while, “the church [is] its body, taking on perhaps the most important role in the video: an example of inclusivity through servanthood.”

As described on social media, the CircusQueer Project is “a series of performance videos to address social issues and hopefully inspire a kinder world.” Hallelujah is the first of five planned videos, with future performances designed to address “gender identity, trans youth, and the conditioning of gender expectations.” While each may not make explicit the tension that LGBTQ+ people may feel between their gender, sexuality, and religious communities, having Hallelujah as the introduction to the series makes clear to all that this church space is one that deserve to be reclaimed by both the viewers and the dancers.

Richardson describes the soaring church as an “incredible space that does a lot of outreach for the LGBTQ community in Montreal.” A 2017 profile for CBC News notes that the parish has long been involved in LGBT outreach, and it holds one of the world’s only chapels dedicated to the victims of AIDS, the Chapel of Hope, which was inaugurated in 1996. [Note: The parish is part of New Ways Ministry’s LGBT-Friendly parish list.]

Originally from Savannah, Georgia, Richardson describes his own faith as non-denominational, but does profess a “relationship to a higher power.” He says, “I feel the design in my life, and I see the beauty and balance of the universe, so it is very hard not to believe in something bigger.”

In conversation with SDGLN, Richardson explains that the project grew from an intentional desire to bring together LGBTQ+ narratives with religious spaces.Even though he found support from St. Pierre Apôtre’s in filming, he has been no stranger to religious-based criticism and hateful messaging in his life and work. From hate signs at pride marches to messages sent to him directly after his earlier LGBTQ+ dance films (in particular The Arrow, which is dedicated to the memory of the 2016 victims of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre), Richardson felt a need to counteract those messages with ones of love. He says:

My video “Hallelujah” is a response to anyone who uses their beliefs as a weapon. It’s meant to be a gentle reminder that no matter what we believe in, we can still choose kindness towards those we don’t understand.

SDGLN writes that the idea for Hallelujah was “born quickly after a conversation [Richardson] had with his mother about people of faith using scripture and sermons as expressions of hate.” Richardson regularly connects his work as a dancer with values that the church professes but doesn’t always “extend openly to the LGBT community,” namely, “faith, risk-taking, and trust.”

In the web magazine Carnival Cinema, Richardson further explains the message of Hallelujah:

Religion is a tough subject for many in the LGBTQ community, and this piece is a reflection of the struggle and rejection we often feel. It tells the story of an individual troubled by the hate in the world and his partner who is fighting to lift him up, to remind him he is beautiful exactly how he is. My message is that religion should inspire more kindness and open arms, even towards those you may not understand.

There is much to praise in this story: Richardson’s work and vision, the stunning grace of the dance in this particular space, the warm welcome of the Catholic community in Montreal, and the attention that it is getting in multiple publications. Further projects like Hallelujah are necessary in continuing to emphasize the beauty found in LGBTQ+ relationships in a long-denied religious setting. These initiatives, and their visibility, are essential to fulfilling the love that Catholicism promises to support and provide.

– Catherine Buck
via New Ways Ministry
June 3, 2019

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Aristotle Papanikolaou on How Being Religious is Like Being a Dancer
Umberto and Roberto: Love in Motion
Challenging Discrimination Through a Modern Take on Traditional Dance
Not Whether We Dance, But How
Move Us, Loving God
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2014
Art and Resistance
The Potential of Art and the Limits of Rigid Orthodoxy to Connect Us to the Sacred
“I Came Alive With Hope”
Love Is Love
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On
A Beautiful Collaboration
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life

Saturday, June 15, 2019

John Gehring on Why Catholics Should Participate in LGBTQ Pride Parades

The Wild Reed's 2019 Queer Appreciation series continues with the sharing of author John Gehring's recent Washington Post op-ed, “The Case for Why Catholics Should March in LGBT Pride Parades.” (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

As you'll see, Gehring penned this op-ed in response to Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Tobin's recent statement that given the church hierarchy's teaching on homosexuality (i.e., the “disordered” nature of same-sex attraction and the “sinfulness” of any physical expression of such attraction) and its opposition to marriage equality, “faithful” Catholics should not support or attend LGBTTQ Pride events, events which Tobin says, “are especially harmful to children.”

Following is author John Gehring's thoughtful response to Bishop Tobin.


Fifty years after patrons at Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn refused to be silent and sparked a civil rights movement for gay Americans, Pride events are a familiar tradition in many states. Parades, teach-ins and panel discussions throughout June affirm the dignity of people who have been historically marginalized and continue to face discrimination.

While religious leaders take part in LGBT Pride Month celebrations, a Catholic bishop’s tweet last week provoked contentious social media debates about whether faithful Catholics should attend such events, given the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage and teachings about homosexuality.

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.

– Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019

As a Catholic who loves both my church and my gay friends and family, I’m sickened by this expression of hypocrisy, homophobia and fear-mongering. At a time when the Catholic Church is struggling to reclaim moral credibility after systematically covering up decades of child abuse, the idea that a Catholic leader would declare Pride events “especially harmful for children” reveals a stunning lack of self-awareness.

This is also a particularly tone-deaf and false assertion, given that Bishop Thomas Tobin served as an auxiliary bishop in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, one of several Pennsylvania dioceses included in a devastating grand jury report that found that more than 300 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children over several decades. In an interview last summer, the bishop said that monitoring clergy abuse was outside his scope of responsibility at the time.

Tobin would have been smart to stick with his plans to quit Twitter last summer, when he described the platform as an “obstacle” to his spiritual life and an “occasion of sin for me and others.”

Catholics who attend Pride events are reclaiming their humanity and honoring the basic dignity of those they love in response to a history and culture where gay, lesbian and transgender people have often been discarded by their religiously conservative families and rejected by churches. Those who consider themselves “pro-life” Christians can’t ignore the reality that sexual minorities are disproportionately at risk for self-harm and targeted for violence.

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force interviewed more than 6,000 transgender and gender nonconforming people from every state and found that 41 percent reported suicide attempts (compared with 1.6 percent of the general population). High percentages reported bullying in school, harassment on the job, and physical and sexual assault. At least 26 transgender people were killed in the United States last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Eighty-two percent of these victims were women of color, and most were younger than 35.

Last Saturday in Dallas, the body of Chynal Lindsey, a black transgender woman, was found by police, at least the fourth black transgender woman killed in that city alone in the past three years.

Any Catholic bishop who doesn’t understand that context, and uses his digital pulpit in ways that wound instead of heal, contributes to a culture where stereotypes are reinforced, discrimination is blessed and extremists feel emboldened to violence.

Catholics who rallied to Tobin’s defense claim he is simply expressing church doctrine. This is a deficient argument that, at best, reveals a limited, mechanical understanding of church teachings and, at worst, distorts it in ways that do real harm.

In his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis urges Catholics not to view church doctrine as merely “stones to throw at people’s lives.” This attitude, the pope wrote, reveals “the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the church’s teachings.” While the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage and any sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, the catechism of the Catholic Church also states that gay people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” When a bishop describes a Pride event as dangerous for children, those words threaten to demonize and stigmatize LGBTQ people, a form of unjust discrimination that the catechism forbids.

The good news is that while Tobin received a lot of attention, his views reflect only a vocal minority of church leaders. A developing pastoral theology – modeled by Francis when he meets with transgender individuals and same-sex couples – has encouraged more priests and bishops to build bridges with LGBTQ communities. This requires humility and listening rather than finger wagging.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, of Newark, two years ago welcomed a pilgrimage of LGBTQ Catholics to the city’s cathedral. “I am Joseph, your brother,” the cardinal told the group. In a 2016 interview with America magazine, a Jesuit publication, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy described language in the church’s catechism that calls homosexual relations “intrinsically disordered” as “very destructive language that I think we should not use pastorally.”

Catholics from parishes in cities such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco have taken part in Pride rallies over the years. But even in more conservative and rural places, there are Catholics who demonstrate solidarity. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., sent a letter to the city’s first Pride Interfaith Service in 2017 that applauded the celebration as “a commendable outreach to people in the community who too often have suffered discrimination from people of faith.”

In the Christian tradition, pride is considered to be one of the “seven deadly sins.” Any follower of Christ should be wary of extreme self-indulgence and excessive individualism. So how can a Christian reconcile that with the libertarian atmosphere at some Pride parades?

Similar to the way that expressions of Black Pride in the 1960s were in response to the oppressive injustice of white supremacy, LGBTQ Pride events were created as safe spaces for people who have reason to wonder whether their bodily integrity will be respected when they walk down the street in some communities.

As a straight white male, I don’t experience that reality. By judging an expression of liberation and joy at a Pride event that some might consider flamboyant and excessive, I would be castigating from a place of comfort and privilege. In my deficit of empathy, I would not go to the margins, where Jesus spent his time. Being vigilant against the human temptation to be prideful is not the same for me as it is for a black transgender woman who fears being beaten up if she turns the wrong corner or who can be legally fired from her job in more than two dozen states because of her sexuality or gender identity.

Before Catholic leaders stand in judgment of Pride events, they might try a more Christian response and be willing to walk in the discomfort of another’s experience.

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, and author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.

NEXT: A Dance of Queer Love

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Gay Pride: A Catholic Perspective
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues
LGBTQ Catholics Celebrate Being “Wonderfully Made”
Same-Sex Desires: “Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture”
Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2017 | 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Marriage Equality
On the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota, a Celebratory Look Back at the Important Role Played by Catholics
The Journal of James Curtis

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Composer Pens Inclusive, Pro-LGBTI Song for Pride Month – Stefania Sarrubba (Gay Star News, June 8, 2019).
Listen to the LGBT Person: A Response to the Vatican’s Gender Theory Document – James Martin, SJ (America, June 11, 2019).
Five Trans Catholics on the Vatican's Rejection of Their Gender Identity – Eloise Blondiau (Vox, June 12, 2019).
Homosexual Relationships: Another Look – Bill Hunt (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 8, 2012).

Image 1: David McCaffrey (Twin Cities Pride, 2007).
Image 2: Michael Bayly (Twin Cities Pride, 2012).

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Quote of the Day

What we have seen in recent years is not that [government] works for working people. [Rather, we] have seen attempts to make massive cuts to health care and education and environmental protections. [We] have also seen massive federal aid to Wall Street with the biggest bailout in American history in 2008; and massive help to the fossil-fuel industry, to the pharmaceutical industry, and so forth and so on.

So, as people like Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, we do have socialism: We have socialism for the rich and large corporations, and we have unfettered free enterprise for working families. We have to change that.

. . . We have to talk about democratic socialism as an alternative to unfettered capitalism, where the rich get richer and almost everybody else is getting poorer. I think that’s a message that young people are receptive to, and I think it’s a message that working people are receptive to.

Right now, the average worker in America is making, in inflation-accounted-for dollars, and despite a huge increase in technology and worker productivity, exactly the same amount of money that he or she made 43 years ago. That’s incomprehensible.

There has been a massive transfer of wealth from the working class of this country to the top one percent, and the corporate media doesn’t talk about it. And at the end of the day, nobody can defend three families in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of the American people. Or that 49 percent of all new income today goes to the top one percent. That is indefensible. That is outrageous. That is immoral. And I think the American people understand that that has got to change.

– Sen. Bernie Sanders
Quoted in John Nichol's interview of Sanders for The Nation
June 12, 2019

Related Off-site Links:
Watch Bernie Sanders Deliver His George Washington University Speech on Why Democratic Socialism Is the “Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism”Common Dreams (June 12, 2019).
Transcript: Bernie Sanders Defines His Vision for Democratic Socialism in the United StatesVox (June 12, 2019).
Bernie Sanders Calls His Brand of Socialism a Pathway to Beating Trump – Reid J. Epstein and Sydney Ember (The New York Times, June 12, 2019).
Bernie Has Opened the Door for Democratic Socialism – Meagan Day (Jacobin, June 12, 2019).
Bernie Sanders, Channeling FDR, Argues Case for Democratic Socialism, Pitches “Economic Bill of Rights” – Adam Kelsey and Lissette Rodriguez (ABC News, June 12, 2019).
Sanders Defends Democratic Socialism, Calling for “21st Century Bill of Rights” – Cara Korte (CBS News, June 12, 2019).
Bernie Sanders’s Definition of Democratic Socialism, Explained – Tara Golshan (Vox, June 12, 2019).
Bringing Socialism Back: How Bernie Sanders Is Reviving an American Tradition – Joseph M. Schwartz (In These Times, December 17, 2017).

UPDATES: Bernie Sanders Just Made a Brilliant Defense of Democratic Socialism – Bhaskar Sunkara (The Guardian, June 13, 2019).
Bernie Sanders Says Democratic Socialism Needed to Defeat “Corporate Socialism for the Rich”Democracy Now! (June 13, 2019).
Bernie Sanders Is Right – We’re All “Socialists” Now – Eric Levitz (New York Magazine, June 13, 2019).
Can Sanders Beat Trump? “Absolutely,” Says Famed Actor and Activist Danny Glover – Colin Demarest (Aiken Standard, June 13, 2019).

For more coverage at The Wild Reed of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, see:
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 5, 2018
Jacob Weindling: Quote of the Day – November 19, 2018
Something to Think About – February 19, 2019
Quotes(s) of the Day – February 26, 2019
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – March 2, 2019
Talkin’ ’Bout An Evolution: Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid
Why Marianne Williamson Is a Serious and Credible Presidential Candidate
Pete Buttigieg: Quote of the Day – April 17, 2019
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – April 24, 2019
Progressive Perspectives on Joe Biden's Presidential Run
Beto, Biden and Buttigieg: “Empty Suits and Poll-Tested Brands”
Pete Buttigieg, White Privilege, and Identity Politics
“A Lefty With Soul”: Why Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Deserves Some Serious Attention

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – February 19, 2018
Quote of the Day – January 8, 2019
Quote of the Day – September 7, 2017
Something to Think About – January 22, 2017
Quote of the Day – January 21, 2017
Quote of the Day – November 9, 2016
Progressive Perspectives on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Carrying It On
Hope, History, and Bernie Sanders

Image: Associated Press/Jeff Chiu.

Friday, June 07, 2019

James Baldwin's Potent Interweavings of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual

Since 2009 I've shared every year during the month of June a series of "Queer Appreciation" posts. Each series is comprised of a number of informed and insightful writings to mark Gay Pride . . . or, as I prefer to call it (since 2011), Queer Appreciation. I always try to include in each series a diverse range of writers and topics; and, in general, the writings I share are positive, proactive and celebratory.

Without realizing it at the time, my Quote of the Day last Friday serves well as the first post in this year's Queer Appreciation series. I continue the series today with an excerpt from Michael Cuby's essay, "James Baldwin's Queerness Was Inseparable from His Blackness." The springboard for Cuby's piece is the award-winning 2016 documentary film, I Am Not Your Negro which, although not primarily focused on Baldwin's personal history, nevertheless presents him as both unapologetically black and unapologetically queer.

[James] Baldwin's edition of The Last Interview includes a conversation between the author and journalist Richard Goldstein about being gay in America. Obviously, it also touched on blackness – primarily because Baldwin believed that race and sexuality "have always been entwined." But Baldwin's summation of what separates black homosexuals from their white counterparts is still perhaps one of his most insightful lessons.

After Goldstein, who is gay, mentioned feeling distinct from his straight white peers, Baldwin told him that his feelings of "otherness" were the result of feeling like he had been "placed outside a certain safety to which you think you were born." Those of us who are both black and gay, however, experience life quite differently. "The sexual question comes after the question of color," Baldwin told Goldstein. "Long before the question of sexuality comes into it," a black gay person is already "menaced and marked because he's black." While being gay is just one more marginalized identity that black people are forced to contend with, Baldwin explains that for white people, being gay is simply an unexpected anomaly, whereupon they realize that they are no longer at the top of the social food chain. Baldwin maintained that Caucasian feelings of otherness based on sexuality lay in "direct proportion to [their] sense of feeling cheated of the advantages which accrue to white people in a white society." It's not a struggle for them, so much as a "bewilderment and complaint."

According to Baldwin, the origins of racism lay more in white people's refusal to give up power than in any innate desire to truly despise another human being. "They thought vengeance was theirs to take," he said, describing how the colonialist mind works. To him, the dismantling and ultimate destruction of racism could come after white people truly took the time to understand the value of human dignity. But he also acknowledged that such epiphanies don't occur out of the blue—that's why he believed in the possibilities of coalitions. Baldwin admitted that he believed the (white) gay rights movement and the civil rights movement could align themselves, but only because both groups had experienced oppression from others who feared their prosperity. Blacks had dealt with white fears, while queers had dealt with the fears of straight men.

Unfortunately, Baldwin's hopes of an integrated resistance to white supremacy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and other dominant American social regimes seem harder to achieve than ever. But his greater lesson is that to be hopeful for the future is not to be ignorant or blind. Baldwin may have put too much faith in the white people that he hoped would grow to see him as human, but he also made sure to hold up a mirror in his work, so they could see just how much they were breaking him (and the black community) down. That's what I Am Not Your Negro does most effectively: It shows its audience how difficult white society makes it for black people to thrive. As someone who was used to being met with resistance both for being black and for being gay, it's no surprise that Baldwin's thoughts on what it means to be disenfranchised in this country were so forthright and profound.

Something about Baldwin's hope for a better tomorrow is uplifting as our nation enters a period of political turmoil. It inspires us to keep pushing through and fighting for the recognition of our humanity – exactly as we are, whether that be gay, queer, or both. As he had it in The Last Interview: "I was not born to be what someone said I was. I was not born to be defined by someone else, but by myself and myself only."

– Michael Cuby
Excerpted from "James Baldwin's Queerness
Was Inseparable from His Blackness
February 3, 2017


About James Baldwin, The Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit notes the following.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer who sought in his life and work to honor his love of men and his African/African-American heritage – embracing spiritual expression and political activism. Exemplary of his artistic interweaving of these dimensions of his life are episodes in the short story "The Outing" (1951), a tale rooted in the Biblical story of David and Jonathan, in which Johnny Grimes realizes, during a church picnic, that he has fallen in love with his friend David Jackson.; and in the novel Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968), in which a bisexual Black actor, Leo Proudhammer shares a loving relationship with a radical African-American activist named Christopher. Of this novel, Emmanuel S. Nelson writes, "Baldwin casts the homosexual in a redemptive role. Christopher's name itself . . . suggests his role as a racial savior. But Christopher is also comfortably and confidently gay," the result is a potent interweaving of ethnicity, homoeroticism, and the spiritual.

Related Off-site Links:
James Baldwin's Black Queer Legacy – Anthony James Williams (Electric Lit, March 23, 2017).
James Baldwin's Sexuality: Complex and Influential – Mashaun D. Simon (NBC News, February 7, 2017).
James Baldwin’s Blueprint for the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement – Tre'vell Anderson (Out, May 19, 2019).
James Baldwin on Being Gay in AmericaThe Village Voice (June 22, 2018).
American Lives: James Baldwin, "Lifting The Veil" – NPR (July 15, 2011).
James Baldwin, a Guide in Bleak Times – JoAnn Wypijewski (The Nation, January 21, 2015).

NEXT: John Gehring on Why Catholics
Should Participate in LGBTQ Pride Parades

The Wild Reed's 2018 Queer Appreciation series:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Liberating Paris: Exploring the Meaning of Liberation in Paris Is Burning
Stephanie Beatriz on the Truth of Being Bi
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July

The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series:
Our Lives as LGBTQI People: "Garments Grown in Love"
On the First Anniversary of the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre, Orlando Martyrs Commemorated in Artist Tony O'Connell's “Triptych for the 49”
Tony Enos on Understanding the Two Spirit Community
Making the Connections

The Wild Reed's 2016 Queer Appreciation post of solace, inspiration and hope:
"I Will Dance"

The Wild Reed's 2015 Queer Appreciation series:
Vittorio Lingiardi on the Limits of the Hetero/Homo Dichotomy
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Standing with Jennicet Gutiérrez, "the Mother of Our Newest Stonewall Movement"
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
Clyde Hall: "All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful"
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On

The Wild Reed's 2014 Queer Appreciation series:
Michael Bayly's "The Kiss" Wins the People's Choice Award at This Year's Twin Cities Pride Art Exhibition
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
Lisa Leff on Five Things to Know About Transgender People
Steven W. Thrasher on the Bland and Misleading "Gay Inc" Treatment of the Struggle to Overturn Prop 8
Test: A Film that "Illuminates Why Queer Cinema Still Matters"
Sister Teresa Forcades on Queer Theology
Omar Akersim: Muslim and Gay
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues

The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: "It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash"
Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement
On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized
Manly Love

The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series:
The Theology of Gay Pride
Bi God, Somebody Listen
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
Gay Men and Modern Dance
A Spirit of Defiance

The Wild Reed's 2011 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series:
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Gay Pioneer Malcolm Boyd on Survival – and Victory – with Grace
Senator Scott Dibble's Message of Hope and Optimism
Parvez Sharma on Islam and Homosexuality

The Wild Reed’s 2010 Gay Pride series:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously in the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

The Wild Reed's 2009 Gay Pride series:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?

See also:
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2017 | 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Gay Pride: A Catholic Perspective
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Images: Photographers unknown.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Celebrating Mabo

. . . with Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project

Although I'm now back in the U.S. after my five-week sojourn in my homeland of Australia, I want to acknowledge something very special taking place in Australia today.

Mabo Day occurs annually on June 3 and commemorates Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), a Torres Strait Islander whose campaign for Indigenous land rights led to a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia that, on June 3, 1992, overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius ("nobody's land") which had characterized Australian law with regards to land and title since the voyage of James Cook in 1770.

In celebrating Mabo Day today at The Wild Reed I share the music video for “Mabo” by Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project.

“Mabo” was released as a single earlier this year on April 26, ahead of the band's Yirramboi Festival concert at Melbourne's Hamer Hall. Composed by Dr M Yunupingu, Stu Kellaway and Galarrwuy Yunupingu, "Mabo" is a cover of a song which first appeared as a track on the 1993 Yothu Yindi album Freedom.

This release marks the first time the song has been released as a single, and the first song recorded by Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project, a contemporary ensemble which includes founding members of Yothu Yindi Witiyana Marika and Stu Kellaway; Dhapanbal Yunupingu, daughter of founding member Dr M Yunupingu; long-time collaborator Gavin Campbell; multi-instrumentalist Ania Reynolds; and a number of emerging First Nations artists.

"Mabo" has been described as “a joyous celebration with a driving, tribal funk groove” and “a stomping crowd favourite at every Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project show.” Produced by Filthy Lucre, the song "features powerful yidaki (didgeridoo), deftly woven through layers of synths, percussion and anthemic group vocals, sung partly in Yolngu Matha (language), ably led by emerging Yolngu vocalist Yirrnga Yunupingu" (right, minus the cool hat and shades he sports in the official music video for “Mabo” below).

Terra nullius, terra nullius
Terra nullius is dead and gone
We were right
That we were here
They were wrong
That we weren't here

Liya balburrk bapayili
Liya waltjan bapayili
Liya balburrk bapayili
Liya waltjan bapayili

Mirriam people are dancing
Pastime heroes are dancing too
Mabo's spirit is sailing
Telling the world a story
Terra nullius, terra nullius
Terra nullius is dead and gone

Liya balburrk bapayili
Liya waltjan bapayili
Liya balburrk bapayili
Liya waltjan bapayili

We were right
That we were here
They were wrong
That we weren't here...

Mabo's law is standing firm
Shedding power
For us to be strong
Spirit, law, culture and all
Showing the world
See our law
Terra nullius, terra nullius
Terra nullius is dead and gone

Related Off-site Links:
Eddie Mabo and Seasons of Hope – Jeff McMullen (Independent Australia, June 3, 2019).
A Nation With Unfinished Business Can Take Inspiration From Mabo – Jeff McMullen (The Sydney Morning Herald, June 1, 2019).
Australian Aborigines Win Right to Sue for Colonial Land Loss – Bill Code (Aljazeera, March 15, 2019).
Stolen, Imprisoned, and Given a Criminal Record: Australia’s Shameful Treatment of the Stolen Generations Revealed – Sylvia Rowley (NITV News, March 22, 2018).
Native Title: What Does It Mean and Why Do We Have It? – Elliot Constable and Karina Marlow (SBS News, February 16, 2017).
Razor Recordings – Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project's record label.

UPDATES: Traditional Owners Continue Their Fight Against Adani Carmichael Coal Mine – Jennifer Scherer (NITV News, June 14, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists
Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”
Prayer of the Week – November 14, 2012
Saying “Yes” to Marriage Equality in Australia
Return to Guruk

Previous featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game

Friday, May 31, 2019

Quote of the Day

This Pride Month there’s a lot to be mad about. . . . If the gatekeepers of our community (those powerful, mostly white, cis, able-bodied wealthy nonprofit directors, CEOs, political insiders) really believed in what our ancestors and transcestors at Stonewall were fighting for, we would see more elevating of grassroots Black and Brown leadership, the people who actually carry the torches lit by the founders of our movement. We would see more money going into efforts supporting those who are low income, incarcerated, homeless, and sex workers. . . . We would see less of an interest in bringing on token queer and trans people – many who already have major platforms and little-to-no connection to the community throughout the rest of the year – in Pride campaigns to support organizations with million-dollar budgets that do work that never directly touches the most marginalized groups within our communities.

– Raquel Willis
Excerpted from “50 Years Later,
Pride Month Is a Disgrace to Our Ancestors

May 31, 2019

NEXT: James Baldwin's Potent Interweavings
of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual

Related Off-site Links:
How the Queer Liberation March Wants to Bring Pride Back to Its Activist Roots – Zachary Zane (Rolling Stone, May 15, 2019).
New York City Gets Ready for the Battle of the LGBT Pride Marches – Tim Teeman (The Daily Beast, May 16, 2019).
James Baldwin’s Blueprint for the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement – Tre'vell Anderson (Out, May 19, 2019).
One Hot New York Night in 1969 Changed the World – Amarra Mohamed (LGBTQ Nation, May 30, 2019).
Activist Miss Major Recounts the First Night of the Stonewall Uprising – Raquel Willis (Out, May 31, 2019).
6 Major Moments in Queer History Beyond the Stonewall Uprising – Elyssa Goodman (Them, June 27, 2018).
Pride Is Still an Elitist White Gay Fantasy – Phillip Henry (Them, June 28, 2018).
Challenging Trump With Powerful Black Queer Stories – Richard A. Fowler (The Huffington Post, October 23, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Making the Connections
A Lose/Lose Situation


Saturday, May 25, 2019


When I was out for dinner on Wednesday night with my parents and their friends at the Port Macquarie Golf Club, I came across a beautiful work of art on the wall near the entrance to the dining room.

It was a sculpture-like work, made of twisted branches and some kind of weaved fibrous material, comprised of vines, stems, and/or grasses. Try as I might, I could not see a title or the name of the artist. There was, however, an artist's statement, which informed me that whoever created this beautiful piece is Māori, an Indigenous person from New Zealand.

A later search of the "Photo Gallery" of the Golf Club's website revealed that the artist is Anaheke Metua, a young Maori woman from Aoeteroa, the Māori name for New Zealand, and a descendant of the Nga Te Rangi tribe.

Anaheke describes herself as a "fibre artist" and "environmental and art worker." As such, she is part of Sustainable Dreaming, a "collective of artists and cultural ambassadors that work across various fields, towards a common goal – co-creating a healthy future by utilizing new sustainable innovations whilst honoring and learning from the cultures and custodians who have come before us." Inspiring stuff, to be sure!

Here's what Anaheke says about her artwork at Port Macquarie Golf Club.

I’ve always been fascinated by the moon and the stars, endlessly curious as to their magic. This piece is inspired by the constellation known to my people (Māori) as Matariki/Pleiades. When she rises on the horizon in June/July, it marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori calendar. Our calendar is a phenomenological calendar – meaning it is based on the observations of the cycles of the moon, sun, water, wind, plant, animal and flower as indicators to help guide us cultivate, hunt, fish and store food. Each star has is its own name and represents both male and female spirit/energy. This star system is also a very important navigational marker when traversing the great expanse of Te Moana o Kiwa – the Pacific Ocean. Every human culture has developed a deep understanding and knowledge of the cycles and patterns of the plant, animal, elemental and spiritual kingdom of their place. Thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge is being lost daily. This is how I’m expressing my growing understanding for these indicators of change and guidance for my people.

For previous posts in the Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 series, see:
Part 1: Guruk
Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Part 7: Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”
Part 8: Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists

Friday, May 24, 2019

Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists

(Part 8 of Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019)

NOTE: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this post contains images and names of people who are now deceased.

While recently perusing Port Macquarie's one and only bookstore, I came across a title that instantly caught my attention: Australia's First Naturalists: Indigenous Peoples' Contribution to Early Zoology.

Written by Penny Olsen and Lynette Russell, the book documents how Indigenous Australians "gave Europeans their first views of iconic animals such as the Koala and Superb Lyrebird." The basic message of the book is an important though largely overlooked one: "[M]any zoological discoveries made by European naturalists would not have been possible without Aboriginal people and their knowledge of [Australia's] fauna and environment."

I'm very much appreciating and enjoying Olsen and Russell's book, and share today as part of my ongoing Australia Sojourn – April-May 2019 series, a review of it that was first published in Australian Geographic.


Time to Recognise Australia’s First Naturalists

Australian Geographic
April 4, 2019

A new book reveals the Indigenous knowledge that led to some of western science’s greatest discoveries.

You know the names of early European naturalists John Gould, Joseph Banks and Carl Sofus Lumholtz, but not the Aboriginal Australians who led them to the discoveries that they’re now famous for.

These Aboriginal Australians – those whose names have been recorded – are the subject of a new book, Australia’s First Naturalist: Indigenous People’s Contribution to Early Zoology.

“I’ve written a lot of books on Australian natural history,” says author Penny Olsen, who co-wrote the book with Lynette Russell. “And the Indigenous connection just kept coming up. Over time, I thought I’d better collect these all into one book and make something of it.”

European naturalists, determined to discover and name any new animal they came across or got word of, used Indigenous knowledge to carry out their activities. But this knowledge was hardly recorded, nor were many of the names of these Indigenous guides.

The book details the names of the few Aboriginal Australians mentioned in the diaries of these early explorers, including Natty and Gemmy who helped John Gould in the study of several birds including the lyre bird, boobook owl and several species of pigeon.

Above: A guide known as Dick, probably from the Barkindji tribe, who helped guide the Victorian Exploring Expedition of 1860-1861. This portrait was drawn by Ludwig Becker, the expedition naturalist, who wrote on it: “Portrait of Dick, the brave and gallant native guide. Darling Depot, Dec. 21, '60.”

The book also details the pursuits of naturalist George Caley, who was assisted by a young Aboriginal boy by the name Moowattin, who helped him for several years classifying eucalypts, as well as collecting bird and mammal skins to send back to Banks.

By the late 1800s it was common to ask Indigenous people for assistance in locating Australian animals. Museum collector Frederick Andrews used this knowledge to locate elusive night parrot specimens, and mammalogist Henley Finlayson had Aboriginal helpers to find the now extinct desert rat-kangaroo.

All of this, without formal recognition. They were often paid with tobacco and bread.

Right: John Piper, the Wiradjuri man who guided Thomas Mitchell and helped him collect mammals on his 1836 expedition along the Murray and Darling rivers.

“It was very exploitative in the early days when these Europeans came in, used Indigenous knowledge to find these fabulous animals and hardly said a word about Indigenous knowledge,” Penny says.

“Then they’d give these animals names that honoured distant European earls that they wanted to carry favour with, who had nothing to do with anything.”

Such is the case of Carl Sofus Lumholtz who was informed by the Warrgamay people about Bonngary, a peculiar tree mammal. After finding and describing Bonngary he then renamed the animal the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo.

That many of the behaviours and names of these animals were not recorded is a great loss to science.

“Sadly, a lot of the early naturalists either didn’t take Indigenous knowledge about behaviour seriously or it was just too hard to communicate,” says Penny. “With many of the extinct animals that Aboriginal Australians lived alongside for thousands of years, we know hardly anything because of this. The opportunity wasn’t seized.”

Penny hopes that the book will go some way in giving recognition to Australia’s first naturalists. “I think we’re beginning to recognise the importance of Indigenous knowledge. The time is right, it’s the time for truth telling in terms of how much they truly did before the Europeans came.”

National Geographic
April 4, 2019

Above: A group of Indigenous Australians at Port Essington, including Neinmal (third from left), who spent two years assisting John MacGillivray on land and aboard HMS Fly.

Above: Galmarra, a young man from near Muswellbrook, New South Wales, was known to Europeans as Jackey Jackey (or Jacky Jacky). He accompanied Edmund Kennedy's disastrous attempt to find a route from Rockingham Bay to the tip of Cape York.

Above: Two Aboriginal men from Groote Eylandt, in the Northern Territory, searching for the Northern Hopping Mouse for anthropologist and ornithologist Donald Thomson (circa 1929).

NEXT: Matrariki

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Prayer of the Week – November 14, 2012

See also:
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 1: Guruk
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 7: Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”

Opening image: “Aborigines Hunting Waterbirds” by Joseph Lycett (circa. 1817).