In our search for this year's individuals with the greatest impact on the gay community, good and bad, a number of themes recur. Well, two actually, Religion and Russia, themes we have followed throughout the year. Keep an eye open for them in the piece below. As many of our nominees are already celebrated, we have mainly allowed their words to explain their presence here. So here they are, in no particular order, our 2013 heroes and villains.
No 2013 list of heroes could omit Nelson Mandela. His humanity and profound belief in equality extended in his later years to the gay community. A Christian compassion underlined his every motive, though he was quick to recognise how disive a force religeon too often was and is.
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
His humanity drove him to campaign for Aids awareness, unlike most of his peers in Africa. His legacy to the gay community at home was huge. The constitution, drafted by then-president Mandela in 1997 contained a clause that made discrimination based on sexual identity illegal. Subsequent rulings by South Africa's Constitutional Court, including one allowing gay couples to adopt children, have extended his legacy. Unsurprisngly, South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa, to legalize same-sex marriage.
He may be the worlds top IOQ (Irascible Old Queen) but Sir Elton had an influential year as a gay icon. And I'm not referring to his undignified spats with Madonna. His fund-rasing activities for his Aids Foundation charity are legendary and cover a spectrum of activities from tennis matches to the glamorous White Tie & Tiara Ball. He has confronted extremes of prejudice through the high-profile parenting of his sons, Zachary and Elijah. On 6 and 7 December he spoke out in Moscow against the recent repressive Russian legislation. His explanation say it all.
"There was a lot of speculation about whether I would go to Russia this year. Many people outside the country thought I should boycott Russia because of its new homophobic legislation. Others said I must go to challenge the government. I decided in the end to be guided by what Russian people wanted me to do. The message, from even the most marginalised Russian groups we work with at the Elton John AIDS Foundation, was "please come". If you don't come, Aids workers and LGBT activists told us, we will feel isolated. We will miss having your voice in our debate. It might be interpreted that you don't care. Or we may be blamed for keeping you away.
"In Moscow I spent hours with gay activists, federal doctors, human rights lawyers and people living with HIV. They told me that since the new legislation has been adopted it's getting harder and harder to deliver basic HIV information or healthcare to gay men for fear of seeming to "promote" homosexuality, which is against the law. Gay people lie even to their children about their sexuality, in case it jeopardises their families.
"At my concert I made a statement, directly to the audience, about how sad, shocking and isolating this new law seemed to be. A young woman with a rainbow banner cheered. I realised then, with thousands of Russians cheering for a man they knew to be gay, that I had made the right decision. I believe the Russian people are decent and will be persuaded – but they need to hear us, and see we are human. They can't do that from a distance of 2,000 miles."
The resurgence of institutionalised homophobia in Russia has yielded a second and local hero, Anton Krasovsky, Russian TV anchor.
Krasovsky, live on air, dared to challenge, the new legislation at just the moment that President Vladimir Putin was poised to sign it into law. On January 25, he addressed the camera and told viewers that he was gay and "as human as President Putin." Krasovsky lost his job within hours after coming out.
Recently interviewed, Krasovsky said, "It's time; now it's time to be open." Employed as editor in chief of Kontr TV, launched by the Kremlin, Krasovsky said he had known exactly what would happen. He added that he wants to remain in Russia and is still without a job. Many gays throughout the country have staged protests that were met with arrests, beatings and torture. But Krasovsky is the most prominent of LGBT Russians to take a stand.
Despite worldwide condemnation of the homophobic laws, worse could be on the way, as Parliament is expected to consider a bill that would remove children from their homes if their parents are gay. The bravery of Krasovsky will be needed by many more gay Russians before this fight is won.
Prominent gay figures, whether politicians, actors or sportsmen, have usually tended to linger in the closet, all too aware of the threat to their popularity posed by any revelation of their sexuality. The more liberal attitudes of today have seen some notable emergences in recent years. Tom Daley, already at nineteen a huge sporting hero, chose to share news of his sexuality by shooting a video that addressed to his fans directly. In coming out with such calmness and honesty, he will surely impact positively on the lives of many gay youngsters, many of whom still suffer oppression and intolerance.
As he put it disarmingly, "Come spring of this year my life changed — massively — when I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great, and well, that someone is a guy. And it did take me by surprise a little bit. It was always in the back of my head that something like that could happen, but it wasn't until spring this year that something that just clicked, it felt right, and I was like, OK. And like I said my whole world just changed right there and then. Of course I still fancy girls, but right now I'm dating a guy and I couldn't be happier. I just feel safe. And it just really does feel right.
"People are going to have their own opinions, and I think people are going to make a big deal of this. I mean, is it a big deal? Well, I don't think so."
His speculation was correct. The media did make a big deal of it. But public support was so positive that the inevitable haters were forced back into their holes. Long may they stay there. And long may Tom thrive in both his public and private lives.
Here at Lustralboy we have, in the past, been quick to condemn the rampant homophobia shown by previous incumbents of the Papacy. You will find one listed below. But when we sense a welcome wind of change, even if, so far, it's only a light breeze, we would be remiss in failing to draw it to your attention.
So, just as we cheered the departure of the previous Pope, Benedict, so we found ourselves looking more hopefully on the pronouncements of new Pope Francis. It was heartening to hear him recognise that the Catholic Church had become obsessed with preaching about abortion, gay people, gay marriage and contraception and, instead, needs to become more merciful. We have long wanted the churches to stop obsessing with everything they feel threatened by and get on with the business of doing some good for their flock. In the same way that President Obama transformed politics with his gradual embrace of LGBT civil rights, a change from the Pope could have an enduring impact on religion. Here's some of what he said.
"The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently, We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards."
Instead, he said, the Catholic Church must work to heal the wounds of its faithful and seek out those who have been excluded or have fallen away. His remarks have generated dismay amongst clergy in the United States who have already expressed disappointment that Francis has not pressed Church teaching on the old saws of abortion, contraception and homosexuality
His specific comment on gays grabbed headlines around the world. Asked during a flight from Brazil to Rome about gay priests, Pope Francis told reporters, according to a translation from Italian, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"
The simplicity of that statement and the huge attention it receieved are evidence of the Pope's huge influence. When this man asks, "Who am I to judge?" he sends a signal to Catholics and the world that the new Pope is not like the old Pope. We can only say "Hooray"
Pope Benedict aka Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger
No tears were shed amongst most of the gay community when the notoriously bigotted Pope Benedict announced that he was off. His long, long eight years at the head of the Catholic Church will be remembered by most of us for his demonic rants about gay people, bizarrely uttered against the ever unfolding story of endemic child abuse by his priests. A sigh of relief passed around the globe as we bid farewell to another past-it reactionary, completely out of touch with the world in which he lives.
Highlights of his tragically flawed tenure follow.
1. In a message for World Day of Peace 2013, Pope Benedict XVI described same-sex marriage as a threat to justice and peace. The 85-year-old Catholic leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage was "unnatural", adding that it would unleash harm on society.
2. Pope Benedict had shared his opposition to same-sex marriage before. Earlier in the year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being "insidious and dangerous." Previously, he had called same-sex unions "a threat to humanity."
3. Further evidence of his complete disconnection from the world that the rest of us share came earlier. The pontiff was pictured giving a blessing to Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, who had earlier promised to pass the country’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a “Christmas gift”. The bill, recnetly encated, leaves all associted with it with blood on her hands. So, too, retired or not, does Benedict.
Vlad has had a high profile year, with a canny intervention in Syria and myriad shots of him in shirtless mode. More importantly, Putin is seen, both internally and externally as the driving force behind Russia's "homosexual propaganda" law. The regulation makes it "illegal to spread information about non-traditional sexual behavior" to minors.
Penalties include fines and jail sentences. The law has fuelled an increase in anti-gay violence in Russia with instances of arrest, abuse and torture regularly reported. In this hysteria, extreme opinions find receptive audiences.
So we should blame Putin for this all too typical homophobic outburst from actor Ivan Okhlobystin. "I would have them all stuffed alive inside an oven. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, as a believer, I can not remain indifferent to this, it is a living danger to my children!" he said. "I don't want my children thinking that being a faggot is normal. This is gay fascism!"
We all know where the fascicsm is here, Ivan.
The Massachusetts minister, legendary for his homophobic rants, has spoken proudly of helping to inspire Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. He announced that he had appeared on tv with Father Dimitri Smirnov, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss finding a Russian publisher and distributor for Lively's revisionist book “The Pink Swastika.” The book details his account of how homosexuals engineered the Holocaust!
As for the violence suffered there by gays, he opines that “The ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals.” Presumably those same effeminate homosexuals were the ones on whom he earlier blamed the Great Flood. “We need to remember that in the time leading up to the flood what the rabbis teach about the last straw for God before he brought the flood was when they started writing wedding songs to homosexual marriage.”
He was presumably referring to the biblical passage that attributes the flood to the moment that "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth".
Lustralboy gently points out to the bonkers pastor that the "wickedness of man" is nowhere greater than in Uganda where those whom he supports glory in their attempts to kill gays for...........being gay. Noah, had he been around now, and being, apparently "a just man and perfect in his generations" would have probably welcomed the the gay community on-board, wedding songs and all!
The President of Zimbabwe's first appearance in our list of Top Ten Gay-haters back in 2010. Mugabe's track record runs from from calling gays "worse than pigs and dogs" in 1995 to locking up a member of parliament in 2011 forsuggesting in public that the aging dictator might be gay himself.
Even when being inaugurated for his seventh term in August, the 89-year-old leader took the time to address his favourite topic: homosexuals. In the speech, Mugabe urged young people to “damn” homosexuality in the same way his government does. As for engaging in same-sex relationships, “That destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease.”
Earlier he had used an election rally to advocate the decapitation of gay men. "If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that," he said in July, "then we will chop off their heads."
If we gave out an award for top homophobic rabble-rouser, Pat Robertson, American media mogul, evangelist and rabid conservative, would be a shoe-in. He capped a history of hysterical bombast with his advice in July to one of his 700 Club viewers never to "like" a social-media photo of a gay couple kissing because it would equate to condoning their relationship. "To me, I would punch 'Vomit,' not 'Like,' but they don't give you that option on Facebook."
Not to forget his gay death rings conspiracy theory in August. According to Robertson, men in San Francisco wear very sharp rings designed to cut during a handshake and spread HIV.
We could fill this website with his other unseemly utterances but are more inclined to withdraw forever the oxygen of publicity to his inflammatory comments. Goodbye Pat.
Lustralboy would like too to bid farewell to Mugabe, Ratzinger, Lively and Putin.Our patience will, in the end, receive its inevitable reward. But we should end on the postiive recogntion that, in the battle to be heard, it's the Mandelas, Johns, Daleys, Krasovskys and Bergoglios of this world who will have the last word.
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