Tag Archives: gay rights

Sylvia & The Stonewall Rebellion

Some say she threw the (Ruby) Slipper That Was Heard Round The World, starting the Stonewall riots and the modern gay movement on the weekend of Judy Garland’s death.

Sylvia Rae Rivera (2 July 1951–19 February 2002) was an American transgender activist. Rivera was a founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance and helped found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group dedicated to helping homeless young street transwomen, with her friend Marsha P. Johnson.

Rivera was born and raised in New York City and would live most of her life in or near this city. She was of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent. Her birth name was Ray (or Rey) Rivera. She was abandoned by her birth father José Rivera early in life and became an orphan after her mother committed suicide when Rivera was three years old.  Rivera was then raised by her Venezuelan grandmother, who disapproved of Rivera’s effeminate behavior, particularly after Rivera began to wear women’s makeup in fourth grade.[3]  As a result, Rivera began living on the streets at the age of eleven, where she joined a community of drag queens.

Rivera’s activism began during the Vietnam War, civil rights, and feminist movements and fully bloomed around the time of the Stonewall Riots. She often spoke of her presence within the Stonewall Inn the night of the riots.[5] She also became involved in Puerto Rican and African American youth activism, particularly with the Young Lords and Black Panthers.

Activist Riki Wilchins notes in Wikipedia, “In many ways, Sylvia was the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement, a term that was not even coined until two decades after Stonewall”.

At different times in her life, Sylvia Rivera battled substance abuse issues and lived on the streets. Her experiences made her more focused on advocacy for those who, in her view, the mainline community (and often the queer community) were leaving behind.

Wikipedia reports “Rivera refused to have the drag culture erased from the gay rights agenda by what she considered to be assimilationist gay leaders who were, in her mind, seeking to make the community look more attractive to the heterosexual majority. Rivera’s conflicts with mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy groups were emblematic of the mainstream gay  rights movement’s strained relationship to transgender  and transvestite issues. After her death, Michael Bronski recalled her anger when she felt that she was being marginalized within the community:

After Gay Liberation Front folded and the more reformist Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) became New York’s primary gay rights group, Sylvia Rivera worked hard within their ranks in 1971 to promote a citywide gay rights, anti-discrimination ordinance. But for all of her work, when it came time to make deals, GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transvestitism and drag—it just wasn’t possible to pass it with such “extreme” elements included. As it turned out, it wasn’t possible to pass the bill anyway until 1986. But not only was the language of the bill changed, GAA—which was becoming increasingly more conservative, several of its founders and officers had plans to run for public office—even changed its political agenda to exclude issues of transvestitism and drag. It was also not unusual for Sylvia to be urged to “front” possibly dangerous demonstrations, but when the press showed up, she would be pushed aside by the more middle-class, “straight-appearing” leadership. In 1995, Rivera was still hurt: “When things started getting more mainstream, it was like, ‘We don’t need you no more’”. But, she added, “Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned”.

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Gay couple sentenced to maximum 14 years in Malawi

BLANTYRE, Malawi – A judge sentenced a couple to the maximum 14 years in prison with hard labor under Malawi’s anti-gay legislation, and crowds jeered the two men as they were driven from the court house to jail Thursday.

The harsh sentence for unnatural acts and gross indecency had been expected after the same judge convicted Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza earlier this week under laws dating from the colonial era. The case has drawn international condemnation and sparked a debate on human rights in this conservative southern African country.

Chimbalanga, a 20-year-old hotel janitor, and his unemployed partner were arrested Dec. 27, the day after they celebrated their engagement with a party at the hotel where Chimbalanga worked — an apparent first in Malawi.

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“Maximum sentences are intended for use for worst cases,” Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa said as he delivered his sentence. “We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons or conducting engagement ceremonies.”

The lawyer for the two, Mauya Msuku, said they would appeal.

Chimbalanga remained composed as armed police officers handcuffed him to Monjeza.

“I am not worried,” he told reporters as they were taken to a police vehicle.

Monjeza broke down upon hearing the ruling and was still sobbing as he was helped into the van.

Hundreds of onlookers inside and outside the court house showed little sympathy. There were shouts of “You got what you deserve!” and “Fourteen years is not enough, they should get 50!”

Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director of Amnesty International called the sentence “an outrage.”

Her rights watchdog has adopted Chimbalanga and Monjeza as prisoners of conscience, and would “continue to campaign on this matter and to work tirelessly to see that they are released unconditionally as soon as possible,” Kagari told The Associated Press by telephone from her office in Kampala, Uganda.

Malawi’s government has been defiant in the face of international criticism over the couple’s prosecution.

Betsy Chirambo, an adviser to President Bingu wa Mutharika, expressed concern over calls by some activists for the West to withdraw aid to Malawi because of the case. Up to 40 percent of Malawi’s development budget comes from foreign donors.

“It is not our culture for a man to marry a man,” Chirambo said this week. “That is not even in our constitution. Some of these rights are not good for our culture.”

The government has been backed by religious leaders in the country who have equated homosexuality with Satanism.

But the debate also has emboldened some rights activists in the southern African country. The independent Centre for the Development of People was recently formed by Malawians to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other minorities.

Gift Trapence, executive director of the Centre for the Development of People, was at the court house Thursday and told reporters: “How can they get 14 years simply for loving one another? Even if they are jailed for 20 years you can’t change their sexuality.”

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries in Africa including Malawi. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill under which homosexuals could be sentenced to life in prison and “repeat offenders” could be executed. Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have raped lesbians.


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Rollins Rolling Along

henry_rollins_01by John Chambrone
ST. PETERSBURG— One of the more famous singers to emerge from the 1980s punk rock scene, Henry Rollins has been all over the place lately. The front man for the Rollins Band reunited with his bandmates recently and embarked on a month long tour. During their recent Janus Landing performance, Rollins reminded the crowd that he hasn’t played under that famous tent since 1997.

One of the cool things about Rollins is his savage stage performance. He is an entertainer who gives his all, and his stage presence alone is worth the price of admission. By the second song, the shirtless Rollins was glistening with sweat and showed no signs of slowing down.

In the early 1980s, Rollins fronted Black Flag before forming the Rollins Band in 1986. The Rollins Band got their big break when singer Perry Farrell asked them to join him Rollins Rolling Along on the inaugural Lollapalooza festival tour in the summer of 1991. Three years later they released the song and video, “Liar,” that was all over MTV. By 1997, they signed to Dream Works records, but Rollins broke up the band after their tour was over. By the end of the 90s he became restless and launched a short-lived incarnation of the Rollins Band, and later reformed it with lthe original line up.

A master of many trades, Rollins owns a publishing company that releases books, CDs and DVDs. He hosts the Independent Film Channel’s The Henry Rollins Show — a talk show featuring celebrity guests, musical acts and original field segments — on Saturdays at 10 PM, and a weekly radio show, “Harmonies In My Head,” on LA’s Indie 103.1 FM Tuesdays from 8–10 PM. (www.indie103.fm). He appeared in The Alibi, with Steve Coogan and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and has a lead role in the Project Greenlight feature Feast.

A proud American, he regularly tours with the USO and has been all over the world. No stranger to Afghanistan, Siberia, South Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Honduras and Qatar, this politically charged individual will go wherever it takes to entertain and meet US troops. His 2004 tour, Shock and Awe, has been recorded and put on DVD. This year he took his 25 Years of Bullshit tour to Europe after performing it around the U.S. Rollins has been busy recently filming Wrong Turn 2, the sequel to the horror flick. Rollins plays a Survivor-type game show host where cannibalistic creatures attack. Due to Rollins’ frank opinions and no holes barred nature, he is a sought-after public speaker.

That raw energy contributed to his Grammy win for best spoken word. Rollins is attractive, clean-cut, intelligent, has never been married, is well versed and speaks very candidly about how wrong the gay marriage ban is. For years folks have questioned his sexuality. Rollins can’t help but laugh about it. In a few interviews he has responded, “It’s not even annoying. It’s just so funny to me, because where that comes from, for somebody being gay is a bad thing .. to say, ‘He’s gay,’ like it’s a putdown. To me, you come out of the chute, you’re something. You’re straight, you’re gay, you’re bi, or you’re Condoleezza Rice…. To me, it’s about as interesting as talking about laundry. It’s really not an issue.”

He is an advocate for gay rights and definitely uses his voice to be heard. America is the place where you should not even have to think twice about Kevin and Sean wanting to get married. To discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation is repellent and completely despicable to me.” When asked if he ever considered being gay, he said, “Never had any interest. I find females overwhelmingly attractive.” No wonder he has so many gay fans, he ‘gets’ us. FMI www.henryrollins.com; www.21361.com.

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