September 22, 2010

Making headlines

What do an award-winning political humorist, a beef-tipped superstar beauty, and the University of Louisville all have in common this week? No, they aren’t all gay. But they are all speaking out about gay issues and taking some pretty interesting action to move gay rights forward.

While the evening news is full of depressing stories of war, environmental crises and killer bed bugs, I think it’s important to counter-balance with a little political activism in a segment I like to call: News Pam Mostly Wants to Hear.

This week, Congress finally is set to debate and vote on lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law banning openly gay Americans from serving in the military. “We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said Humans Campaign President Joe Solmonese. This is a tough issue for those of us who are both anti-war and pro-gay. But, if gay men and women want to serve in the military, then who am I to say no? Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of a new name for my column.

In entertainment news, Lady Gaga, the Grammy Award-winning songstress known for outlandish costumes, has been rallying fans to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” During the MTV Video Music Awards last week, she was accompanied by four soldiers who were previously discharged from the armed forces or who opted to leave on their own because of their sexual orientation. “No one person is more valuable than another person,” she said at the awards ceremony. When Gaga appeared onstage, the singer was wearing, well, a meat dress. Yes, that’s what I said. A dress made of raw meat, complete with beef boots, a meat purse and a little steak hat. “It is a devastation to me that I know my fans who are gay … feel like they have governmental oppression on them,” the beef-laden pop star told Ellen Degeneres after the show. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re gonna have as much rights as the meat on our bones.” As a lesbian and vegetarian who is anti-war, I say: What the what?! That is so Gaga.

In local news, things aren’t all that bad for the LGBT community and its supporters, especially this week. The University of Louisville’s Office for LGBT Services is hosting Pride Week 2010, an annual student-driven celebration open to everyone, with events scheduled through Sunday. The keynote speaker is Kate Clinton, an openly gay comic and writer who has had her finger on the pulse of our country’s politics for, as she puts it, “eight presidential inaugurals.” I love Kate Clinton because she still believes “humor gets us through peacetime, wartime, scoundrel time and economic downtimes.” Clinton’s performance, “Lady Ha Ha Does Louisville,” will take place Thursday at Comstock Hall. She is known for her world-famous burlesque bubble wrap dance, and I am happy to report that she probably won’t be wearing a meat dress.

The following day, women of all ages, races and sexual orientations will peacefully gather for a Dyke March from Central Park to a rally at U of L, joined by musical duos The Troubadours of Divine Bliss and The Sirens. I realize that to some people, the term Dyke March might sound scary, but as Brian Buford, director of the Office for LGBT Services says, “Dyke marches are a very specific kind of event, not about excluding men but rather about creating a space where our sisters lead, celebrate and honor one another.” Men are welcome as allies to cheer the ladies on and show their support. For more information on Pride Week 2010, visit www.louisville.edu/lgbt.

On Sunday, the 18th annual Louisville AIDS Walk will commence across the Second Street Bridge. The event is aimed at raising awareness and money to assist individuals — both gay and straight — living with HIV/AIDS. More than 5,000 people attended the 2009 Louisville AIDS Walk, which raised $202,000. I’ve been attending the walk since the early ’90s, and each year I’m amazed by the hopeful, productive atmosphere surrounding such a serious epidemic.

And there you have it: It’s not all pretty. It’s not all simple. But it’s news to me.