After 25 Years, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Photos Still Crack The Bullwhip….

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With a zest of irony and a pulse on the cultural zeitgeist, Robert Mapplethorpe’s retrospective 1989 exhibition — aptly titled The Perfect Moment — was a rejection of the perception of gay male sexuality as abject and diseased during the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis.

It was images of Mapplethorpe penetrating his anus with a bullwhip, and leather-clad men chained to one another, that saw the cultural wars of art and pornography bubble over 25 years ago this year. In an age of the uninterested President Ronald Reagan — who was busy building Star Wars machines and writing checks for Nancy’s White House china collection — Mapplethorpe’s retrospective exhibition The Perfect Moment entered the public realm at precisely the perfect time, signalling the end of the political conservatism and rife homophobia of the 1980s, compounded by the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Robert Mapplethorpe is best remembered as an American photographer whose black-and-and-white work was enriched in the cultural sphere for its unapologetic representation of unadorned gay male sex. Mapplethorpe flourished in the late 1960s and ’70s in New York’s bohemian, avant-garde art and queer scene, and even had a brief romance with Patti Smith before becoming her most intimate confidante.

His photographs were often large-scale, and attempted to break down the normative politics dictating notions of masculinity, gay manhood, blackness, whiteness, and the need to make visible the “closeted” terms of gay male erotics. Mapplethorpe’s other photography concerned itself with celebrities he photographed during the 1970s, such as Deborah Harry and Grace Jones. Like Andy Warhol, Mapplethorpe was an outlaw on the New York art scene, invested in both representing the otherwise unrepresented (gay male sex) and indulging in the camp pleasures of Hollywood celebrity culture.

Mapplethorpe began shooting as early as 1969, the same year gay men, drag queens, and transgender individuals fought back against endemic police at underground gay bars and launched a riot that sparked a movement at New York City’s Stonewall Inn. As those riots symbolically marked the birth of the gay liberation movement, so too did they mark the increasing efforts for homosexual visibility in American society. While Mapplethorpe was not overtly politicized by the gay liberation movement, his photography from 1969 onwards was ostensibly driven by a desire to make visible the hidden history of gay male sexuality and erotics. Indeed, Mapplethorpe once said, “My life began in the summer of 1969. Before that I didn’t exist.”

This year marks a quarter-century since Mapplethorpe’s most notorious exhibition, The Perfect Moment, showcased the work for which he is best-remembered — visual moments of a frank and even confrontational homoerotic play between gay lovers. Although Mapplethorpe did not curate the exhibit, as he died four months earlier from AIDS-related illness, the exhibition enraged much of the American public, who protested the use of government funds and facilities for the presentation of his artwork. It became a hot-button political issue, and gay male sex was splashed across American newsstands throughout the nation.

Although it came to symbolize — and reject — the homophobic panic elicited by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, The Perfect Moment actually displayed artwork produced by Mapplethorpe in the 1970s, taken mostly in his studio. When the images were collected for the 1989 exhibition at the Corcoran Institute of Art in Washington D.C., they were completely reorganized around a new series of meanings. In light of the changed cultural context in a society fearful of a “gay plague,” these images spoke directly to issues of gay male sexuality, anal penetration, and principally the HIV and AIDS epidemic, which was still ravaging the gay community and was spread, in part, through unprotected anal sex.

The original meaning of Mapplethorpe’s images (many from his “X Collection” photo folio) was to make visible the pleasures, pains, and politics of underground gay male sex and BDSM play. The iconography of Mapplethorpe’s world was characterized by an active rejection of the dominant social, cultural, and indeed political representation of gay men in 1970s American life.

The dawn of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s meant that the gains of gay liberation in late 1970s America were scaled back as the deadly virus began its vicious rampage against the gay community. By 1989, when Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment opened at a Washington gallery near the Capitol, the partial government funding of the exhibition garnered the attention of several U.S. Senators.

Conservative voices like Sen. Jesse Helms argued against funding for ”obscenity” and “pornographic” images of “homosexuals,” which featured naked children, men enacting moments of sadomasochistic pleasure, and camp recreations of royal wedding photographs.

“It is an issue of soaking the taxpayer to fund the homosexual pornography of … Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS while spending the last years of his life promoting homosexuality,” Helms said at the time.

obert Mapplethorpe, Bryan Ridley and Lyle Heeter. 1979
Bryan Ridley and Lyle Heeter. 1979

But now, 25 years later, the artistic force and political message of these images can be gleaned more pleasurably without the repressive din of the Reagan administration. One notorious image from the exhibition entitled “Self-Portrait” (1978), features Mapplethorpe inserting a bullwhip into his anus while aggressively maintaining eye contact with the camera’s unflinching eye. The photograph is perhaps the most controversial of the exhibition because of its unapologetic representation of autonomous gay male sexuality.

For many, the pleasure and aesthetic beauty of “Self-Portrait” is derived from Mapplethorpe’s ability to be both the object (or “bottom”) and agent (or “top”) of anal penetration. As gay male anal penetration is often demarcated between the “top” and the “bottom” partner, Mapplethorpe’s ability to represent both deflates the dichotomy and shows him performing the paradoxical politics of gay male anal penetration. Moreover, in the process of creating a self-portrait, Mapplethorpe not only reveals the politics of self-portraiture photography — that of simultaneous objectification and autonomy — but also emphasizes the visibility of his anus, a traditionally unseen bodily part in our culture.

To be blunt, when Mapplethorpe shows his penetrated anus in “Self-Portrait,” he rejects the cultural reticence against anal pleasure and demonstrates the importance of the anus in gay male sexual discourses.

However, this is only one image from an extensive retrospective that importantly reintroduced a new generation of gay men, queers, and art lovers to the powerful message Mapplethorpe sought to disseminate: that of privileging pleasure and pain in whatever its form through the photographic gaze.

More than two decades later, Mapplethorpe’s work still endures as a perfect moment in gay history of battling backlashes against our bottoms and bullwhips.

Nathan Smith – Gay.Net

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Navy Veteran In Idaho Gains Approval To Be Buried With Same-Sex Spouse….

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A U.S. Navy veteran can be buried with the ashes of her late spouse in a southwest Idaho military cemetery after the state legalized gay marriage.

“It’s done,” 74-year-old Madelynn Lee Taylor said Wednesday after successfully completing paperwork to be buried at Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise.

Taylor was previously denied permission to have her ashes interred with Jean Mixner because of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. The cemetery is owned and operated by the state.

Same-sex marriage became legal in the state on Oct. 15 when the ban was lifted by courts that determined it was unconstitutional.

Taylor had filed a lawsuit in federal court in July seeking to be buried with Mixner, who died in 2012. The case is now expected to be dismissed.

“Lee deserves credit for shining a powerful light on the injustice and indignity caused by Idaho’s former exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage,” her attorney Deborah Ferguson told the Spokesman-Review. “Her persistence, visibility and refusal to accept inequality are a model for us all.”

Cemetery Director James Earp on Wednesday welcomed Taylor, who has serious heart and lung problems and uses a cane, walker or scooter to get around. Earp helped Taylor through the paperwork and congratulated her with a handshake when it was done.

Taylor and Mixner met on a blind date in 1995 and married in California in 2008 when gay marriage was briefly legal there.

When Mixner got emphysema, she and Taylor made a promise: Whoever died first would be cremated and later buried with the other.

They chose the veterans cemetery because they knew it would be well maintained and decided on cremation and interment in a wall so their names and spot wouldn’t get covered over with weeds or grass. They wanted to be in Idaho, where their family could come to pay respects.

“It’s a good day – we get to get Jean out of the closet!” Taylor joked Wednesday after finishing the paperwork. “She’s dancing.”

Associated Press

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Teenage Lesbian Left Unconscious After Being Pelted With Stones Outside School….

The incident took place in Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia.

A gay teenage girl was left unconscious on Monday after she was pelted with stones upon leaving school in Spain’s Murcia region.

Gay rights groups have called for stricter anti-homophobia laws after the girl, accompanied by another boy, were attacked by three schoolmates who followed them out of the school grounds in Caravaca de la Cruz.

According to the Local, the assailants shouted “Poofter!” and “Dyke!” and “Perverts” as they followed the teens.

The victims put up with the insults for a while “thinking they were going to stop,” said Rubén López, a spokesperson with Spain’s FELGTB gay rights group.

However, eventually the young boy turned to the aggressors and told them to leave him and his friend “in peace”.

This prompted the schoolmates to begin pelting them with stones.

“One of the stones hit the girl in the head. She lost consciousness and fell to the floor. They had to rush her to hospital,” López added.

The girl suffered bruising in the incident while the boy was left “afraid, intimidated, humiliated and overwhelmed.”

FELGTB has condemned Spain’s education minister for scrapping the socially liberal citizenship studies course in favour of the more conservative ethics course.

The gay rights group No Te Prives has also said Murcia should look into tougher laws against homophobia, similar to Catalonia.

Earlier this month, the autonomous community of Catalonia passed a law which will punish attacks against the LGBT community with fines of up to €14,000 (£11,000).

n July, it was reported the the majority of the hate crime in Spain in 2014 had been motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anti-LGBT crime had the highest figure for hate crime last year, with 452 identified cases.

Spain is known as one of the more LGBT-friendly countries in Europe, with the legalisation of same-sex marriage being almost a decade old.

Spain was among the five countries more tolerant than Britain according to a recent poll, including Canada, Czech Republic, France and Germany.

Pink News

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Idaho Governor Asks 11-Judge Panel To Review Same-Sex Marriage Ruling….

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Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho)

Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter is asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an 11-judge panel to review the three-judge ruling that overturned Idaho’s gay marriage ban last week.

Otter announced he was planning on filing a petition Tuesday evening arguing that the federal judges failed to use the correct legal standard to Idaho’s Constitutional definition of marriage.

Otter’s announcement comes nearly one week after same-sex marriage became legal for the first time in Idaho. While Otter chose not to appeal the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that ordered the state to allow gay couples to wed, he did promise that he would fight to maintain Idaho’s 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Otter, who is running for re-election for his third term as governor, said Tuesday that already one Idaho business has been harmed by the judges’ ruling.

A Christian religious rights group filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Coeur d’Alene on behalf of the for-profit Hitching Post.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious rights group has filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d’Alene on behalf of the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel.

The lawsuit alleges that Coeur d’Alene’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance is forcing the chapel to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages.

But city spokesman Keith Erickson says there have been no threats, and that the city has not even received any complaints against the chapel.

Otter says he is continuing monitoring same-sex marriage cases in other jurisdictions and the potential for them to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Idaho’s Attorney General Lawerence Wasden is not joining Otter in the petition, said spokesman Todd Dvorak. However, Wasden’s office is planning on asking the Supreme Court at the “appropriate time” to review the lower court’s documents and decision – known as a writ of certiorari – regarding Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, Dvorak said.

LGBTQ Nation

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Federal Government To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages In 7 New States….

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The federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in seven more states and extend federal benefits to those couples, the Justice Department said Friday.

The announcement comes one week after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand rulings from three appeals courts that struck down bans on gay and lesbian marriages in five states – Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. That order opened the door for same-sex couples in those states to get married, though it stopped short of resolving the national gay-marriage issue.

The states covered by Friday’s announcement include the five directly affected by the Supreme Court order as well as Nevada and Colorado, where the Justice Department says subsequent rulings have allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex messages.

The move brings the total number of states where gay and lesbian marriages have federal recognition to 26, plus the District of Columbia. Also Friday, a federal judge in Arizona ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex unions was unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court said same-sex marriages can go forward in Alaska.

“With their long-awaited unions, we are slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans nationwide,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video message.

But he said there are still too many places where same-sex partners cannot visit each other in the hospital or be recognized as rightful parents of adopted children.

He said the federal government would work to extend benefits to gay and lesbian couples “to the fullest extent allowed by federal law.”

And if the Supreme Court decides to take up same-sex marriage directly, the Justice Department will “file a brief consistent with its past support for marriage equality,” Holder said.

Eric Tucker – Associated Press

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Divine’ s Song From Lust In The Dust….

Happy Birthday Divine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The New Gay Orthodoxy….

The New Gay Orthodoxy

To appreciate how rapidly the ground has shifted, go back just two short years, to April 2012. President Obama didn’t support marriage equality, not formally. Neither did Hillary Clinton. And few people were denouncing them as bigots whose positions rendered them too divisive, offensive and regressive to lead.

But that’s precisely the condemnation that tainted and toppled Brendan Eich after his appointment two weeks ago as the new chief executive of the technology company Mozilla. On Thursday he resigned, clearly under duress and solely because his opposition to gay marriage diverged from the views of too many employees and customers. “Under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader,” he said, and he was right, not just about the climate at Mozilla but also, to a certain degree, about the climate of America.
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Something remarkable has happened — something that’s mostly exciting but also a little disturbing (I’ll get to the disturbing part later), and that’s reflected not just in Eich’s ouster at Mozilla, the maker of the web browser Firefox, but in a string of marriage-equality victories in federal courts over recent months, including a statement Friday by a judge who said that he would rule that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state.

And the development I’m referring to isn’t the broadening support for same-sex marriage, which a clear majority of Americans now favor. No, I’m referring to the fact that in a great many circles, endorsement of same-sex marriage has rather suddenly become nonnegotiable. Expected. Assumed. Proof of a baseline level of enlightenment and humanity. Akin to the understanding that all people, regardless of race or color, warrant the same rights and respect.

Even beyond these circles, the debate is essentially over, in the sense that the trajectory is immutable and the conclusion foregone. Everybody knows it, even the people who still try to stand in the way. The legalization of same-sex marriage from north to south and coast to coast is merely a matter of time, probably not much of it at that.

There will surely be setbacks, holdouts, tantrums like the one in Arizona, whose Legislature in February passed a bill that would have allowed discrimination against gays and lesbians on religious grounds. (Mississippi enacted a vaguely similar measure last week.) Arizona’s governor of course vetoed the legislation, after being pressured by corporate leaders, and their lobbying underscored the larger and more lasting story. At least beyond the offices of Chick-fil-A, it’s widely believed — no, understood — that being pro-gay is better for business than being antigay. Hence the inclusion of a same-sex couple in the famous faces-of-America commercial that Coca-Cola unveiled during the Super Bowl. Hence a more recent television spot, part of the Honey Maid food company’s “This is Wholesome” ad campaign. It showed two dads cuddling their newborn.

The Mozilla story fits into this picture. Eich was exiled following not just employee complaints but signs and threats of customer unrest: The online dating site OkCupid was urging its users to boycott Firefox.
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The business community has in fact been a consequential supporter of marriage equality. Wall Street firms lined the coffers of the campaign for marriage equality in New York, and 20 major financial service companies pay substantial membership dues to belong to and underwrite Out on the Street, an industry group that advocates for L.G.B.T. equality.

“You want to talk about a sea change?” Todd Sears, the group’s founder, said to me. “Fourteen financial services companies signed onto an amicus brief in the Edie Windsor case.” That was the one that asked the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which the court essentially did last June.

The language in the high court’s ruling “demolished every argument put forward to justify marriage discrimination,” said Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. And that ruling, he added, helped to pave the way for all the court victories — in Utah, in Oklahoma, in Texas — since. This coming Thursday, the United States circuit court in Denver will hear an appeal of the decision by a federal judge in Utah to allow gay and lesbian couples there to wed. The case could have a sweeping effect on a region of the country not typically considered progressive. It could also wind up at the Supreme Court and give the justices a chance to do what they stopped short of last year: decree marriage equality nationwide.

Wolfson noted a fascinating angle of the recent court rulings and of the blessing that Eric Holder gave in February to state-level attorneys general who didn’t want to defend bans on gay marriage. Both invoked racial discrimination in the country’s past, casting bans on same-sex marriage in that context.

Increasingly, opposition to gay marriage is being equated with racism — as indefensible, un-American. “What was once a wedge issue became wrapped in the American flag,” said Jo Becker, a Times writer whose sweeping history of the marriage-equality movement, “Forcing the Spring,” will be published this month. Becker mentioned what she called a rebranding of the movement over the last five years, with two important components. First, gay marriage was framed in terms of family values. Second, advocates didn’t shame opponents and instead made sympathetic public acknowledgment of the journey that many Americans needed to complete in order to be comfortable with marriage equality.

There was no such acknowledgment from Mozilla employees and others who took to Twitter to condemn Eich and call for his head. Writing about that wrath in his blog, The Dish, Andrew Sullivan said that it disgusted him, “as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.” A leading supporter of gay marriage, Sullivan warned other supporters not to practice “a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else.”

I can’t get quite as worked up as he did. For one thing, prominent gay rights groups weren’t part of the Mozilla fray. For another, Mozilla isn’t the first company to make leadership decisions (or reconsiderations) with an eye toward the boss’s cultural mind-meld with the people below him or her. And if you believe that to deny a class of people the right to marry is to deem them less worthy, it’s indeed difficult to chalk up opposition to marriage equality as just another difference of opinion.

But it’s vital to remember how very recently so many of equality’s promoters, like Obama and Clinton, have come around and how relatively new this conversation remains. It’s crucial not to lose sight of how well the movement has been served by the less judgmental posture that Becker pointed out.

Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.

Frank Bruni – The New York Times

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