Australian soap opera “Number 96” was an amazing breakthrough for LGBTQ visibility, made possible by a unique moment in the social and political scene … and one television network’s last ditch effort to stay afloat! Producer Andrew Mercado’s new documentary reveals the surprising story (part 1 of a three-part interview by Barry McKay).
And in NewsWrap: India’s Supreme Court reserves judgement on a collection of marriage equality cases, Sri Lanka’s high court rules that decriminalizing same-gender sex would not violate the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that a transgender Guatemalan woman can stay in the country to pursue her asylum request, two Republican-dominated U.S. state legislatures force school officials to inform on trans students, Montana equality advocates challenge the state’s pediatric gender-affirming care ban, Washington’s transgender youth get protection from their unsupportive parents, Indiana high schoolers circumvent the cancelation of their queer-themed play, and more international Queer LGBTQ news radio reported this week by Brian DeShazor and Wendy Natividad (produced by Brian DeShazor).
All this on the May 15, 2023 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary
for the week of May 15, 2023
Outrageous: The Queer History of Australian TV (Pt. 1)
Program #1,833 distributed 05/15/23
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): India’s Supreme Court wraps up 10 days of hearings on marriage equality, with no timetable for a ruling … Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court advances efforts to repeal antiquated anti-queer sex laws by ruling that it would be constitutional … the 6-to-3 conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court somewhat surprisingly rules unanimously that a persecuted Guatemalan transgender woman can stay in the U.S. to continue her asylum request … the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxes rules again for blood donations by men who have sex with men, but troubling restrictions remain … Republican majorities in the U.S. states of Indiana and North Dakota pass several bills to deny rights to LGBTQ people, especially transgender young people … equality advocates file suit to challenge Montana’s recently-enacted law denying access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under the age of 18 … the Democratic majority in the U.S. state of Washington protects young trans people who are getting gender-affirming care from estranged parents who oppose it … [with an introduction from the theme music of the late 1950’s U.S. TV show The Adventures of Robin Hood], Fort Wayne, Indiana high school students raise funds to mount a play at an off-campus venue that was banned by school officials after a few parents complained about “controversial” queer content [with brief comments, from a report on Fort Wayne’s WBOI-FM by Ella Abbott, by School Superintendent Wayne Barker, censorship-fighting director Blane Pressler, and sophomore Peyton Stratton, who plays the title character Marian in the play suggesting that the “Maid” was the real “Robin Hood” (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by BRIAN DeSHAZOR and WENDY NATIVIDAD, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: What were you watching on TV in 1972? Depending on where you lived, it may have been Steptoe and Son or Sanford and Son, All in the Family or Til Death Us Do Part, Coronation Street, Guadalupe or The Guiding Light. If you were lucky enough to live Down Under, your TV set was the site of an amazing breakthrough for LGBTQ visibility, a nighttime series called Number 96. This Way Out Sydney correspondent BARRY MCKAY describes the Australia that gave birth to the history-making soap opera, and in Part 1 of a three-part series introduces us to a new documentary that celebrates it (featuring documentarian Andrew Mercado, a pivotal scene from the show starring Abigail and Joe Hasham, and with theme music from the show and a brief tease for next week’s Part 2).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending May 13th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Brian DeShazor and Wendy Natividad,
produced by Brian DeShazor
India’s Supreme Court is reserving judgment on marriage equality. The Court received the testimony of almost two-dozen people in consolidated cases during its hearings from April 18th to May 11th.
Reportedly sympathetic Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud headed the five-judge panel. They announced that they would rule strictly on provisions of the Special Marriage Act 1954, which deals with civil marriage. India’s complicated marriage laws also include the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the Foreign Marriage Act 1969.
During the hearings on May 3rd, the Solicitor General of India’s federal government argued against opening civil marriage to same-gender couples. He claimed that the high court cannot foresee possibly negative “fallout” of a pro-equality decision. He announced that the administration of anti-equality Prime Minister Narendra Modi would set up a panel of Cabinet officials headed by the Cabinet Secretary. That group would consider whatever administrative steps are necessary to address the “concerns” of same-gender couples. Modi’s government has consistently claimed that only Parliament can change marriage laws.
No one knows at this point when India’s top court will issue its decision. If it’s affirmative, queer couples in the world’s second-most populous nation will be able to legally marry.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has ruled that repealing laws that criminalize same-gender sex would not violate the Constitution. Equality advocates call the May 9th decision a “historic development,” but it’s just one small step toward removing the statutes that jail and fine people who engage in private consensual adult same-gender sex.
Sri Lanka’s federal government has announced that it will not oppose a private member’s bill to repeal the British colonial-era laws. However it’s not clear whether the bill will officially get affirmative support. Major opposition parties have not yet announced their positions on the bill.
It’s also uncertain if activists can successfully convince a majority of the 225 Members of Parliament in the South Asian nation to vote for repeal.
The United States Supreme Court decided on May 11th that a transgender Guatemalan woman can stay in the U.S. to pursue her asylum request. In a somewhat surprisingly unanimous ruling, the 6-to-3 conservative majority agreed that Estrella Santos-Zacaria’s life could be in danger if she is forced to return home. As a teenager she was raped and endured death threats in her Central American nation. Santos-Zacaria fled to the U.S. but was deported in 2008. For the next 10 years she lived primarily in Mexico, where she was also raped and assaulted. Finally immigration authorities detained her trying to re-enter the U.S. in 2018.
It was the first majority opinion written by Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson since she joined the high court last year. The newest justice respectfully referred to Santos-Zacaria by her preferred name and pronouns.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now use an individualized risk assessment questionnaire for all prospective blood donors regardless of their sexual orientation or gender. That once again relaxes restrictions on blood donations by sexually active gay and bisexual men. However, potential donors will not qualify if they’ve had a new sexual partner, more than one sexual partner, or anal sex in the past three months.
Some activists are still hailing the latest guidelines as progress since 2015. That was when the FDA dropped its lifetime blood donation ban by men who have sex with men, but required at least one year of total sexual abstinence. The agency reduced the year to three months in 2020 as blood donations plummeted during the COVID pandemic.
The New York-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis criticized the new FDA guidelines. The restrictions also exclude anyone “taking medications to treat or prevent HIV infection, including antiretroviral therapy or pre-exposure prophylaxis – “PrEP” - and post-exposure prophylaxis – “PEP” -- until three months after their last dose. Those drugs can delay the detection of HIV. The advocacy group says, “Condoms and PrEP are cornerstones of HIV prevention.”
This week brings another regrettable roundup of bills attacking LGBTQ rights in Republican-controlled U.S. states. It starts with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signing a bill that requires school officials to notify a student’s parent or guardian in writing if they ask to be referred to by a different “pronoun, title or word.” He also put his pen to a law that mimics Florida’s original “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning any classroom discussion of “human sexuality” until the third grade. Holcomb also pushed a bill through the Republican-majority state legislature that forbids local prohibitions of “conversion therapy,” the debunked claim that LGBTQ people can “pray away the queer.”
North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum signed a bill telling public school officials that they cannot “withhold or conceal information about a student’s transgender status from the student’s parent or legal guardian.” The bill passed by the GOP-dominated legislature also requires students and staff to use campus bathrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities based only on their “biological sex.” Then he signed a bill that “define[s] ‘male’ and ‘female’ in state law as being based on one’s sex at birth.” Burgum finished up by denying North Dakotans birth certificate changes “due to gender identity change.”
Transgender minors and their families, and individual and community healthcare providers are challenging Montana’s new law preventing transgender young people from accessing gender-affirming health care. The law also puts healthcare providers in legal jeopardy if they provide that care. The queer advocacy group Lambda Legal filed their lawsuit on May 9th in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Misioula County. They’re joined by the national and state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The lawsuit claims that the legislation violates Montana’s constitutional guarantees of equal protection, due process, privacy, dignity, and the right to seek medical care.
Washington’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has okayed protections from estranged parents for transgender people under the age of 18 who are receiving gender-affirming healthcare.
The bill he signed on May 9th also applies to licensed shelters and private, volunteer host homes. Providers were previously required to notify parents or legal guardians within 72 hours when a minor came into their care. Under the new law, they can instead contact the state Department of Children, Youth and Families with that information, bypassing the potential intervention of estranged parents.
Minority Republicans justified their opposition by calling the measure a violation of “parental rights.”
I know there were people who were upset that the play was being considered to be put on, I think there was worry about protests and things like that.
That’s Wayne Barker. He’s the Northwest Allen County School Superintendent who shut down a production of Marian planned by the students at Fort Wayne, Indiana-area Carroll High School. The queer-themed play is based on the premise that Maid Marian was, in fact, Robin Hood. According to a report by Ella Abbott on local public radio station WBOI, Barker bowed to a few phone calls from parents who complained about the play, even though they had never seen it.
Defiant students decided to mount the play at an off-campus venue. They launched a fundraising campaign and lured Fort Wayne native Blane Pressler to come home from New York to direct the production. The out actor told WBOI he’s doing it to oppose censorship:
… art is very, very important, and representation is really important, and both of those being at risk with this made me want to do it.
Sophomore Petyon Stratton plays Maid Marian in the production, which means that she’s also playing Robin Hood.
A few months ago, we thought this was completely hopeless. And it feels very earned in a way to be like “wow, we did it and it’s happening.”
The crowd-funded production is scheduled for a one-night-only performance at the Foellinger Outdoor Theater in Fort Wayne on Saturday, May 20th.
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