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This Way Out Radio Episode #1796: Drag Story Hour Story & The Deeper “Well”

Once upon a time a Drag Queen Story Hour meant family fun, not a potentially violent protest. The U.S. national organization’s Executive Director Jonathan Hamilt tells the heartwarming tale of how it all began and what it’s mission really is (interviewed by KOOP-Austin’s Liz Ross).

Radclyffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness” is known for being depressing, but another look at the lesbian classic of 1928 discovers new meaning (a 2002 essay by Queer Life and Literature correspondent Janet Mason).

And in NewsWrap: Singapore will repeal its ban on male gay sex while maintaining marriage inequality, Hong Kong appeals court refuses to recognize an activist’s U.S. marriage to his husband, Vietnam’s government declares that being LGBTQ is not a “disease,” New Zealand offers formal apologies to conversion therapy survivors, Texas Christian church pays the price for its homophobic “Hamilton,” and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and MR Raquel (produced by Brian DeShazor).

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript
for the week of August 29, 2022

Drag Story Hour Story & The Deeper "Well"

Program #1,796 distributed 08/29/22
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Singapore’s Prime Minister announces repeal of the infamous Penal Code Section 377A, which has criminalized men who have sex with men for decades, but also strongly affirms that civil marriage is exclusively for heterosexual couples … a Hong Kong appeals court refuses to recognize the legal marriage of homegrown activist Jimmy Sham to his male spouse in New York in 2013 … Vietnam’s Health Ministry declares that LGBTQ people are not “diseased” and should not be subjected by medical professionals to so-called “conversion therapy,” which it outlaws … New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission announces a program for conversion therapy victims to get formal apologies from misguided practitioners, and even financial compensation [with comments by Tabby Beasley of the queer advocacy group Inside Out] … a U.S. federal appeals court upholds a temporary injunction stopping the enforcement of an Arkansas law banning gender-affirming care for trans people under the age of 18 pending a trial court’s consideration in October of the constitutionality of the law itself … a McAllen, Texas Christian church is paying the price for mounting a homophobic version of the hit musical Hamilton (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOE BOEHNLEIN and M.R. RAQUEL, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature: The year was 1928, and the first explicitly lesbian novel was born. Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness has a reputation for being horribly depressing, but This Way Out Queer Life and Literature correspondent Janet Mason had a different take after she picked it up in 2002 (with production assistance by DEBRA D’ALLESANDRO, and intro music from There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder performed by THE 1928 ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA).

Feature: What started as a pleasant afternoon of family fun has turned into a firestorm of misguided hate across the U.S, — and that fire has jumped the pond to land embers in the U.K. That kind of scene is very different from the tale told to KOOP-Austin, Texas’ LIZ ROSS by Drag Queen Story Hour Executive Director Jonathan Hamilt (featuring snippets from a DQSH reading by DOMIGNX, and music by MS. TER from the “Queer Kid Stuff” YouTube channel).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending August 27, 2022
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and M.R. Raquel,
produced by Brian DeShazor

Singapore’s ban on sex between men will soon be over. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong went on live television on August 22nd to announce that his government will finally repeal Penal Code Section 377A, which punishes gay male sex with up to two years in prison. Lesbians were never included.

Lee also made it clear during his annual National Day speech, “Even as we repeal Section 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage. … Under the law, only marriages between one man and one woman are recognized in Singapore.” Some queer activists believe that the Prime Minister was trying to mollify his nation’s religious conservatives.

An alliance of more than 80 churches called the repeal announcement “an extremely regrettable decision, which will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live in,” according to Reuters.

Equality advocates believe that “impact” will be positive, and celebrated 377A’s “long overdue” repeal after decades of work. A media statement from a coalition of more than 20 queer rights groups hailed the “hard-won victory,” but also lamented the Prime Minister’s “mixed messages.” They called the win “the first step on a long road towards full equality for LGBTQ+ people.”

The small Southeast Asian city-state kept the 1938 British colonial-era Penal Code Section 377 when it gained its independence in 1965. Most of its sex regulations were repealed in 2007, but the gay-specific 377A was left intact.

Challenges to the law have been repeatedly rebuffed by Singapore’s high court. In a case decided earlier this year, judges concluded that 377A was harmless because it is not being enforced. Activists objected to having it on the books at all.

Prime Minister Lee set no timetable for repeal, so it’s anyone’s guess how long the process might take.

A veteran Hong Kong gay activist has lost another effort to have his U.S. same-gender marriage recognized at home. The Hong Kong Court of Appeal issued a ruling on August 24th reaffirming that Hong Kong law will continue to define civil marriage only “as a voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

Jimmy Sham legally married his husband in New York in 2013, and has been trying to get it recognized in Hong Kong since 2018. The judges of the appeals court reasoned that it would also not be fair to recognize bi-national same-gender marriages while not allowing access to the civil institution for queer couples domestically.

Attorney Hectar Pun argued that refusing to recognize Sham’s legally-performed marriage to his male spouse violates Article 37 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which states that “the freedom of marriage of Hong Kong residents and their right to raise a family freely shall be protected by law”. The appeals court rejected that defense, and interpreted that law to apply “to heterosexual couples only.” The judges wrote, “Any suggestion otherwise is divorced from reality.”

Sham has yet to announce if he will challenge his latest legal setback in Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal.

The government of Vietnam has concluded that LGBTQ people are not “diseased.”

An early August statement issued by the Health Ministry urged medical professionals to be “fair and respectful” and not discriminate against LGBTQ people. It reads, “Do not consider homosexuality, bisexuality or being transgender a disease. Do not coerce members of these groups into medical treatment … [they] cannot be ‘cured,’ nor need to be ‘cured,’ and cannot be converted in any way.”

This is the latest advance in Vietnam’s measured acceptance of queer people. While there are still no anti-bias or hate crime protections for LGBTQ people and no legal marriage rights, the government has removed outright bans on and fines for same-gender couples who conduct marriage ceremonies. It has also approved the right to change legal gender on government documents.

Vietnam’s Law on Marriage and Family is scheduled for a 10-year review in 2024, according to the Sydney Star Observer. Equality activists want to use that opportunity to challenge laws that deny marriage equality, and the effort is already underway. A petition supporting Vietnamese marriage equality called “I Agree” has received more than a million signatures since it was launched on August 10th, Al Jazeera reports.

Survivors of conversion therapy in New Zealand are now eligible for a formal apology from misleading practitioners, or even financial compensation. The Human Rights Commission announced a free and confidential program on August 18th. It will also provide mediation if necessary.

It’s a welcome 10th anniversary gift for Inside Out, one of New Zealand’s leading queer advocacy groups. Managing Director Tabby Besley took pride in the process that led to the government initiative, and told New Zealand TV’s 1 News what’s next:

[SOUND: Besly] "It feels like it's been made a priority, that we've been listened to. They've really involved survivors in the development of the service … I think a really big area that still needs to be addressed in this process is actually support for survivors of historical and future conversion practices.”

Former pastor and conversion therapy survivor Andre Afamasaga is the Commission’s Conversion Practices Support Services Manager. He called the initiative a “significant milestone” for the LGBTQ community. In his words, it’s “a pathway to acknowledge the experiences of survivors and an opportunity to gain some closure. It will help many to begin healing and move forward from their experiences.”

In other news, a temporary injunction preventing Arkansas’ government from denying gender-affirming medical care to transgender young people has been upheld. The St. Louis, Missouri-based Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed a district judge’s order to halt enforcement of Act 626. The law bans the treatments for those under the age of 18.

The August 25th ruling by a three-judge panel said, in part, “Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex."

The ACLU challenged the Arkansas law on behalf of four transgender minors and their families, and two doctors who provide gender-affirming healthcare to young people. The often-life-saving care generally involves such medications as puberty blockers and hormone therapy. It’s important to emphasize that gender-affirming surgery is not the normal protocol, as is frequently claimed by anti-trans politicians.

Arkansas’ Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed Act 626 last year, but the Republican-dominated state legislature overrode him. He presciently warned that the state would become embroiled in expensive lawsuits. The same district court judge who issued the temporary injunction to stop enforcement of Act 626 will preside over a trial in October to determine if the injunction should be made permanent.

Finally …

[SOUND: from Hamilton, The Room Where It Happened] … a conservative Christian church is doing penance for mounting an unauthorized version of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton. The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries in the Texas southern border town of McAllen posted its homegrown production to YouTube. Some horrified viewers tipped off Hamilton rights holders when scenes appeared on Twitter with lyrics changed to include fundamentalist Christian themes. A post-curtain sermonette condemned same-gender sex, equating it with alcoholism and drug addiction that can be “healed” by Jesus.

Miranda was grateful to those who blew the whistle on the offensive and unauthorized production. He wrote, “Now lawyers do their work.”

Virtually the entire multi-award-winning original company of Hamilton has been vocally pro-LGBTQ, so it’s not surprising that a “cease and desist” letter was sent. A lawsuit was considered.

The McAllen church posted an Instagram apology this week, claiming that Pastor Roman Gutierrez had assured congregational officials that the changes had been approved by the license-holders. An undisclosed amount of monetary damages was promised.

The folks at Hamilton are donating the money to queer-supportive businesses in southern Texas, and to the LGBTQ South Texas Equality Project.

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