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This Way Out Radio Episode #1860: Gertrude Loves Alice & "Girls About Town"

Private notes between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are the literature of love in “Precious Baby Always Shines” (commentary by Janet Mason ).

The funny, sophisticated, and slightly ribald 1931 film “Girls About Town” takes us on a festive cultural sojourn in search of vintage queer gold (commentary by John Dyer V).

And in NewsWrap: the Church of England will “experiment” with special services to bless queer partners for a trial period, activists are not buying the official explanation of the shocking death of non-binary Mexican judge Jesús Ociel Baena, Asia’s first Gay Games leaps all of the official hurdles that China could lay before its Hong Kong hosts, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to grant an emergency request to overturn an injunction against Florida’s ban on family-friendly drag shows, One Million Moms protest Macy’s “non-binary and transgender extravaganza” Thanksgiving Day Parade, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Elena Botkin-Levy (produced by Brian DeShazor).

All this on the November 20, 2023 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of November 20, 2023

Gertrude Loves Alice & Girls About Town

Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): The governing body of the Church of England narrowly votes to go ahead with “experimental” services to bless same-gender couples while still maintaining doctrine that defines marriage as heterosexual only … thousands mourn the brutal murder of Mexico’s first out non-binary judicial official, Jesús Ociel Baena, who was found slashed to death with a razor blade along with his romantic partner at their home in Aguascalientes … Hong Kong organizers are hailing the recently concluded Gay Games — the first ever held in Asia — as a complete success for having overcome a COVID-caused delay and political, judicial and cultural attempts to prevent the global athletic and cultural event from happening … the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to overturn temporary injunctions preventing enforcement of Florida’s ban on family-friendly drag shows as it sends the case back for review to the full bench of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals … and the far-right One Million Moms leads a campaign to boycott the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because non-binary and transgender Broadway stars will be performing along the route (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOE BOEHNLEIN and ELENA BOTKIN-LEVY, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature: Think you’ve had your fill of the secrets of celebrity couples? Wait! We remember Precious Baby Always Shines, a 1999 book This Way Out’s JANET MASON discovered that pierced the privacy of a pair of the 20th Century’s most prominent lesbians. (with intro/outro music by HOLLY NEAR).

Feature: Queer-coded comedies were all the rage for Depression era Hollywood before the infamous Hays Office set strict boundaries on such content. Revisiting one of those 1930’s classics, Girls About Town, yields some vintage cultural collectibles for This Way Out’s JOHN DYER V (with scenes from the movie and intro music by VAN DYKE PARKS and BRIAN WILSON).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending November 18th 2023 on
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Elena Botkin-Levy,
produced by Brian DeShazor

The Church of England is going to “experiment” on lesbian and gay couples. By a single vote this week, the Church’s General Synod approved a trial for special services to bless queer partners.

The services will look much like the wedding ceremonies of heterosexual couples, with music, readings, and other celebratory elements. However they won’t be considered official Church wedding ceremonies. Clergy will not be obligated to perform them.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the titular leader of the global Anglican Communion. He joined amendment supporter Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell in a statement that read in part, “We have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the church on these hugely important questions. While this motion was passed, narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together.”

Webly and Cottrell have reason to be defensive. Their statement anticipates the outrage of more “traditionalist” Anglicans who maintain that romantic same-gender love is always sinful. Those objections come mostly from the Southern Hemisphere.

There’s also opposition within the Church of England itself. To Daniel Matovu the “experiment” is “contrary to and wholly inconsistent with God’s word.” The barrister and lay member of the General Synod said during debate that the Bible makes it clear that a man who sleeps with another man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The Church of England still teaches that marriage is exclusively heterosexual.

It’s not yet clear when the first Church blessings of queer couples will be held. Some believe it could be early in 2024. The “experiment” is expected to take about two years before the services are fully authorized.

Rev. Canon John Dunnett leads the Church of England Evangelical Council and gave this warning: "It will tear local parish congregations apart, damage the relationship between large numbers of clergy and their bishops and cause churches across the dioceses to feel as though their shepherds have abandoned them."

Despite the apparent “breakthrough” queer faith activist Jayne Ozanne of the General Synod believes the Church of England remains “deeply homophobic, whatever bishops and archbishops say.” In her words, “I fear that much of the nation will judge the Church of England as being abusive, hypocritical, and unloving – they are, sadly, correct.”

Activists are not buying the official explanation of the shocking death of Latin America’s first out non-binary judge. Jesús Ociel Baena was found dead in his home on November 13th beside a second body, identified as Baena’s romantic partner, Dorian Danie Nieves. Thousands of people marched through Mexico City the following night to demand justice for the trailblazer.

Police in the central Mexican state of Aguascalientes believe that Nieves killed Baena in a “crime of passion” and then took their own life. Baena’s family and some LGBTQ advocacy groups question that conclusion. Baena’s appointment to the state Electoral Tribunal in October last year was heralded as historic for a country known for its machismo and rigid gender role expectations. Earlier this year, Baena was among the first group of people to be issued a gender-neutral passport. It’s no surprise that their groundbreaking career brought repeated death threats.

According to police officials, Baena had 20 separate razor blade wounds, including the likely fatal slash across their neck. Their family and queer activists are urging police officials to investigate both deaths as possible hate crimes.

Former Chief Justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court Arturo Zaldívar mourned Baena’s death on the platform known to everyone except Elon Musk as Twitter. He wrote, “We lost a powerful voice for equality and the rights of LGBTI+ people.”

The eleventh semi-quadrennial Gay Games wrapped up in Hong Kong on November 11th. It was the first queer “Olympic” competition ever held in Asia.

Hong Kong organizers faced more obstacles than many of their predecessors. They survived the COVID pandemic, which postponed the competition. They faced political and cultural opposition to holding such a blatantly queer event in China, as local city officials got heat from Beijing to find a way to stop it. Efforts to ban the Games on “national security” grounds failed. Some human rights groups called for a boycott because the clamp down on freedoms in Hong Kong has gotten worse in recent years. Taiwanese athletes decided against coming to Hong Kong for fear of being arrested -- mainland China refuses to acknowledge their country’s independence.

Thirty-six different sports, arts and cultural events were originally planned. Health and political uncertainties eventually trimmed the number down to 18 competitions ranging from dragon boat races to mahjong. The flagship dragon boat races featured more than 500 participants on 44 teams rowing down the Shing Mu River. One in four of those teams came from overseas.

Some 2400 competitors participated in the Hong Kong Gay Games. Organizers say that the bumpy road ahead of the event led to fewer competitors than expected and smaller venue crowds. Director of Sports Bon Ing told Outsports, “It all revolves around uncertainty, which prevents you from wanting to commit.”

Co-president of the Federation of Gay Games Joanie Evans still praised the Hong Kong-hosted event as “the best Games ever.” She called the organization and competition “perfect,” setting “a benchmark” for future events.

The next Gay Games is set for the Spanish city of Valencia from May 31st to June 6th, 2026.

The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to back Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to outlaw family-friendly drag shows in Florida.

The nation’s top court voted 6-to-3 not to grant an emergency request to overturn lower courts that had blocked enforcement of the ban. The majority did not provide any reasons for the November 16th decision. The three dissenting judges were the Court’s most conservative members: Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. They urged their fellow Justices to consider Florida’s request to review the law. While agreeing with the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “Florida’s stay application to this Court does not raise [a] First Amendment issue. Therefore, the Court’s denial of the stay indicates nothing about our view on whether Florida’s new law violates the First Amendment.”

A district judge citing First Amendment free speech grounds had blocked the ban from taking effect. The vaguely written law bans minors from attending “adult live performances,” and includes an ill-defined prohibition of “lewd conduct.” Drag shows are not specifically targeted. A three-judge panel of the generally conservative 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let that temporary injunction stand. The court ruling still blocks enforcement of the law anywhere in the state of Florida.

The legal challenge to the law was brought by the Orlando location of the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant chain. Its family-friendly Sunday brunch drag shows are usually sold-out. Their case now returns to the full bench of the 11th Circuit appeals court for review, according to The Hill.

Finally, are One Million Moms really against Macy’s iconic Santa Claus? The organization’s number has never actually been verified, but it’s circulating an online petition condemning the department store’s world-famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. To them, it’s “a non-binary and transgender extravaganza.”

They’ve set their sights on performances from two Broadway musicals along the parade route. In Juliet, the main character’s best friend is a non-binary character named “May.” “May” is currently being played by the real-life non-binary actor Justin David Sullivan. The Moms also target Shucked. Gender non-conforming actor Alex Newell from the TV series GLEE plays the female character “Lulu.”

Macy’s issued a statement in strong support of its diversity:

“For nearly 100 years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has showcased the very best in entertainment, delighting Americans everywhere with the most popular music acts, the best of Broadway, our country’s finest marching bands and dance teams, and giant balloons and floats that capture your imagination. We look forward to celebrating this iconic Thanksgiving tradition again next week.”

One “mom” who’s not one of the “million” will usher in the arrival of Santa Claus in the prestigious finale of the parade: superstar Cher, who also has a transgender son named Chaz.

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