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This Way Out Radio Episode #1873: Albee Plays on Life & Panti Raids Homophobes


Renowned playwright Edward Albee talks about life, sex and the theater (interviewed in 2009 by Dixie Treichel and John Townsend of KFAI-Minneapolis/St. Paul’s Fresh Fruit).

Irish drag queen Panti Bliss (a.k.a. Rory O’Neill) responded brilliantly when calling out homophobic journalists and religionists drew criticism from both sides (a 2014 speech at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre).


And in NewsWrap: Greece becomes the 37th country where same-gender couples can get married, Nepal’s Anju Devi Shrestha and Suprita Gurung become the first officially registered married lesbian couple in South Asia, a St. Vincent and the Grenadines High Court justice rejects two challenges to the nation’s sodomy laws, a Japanese trans man can change the gender marker on his official documents without undergoing surgical sterilization, a top host on state-run Polish television apologizes for years of anti-queer rhetoric, a sexy Seville Jesus riles Spanish traditionalists, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Marcos Najera and Brian DeShazor (produced by Brian DeShazor).


All this on the February 19, 2024 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of February 19, 2024

Albee Plays on Life & Panti Raids Homophobes


Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Greece becomes the 37th nation on the planet to open civil marriage to same-gender couples … the government of Nepal recognizes its first marriage of a lesbian couple … a High Court judge in St. Vincent and the Grenadines upholds colonial-era sodomy laws in the Caribbean islands nation … a Japanese trans man wins a historic legal victory against forced sterilization in order to change his legal gender on government documents … a top Polish TV host startles even his queer guests by apologizing for years of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric spawned by the eight-year reign of the far right Law & Justice Party, which lost its parliamentary majority in recent national elections … and “traditionalist” Roman Catholics in the Spanish city of Seville howl over a new Holy Week poster by a globally-hailed artist of Jesus as a “handsome gay man” in a loincloth without the usual crown of thorns and with bodily injuries understated (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MARCOS NAJERA and BRIAN DeSHAZOR, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

 

Feature: In the early months of 2009, Broadway audiences were flocking to Billy Elliot with music by Elton John, the diversity-rich and sexually open Avenue Q, and a revival of Blithe Spirit by the classic gay wit Noel Coward. Commercial productions like The Lion King, Shrek and The Little Mermaid were becoming the rage. It was against that backdrop that Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright provocateur Edward Albee sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with This Way Out correspondents DIXIE TREICHEL and JOHN TOWNSEND (from Fresh Fruit on KFAI-Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota). It had been four years since the successful revival of Albee’s Broadway debut, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — a play the Pulitzer advisory board would not honor in 1962 because of its profanity and sexual themes, no matter what the drama jury said. In Albee’s words, his plays were “a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen,” and that’s a message that bears repeating today (with brief excerpts from the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? motion picture soundtrack starring ELIZABETH TAYLOR and RICHARD BURTON).


Feature: Think you know homophobia when you see it? That’s what Irish drag queen Panti Bliss thought when she appeared on an RTE program in 2014. The national broadcaster was quick to pay a big settlement to the journalists and the Roman Catholic think-tank Bliss called out by name who threatened to sue for libel. Allies and opponents carried on the heated debate over the entertainer’s comments versus RTE’s settlement. Panti Bliss and her alter-ego Rory O’neill got time to respond at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, and it’s a reply that stands the test of time (with intro/outro music by CHUMBAWAMBA).


NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending February 17th, 2024
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Marcos Najera and Brian DeShazor,
produced by Brian DeShazor

      

    Greece is now the 37th country where same-gender couples can get married.  The civil marriage bill includes adoption rights.

Parliament voted decisively on February 15th: 176 in favor, 76 opposed and two abstentions. Even intense opposition from the politically powerful Greek Orthodox Church failed to block it.

The legislation was crafted by the center-right government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He hailed its passage on social media, calling it, “a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece – a progressive and democratic country, passionately committed to European values.”

According to opposition lawmaker Vassilis Stigas, marriage equality will “open the gates of hell and perversion.”

Queer couples can adopt each other’s children under the new laws.  Under the civil partnership laws that have been in effect since 2015, only the biological parents of the couple’s children had parental rights.  The couples can be legally recognized as parents of a child born via surrogacy abroad, but they may not receive surrogacy services in Greece.

The new laws will take effect as soon as they’re published in the official government gazette.

Outside the parliament building LGBTQ people and their allies were celebrating.  Stella Belia, of the queer parents group Rainbow Families told Reuters, “This is a historic moment.  This is a day of joy.”


    Nepal has its first legally married lesbian couple.

Anju Devi Shrestha and Suprita Gurung registered their marriage on February 11th in the Himalayan nation’s capital city, Kathmandu.  Venerable Nepalese activist and former M.P. Sunil Babu Pant called it “the first case of a lesbian couple officially getting registered for their marriage in South Asia.”

Equality advocates like the non-governmental organization Mayako Pahichan Nepal have been pushing for the rights of “sexual minority communities.” A press statement from the group whose name means “Recognition of Love” was jubilant about the campaign’s success “in getting officially registered same-sex marriage after more than two decades of struggle.”

Nepal’s Supreme Court opened the marriage equality floodgates in June 2023 with an interim order that the government legalize same-gender marriage. In November the federal government recognized the 1997 Hindu marriage ceremony of Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey. Since Gurung is a transgender woman and Nepal does not recognize gender changes, it was accepted as the historic first marriage of two gay men.


    Two cases challenging the sodomy laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were rejected by a High Court justice on February 16th. Two gay men from the main island of St. Vincent contested the constitutionality of the laws that criminalize private consensual adult same-gender sex in 2019.

The Caribbean nation’s colonial-era statutes punish “anal intercourse” with up to 10 years in prison, and up to five years for “gross indecency.”

Cristian González Cabrera is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. He called the ruling by Justice Esco Lorene Henry that upheld those laws “a travesty of justice” and “tacit state endorsement” of anti-queer bias.

Plaintiff Sean Macleish expressed disappointment in the ruling when he spoke with the Washington Blade from his U.S. home.  He said: “[W]e will be discussing our options with my legal team because freedom and equality is worth fighting for.”

Similar sodomy laws have been repealed in the Caribbean nations of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda in recent years.  In addition to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, laws punishing same-gender sex remain in effect in St. Lucia, Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada.


    A trans man in western Japan can change the gender marker on his official documents without having undergone surgical sterilization. The February 14th granting of his request was the first judgment since the nation’s Supreme Court struck down that requirement in October 2023.

The Okayama Family Court ruled that the plaintiff’s hormone therapy qualified him for the legal gender affirmation.  It ordered the local family registry to officially recognize 50-year-old Tacaquito Usui as male.  The victorious trans man was “so excited,” and told television news crews, “It’s like I’m standing at the start line of my new life.”


    A top host on state-run Polish television apologized for years of anti-queer rhetoric spawned by the Law and Justice Party. It’s another sign of the seismic shift under Poland’s new liberal-centrist coalition since the previous rightwing government lost its parliamentary majority in recent national elections.

Wojciech Szeląg told a February 11th national audience, as translated by The Independent, “For many years in Poland shameful words have been directed at numerous individuals simply because they chose to decide for themselves who they are and whom they love … LGBT+ people are not an ideology but people, with specific names, faces, relatives, and friends.”

Szelag directly addressed his two queer activist guests, Bart Staszewski and Jaja Heban. The groundbreaking mea culpa also marked the first time in almost a decade that LGBTQ people had been invited guests on the network.  The host said, “All these people should hear the word ‘sorry’ somewhere.  This is where I apologize.”

Such statements would have been unthinkable under the previous regime, which supported the condemnation of “LGBT ideology” by local jurisdictions and their declarations as “LGBT-Free Zones.”

Staszewski said both he and Heban were a bit scared to walk into the studio.  “After eight years of not being visible, of being some sort of lesser citizen, both Maja and I were quite astonished by this.  It was a touching moment.”


    Finally, some people in the Spanish city of Seville apparently prefer to see their Christ crucified rather than resurrected. A new Holy Week poster by internationally recognized artist Salustiano Garcia Cruz has traditionalists complaining that the portrait of Jesus is not one suffering on the cross, but a young, good-looking guy in a loincloth.  He wears a glorified crown of gold ornaments instead of thorns, and the physical wounds are understated.

In the words of Barcelona gallerist Artur Ramon the depiction is “effeminate or androgynous in a way.” He told the BBC, “Spain is a country that is still quite homophobic, and people don’t like that he is represented in this way for a festival that marks the passion of Christ in his final moments of life.”  Trending social media comments characterize the portrait as “offensive,” “evil” and “too sexualized” for Holy Week.  A Change.org petition calling for the portrait’s removal has thus far attracted more than 10 thousand signatures, but apparently to no effect.

Cruz says his own son modeled for the portrait.  Horacio Garcia has told the press that he’s received many compliments on his being “too handsome, [and] too attractive.”

Seville Mayor José Luis Sanz likes the portrait, and called the outrage “artificial.”  He said that “Some posters are riskier, some more classical, some are more daring.”

The artist defended his work in an interview with the Spanish publication El Mundo: “A gay Christ because he looks sweet and is handsome, come on!  We are in the 21st century!”


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