Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Just Queer -- Queer of the Year

Joe, from Joe.My.God, wants to know which queer person you (yes, YOU!) think made the most significant impact on the fight for queer rights this past year. Ol’ GayProf happened to serve on the nominating committee that selected the final choices. After a weekend of debate and some independent drinking, we culled the nominations from all the ones submitted by his readers. Six candidates ultimately made it through the rigorous screening process.

Who will take the title of Queer of the Year? Will celebrity triumph in the form of Rosie O’Donnell? Or will the ground breaking, but little known, transgender public official Kim Coco Iwamoto take the prize? Their fate rests with you (yes, YOU!). I can only surmise that Joe is currently reworking the lyrics to the “Miss America” theme which he will then sing to the winner as they make their triumphal walk down the runway.

Vote below in a poll that will be open until January 3. One need not be queer to take a position and vote. Which queer person captured your imagination the most for 2006?

Here are the contenders in a nutshell:

    Laurel Hester served for 23 years as a police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey. Upon learning that she had terminal lung cancer, Hester became concerned about the fate of her partner, Stacie Andree. Heterosexuals passed on their police pensions to surviving partners, but a Republican Controlled county board rejected allowing such benefits to transmit to same-sex partners. Shortly before her death in February 2006, Hester filmed an impassioned plea to be delivered to county officials. Upon learning her story, the board reversed their initial decision and granted surviving same-sex partners equal access to pensions. Hester’s story also brought the issue of same-sex partners’ rights to national attention.

    Lane Hudson became frustrated by a lack of action both on the right and the left regarding Congressman Mark Foley. Hudson first exposed Foley’s years of sexual harassment against interns on a blog. Many people attribute the Foley scandal to the demise of the Republican Congress in 2006. Hudson, however, also exposed the HRC’s internal failures as well. The HRC administration disavowed Hudson and ultimately fired him for exposing Foley. This has left many people wondering, just what type of mission guides the administration at the HRC?

    Kim Coco Iwamoto had a long career as a civil rights attorney (having earned her law degree at the University of New Mexico (so, you know she already has a special place in my thoughts)). This past year she won a position on Hawai`i’s State Board of Education. That victory made her the highest elected transgender person in the nation. Iwamoto argues that Hawai`i could be a model for the rest of the United States. “This election speaks less of me and much more, I think, of the place and the people of Hawai`i,” she said, “the fact that Hawai`i's always been a place of fair-minded, critical thinking voters who vote on the issues and who see people for the substance of their character."

    Mike Jones became the most well-known male escort in the United States when he outed ├╝ber-evangelical Ted Haggard. Jones claimed that Haggard paid him for both sex and drugs during a three-year relationship. Haggard had a long career and made lots of money fomenting homophobia based on his religious interpretations. His exposure has shown that the evangelical movement has some disreputable people at the helm. Many people discount Jones because he worked as a prostitute; however, I am leery of such moralistic judgments or such easy dismissal. There are many male prostitutes who have sex with men like Haggard. Few, though, have ever bothered to tell their story. Moreover, even Karl Rove attributed Republicans’ 2006 failures, in part, to Jones’ revelation. "The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected," said Rove. "Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass.” By “all things Washington,” Rove really meant “Republicans’ lies, greed, deceit, and hypocrisy.”

    Rosie O'Donnell garnered numerous nominations on the JMG web-page. Rosie’s fans point out that she is one of the most recognizable lesbians in the nation. During her new stint on the television program The View, Rosie often talks openly about being a lesbian mother and making a family with her partner. She has also used her platform to draw attention to homophobia and sexism. Many argue, though, that her greatest contributions come from her daily appearance on The View by providing a human face to queer issues.

    Soulforce, founded by Mel White and Gary Nixon, organized a program called “EqualityRide” this past year. In 51 days, White and Nixon drove young students to 19 military and religious universities that currently ban LGBT people from enrolling. Soulforce operates as an interfaith organization which seeks to end “spiritual violence” against queer people. They have adapted and altered strategies articulated by Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi that emphasize non-violent confrontation and civil disobedience. The organization currently has a youthful following, particularly among queers who identify as Christians. Many in the group consider themselves inheriting progressive movements from a weary older generation.

Who Is The Queer Of The Year 2006?
Laurel Hester
Lane Hudson
Kim Coco Iwamoto
Mike Jones
Rosie O'Donnell


Anonymous said...

No Lance Bass? No Gayprof? That tiara should be yours, Mister.

Doug said...

We all should win QotY for surviving under this administration and against the huge pressures of the psychotic religious right.

Anonymous said...

i voted, but i probably shouldn't have since i'm canadian. bah! what the heck. at least the neo-nazi that was voted into being prime minister lost the right to bring back the gay marriage issue to parliament...for now.

GayProf said...

JPDC: Well, I can't argue with that...

Doug: I agree that we all deserve a medal for getting through these dark times. Giving a tax rebate comes to mind, but I don't think the government could afford it.

DykeWife: Of course Canadians should vote! Why should Americans have all the fun?

So, what is your impression of that Dion fellow? Will he revamp the Liberal Party? He isn't related to that annoying singer, is he?

tornwordo said...

What kind of commie American follows Canadian politics? That charmed the socks off me.

Who do you think I should vote for?

Anonymous said...

Come on folks, it's gotta' be Lane Hudson. Despite all of Rosie's positive contributions to giving daytime TV a publicly queer face, she's annoying, racist, and insensitive. Without Hudson I don't think we would have taken control of Congress. The majority of Democratic takeovers were by very small margins. I have no doubt that the anti-Foley and Republican cover up sentiment tipped the scales in our favor. To boot, HRC is too rich for it's own good. Hudson filled us with hope for 2007! Let's see if it comes to fruition with some inclusion of sexual orientation non-discrimination federal policies.

Anonymous said...

I'm Canadian and I voted. After careful consideration, Laurel Hester was my choice.

Stephane Dion is NOT related to THAT singer. Maybe he can sing, though. He's growing on me.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed that Iwamoto is getting so few votes, since I think out of all the ones on the list he's made the most important and far-reaching impact, even if he isn't exactly a national celebrity like the others mentioned. However, maybe I'm just not understanding the parameters of the contest.

Anonymous said...

And I meant to write "she." Sorry!

Kalv1n said...

I'll bet I'm the only person who voted for Jones who reads your blog. While I most admire Iwamoto, I don't think her impact has been felt nationally. Perhaps it's just waiting to be unleashed like the original debates about marriage in Hawai'i.

Anonymous said...

i voted for laurel... i think it says a lot about her character to take on such an issue at such a late stage just to make sure the person she loved was taken care of!!! that speaks volumes on a personal level!!!

GayProf said...

Torn:What kind of commie American follows Canadian politics?

A big ol' commie one. It's all for self-interest, though. I might need to flee to Canada one day.

As for voting, I might or might not have my preferences from this list. What matters, though, is who you think should win.

Words83: HRC clearly needs a massive shake-up in terms of adminstration. Beyond selling bumper-stickers or giving out awards to celebrities, they appear failry useless.

Cooper: I would love to see Dion grill Harper in musical verse.

Chad: She has probably recieved the least media attention out of anybody on the list. Then again, Hawai`i is basically ignored by the rest of the U.S.

Kalvin: I am sure many people feel the same about Jones, especially given the current vote. Who do you think my readers are voting for?

DBV: Her last acts created opportunities for her partner and also drew attention to the particular issues facing same-sex couples when one partner dies.

Dorian said...

I have a real hard time respecting Rosie O'Donnell, much less viewing her of being worthy of the title "Queer of the Year." Her sudden eagerness for claiming the title of gay rights spokesperson, after years of being in the closet for the sake of her career, is very offputting.

Anonymous said...

Accomplishments? Impact? Advancing the cause? I’m afraid I know my community too well. Mike Jones has muscles and a “hot” body. Because he was an escort, he must be hung and good in bed as well. Mike Jones will win.

Anonymous said...

the only thing i've heard about dion is that he's more popular than our bond villain named harpee...err...harper. in fact, he was more popular about 5 minutes after he was elected liberal leader. as to what he's like, he's liberal. they tend to be a fairly pragmatic bunch up here. hopefully they'll call a non-confidence vote soon and we'll have an election and get rid of the neo-nazi that's in power now.

i don't think he's related to celine. dion is a fairly common french name. but hey, there are a lot of kids in her good catholic family. if we're all lucky, he won't sing.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Jones, too, and through GayProf's site. The reason, however, was not because of his body (I'll have to take Wayout's word that he's hot), nor because he was a male prostitute. I couldn't care less about either, and to be honest, I think it's absurd to suggest that either would be the only factors gay men think about.

As for Canada, GayProf, you can get quick updates from Slap Upside the Head (www.slapupsidethehead.com), one of my favourite sites. But if you want a safe country to flee to, don't forget New Zealand!

Anonymous said...

What does it mean when I realize that when it comes to extending equal rights to a whole group of people, the thought of picking a King Fag (or Queen Dyke) kinda pisses me off.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an "everyone's a winner!" type of person.

But we know how a large chunk of gay men vote... It's gonna be Jones.

Why? Because he took a stand and might have had a subtle but critical influence on recent elections?


Because he's (to many eyes) hot and sexually available (ok, ok, for a fee). BTW, I also have nothing against that either - I don't pay people for sex, but I'd consider it strongly with him =)

I just think in this case, he'll "win" while people who've worked much longer and harder to make changes in the world are shoved aside.

Take it as my negative view of how gay men - in general - view the world. It's probably one of the reasons I've pushed away from the more superficial gay culture.

Now, I'd ask - someone, please prove me wrong. I want to be wrong about this.

Note: I AM, in fact, MORE picky than many people when it comes to sexual attraction. I just know when it matters (when I want to have sex with someone) and when it doesn't (when judging the content of one's character).

GayProf said...

Dorian: I tend to agree about Rosie's shameless closetedness. She also scolded those who had been out decades longer than her because "they just didn't understand." Now that she is out, though, how much longer can we hold the grudge?

WayOut & Atari: I am not certain that gay men are selecting Jones simply because of appearance (As an aside, I never found Jones all that attractive, btw (not that he necessarily got my vote)). As I was mentioning to a friend, to my mind, this type of poll suggests something about the type of public figures who capture queers' imagination. On the blogs that are running this poll, Jones is getting by far the most attention in comments. This includes his strongest supporters and his most ardent detractors. Clearly he has hit a nerve somewhere.

What also surprises me is that people never offer strong arguments for alternatives to Jones. There are other people who could out perform him, but the argument gets stuck on whether Jones "deserves it."

DykeWife: I have always been envious of parliamentary systems' ability to call for a vote of no-confidence. We are stuck with idiots for full terms and have virtually no way to get new leaders.

ArthurNZ: I would not forget New Zealand. Take a look at this: The U.S. is proud of themselves for electing a transgender person to a Board of Education. The wise people in New Zealand, however, elected a transgender person to Parliament almost a decade earlier.

r said...

My vote goes to you, Gayprof.

Anonymous said...

I can't "prove" you wrong, Atari, because there are gay men who will vote for Jones for the reasons you suggest. But there are also people who will vote for one of the others for similarly shallow reasons.

So what? People vote for politicians for dumb reasons and the consequences of that are clearly greater. Why should we expect voters in this poll to be any different? Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought this poll was meant, at least in part, as a bit of fun, a harmless distraction.

As for me, I haven't actually seen a photo of Jones other than a fully-clothed news still somewhere, and he didn't get my motor running. However, he's an example of how one person taking a singular act at great personal risk can have a huge impact. Back when I was an activist based in Chicago, I saw time and again that it was this sort of person who made the most change, not paid politicos or celebrities, nor even long-time activists like me.

Which is why my second choice would have been Laurel Hester because her actions also created change. However, sadly, the impact of her action--important and gut-wrenching as it was--is unlikely to spread beyond her home. It's delusion to think that the actions of county officials in New Jersey will, for example, influence state legislators somewhere else, however much we wish it would.

So for me--and many others--the choice was Jones for his actions which influenced not just an election, but also removed a major rabidly anti-gay leader of the christo-fascists, calling their ilk into disrepute (again).

Atari, you worry that Jones will "win" "while people who've worked much longer and harder to make changes in the world are shoved aside." But hard work and long commitment aren't guarantees of far-reaching success, and, anyway, how many people on this list really fit that definition? To be worthy, how long do they have to work at it? How hard?

Atari, I'd argue that "Gay culture", whatever it is, has as much variety in at as the dominant culture. Don't make the mistake that the MSM do and assume that the world view of the "superficial gay culture", as you call it, is representative of all gay people. It isn't, and frankly I resent the implication that the opinions of some gay men are unreasoned and thoughtless because of the superficiality of other gay men.

Anonymous said...

I'd say that Mike Jones's status as a big of a controversial figure (being a rent boy) combined with the "look" that defintely falls into the mainstream of what many gay men are attracted to (muscular, tall, presumably well endowed/good in bed etc) combined with him outting someone (Ted Haggard) who is on the surface, completely antithetical to who he is, makes his "15 minutes of fame" much more appealing than the comparatively tame efforts of a transgendered person who gets elected to high office in a relatively obscure state, or a certain full-figured churlish woman talk show host who uses her celeb-tard status to get away with denigrating Asians.

Anonymous said...

I guess I was making a tangential comment in an inappropriate forum.

I should clarify: When I said "I've pushed away from the more superficial gay culture," what I meant was, "... the portion of the gay community that is so damn superficial all the goddamn time".

And it's probably fair to say that percentage of straight guys that are that bad is roughly the same.

So I suppose I'm just saying "guys can be dicks."

Which is, really, a simple truth.

But, it's totally true that this is a generalization. No need for anyone to be resentful. I'm not Bill O'Reilly.

But I realize, this time I'm the one who hijacked the thread - just a few posts after I commented that I didn't like hijacking threads. So, my apologies. I'm done.