Saturday, March 12, 2011

Today in Gay History

On March 10-12, 1987, ACT UP is founded by Larry Kramer.

Credit to
1987 - ACT UP was formed [on March 12,1987 following a meeting-speech on March 10th] at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. The writer Vito Russo wrote at the time that "living with AIDS in this country is like living through a war that's happening only for those people in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes you look around to discover that you've lost more of your friends. But nobody else notices, it isn't happening to them." Larry Kramer had been asked to speak at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Kramer had actually co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a question to the audience: "Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?" The answer was "a resounding yes." Approximately 300 people met two days later [March 12] to form ACT UP.

They became confrontational about the government's complete lack of urgency towards the plight of the thousands of Gay men dying of AIDS. That was the face of AIDS at the time and no one seemed to care that so many were dying. And many were actively blocking (as many still do) the use of condoms for AIDS prevention. They called out Ronald Reagan and Cardinal O'Connor and Pope John Paul for their responsibility in the deaths of millions while they prevented treatment and prevention. Because of ACT UP, political leaders and the media were forced to pay attention to what was happening. Because of ACT UP things moved for the care and treatment of people living and dying with AIDS. Their work is not finished and their model is one that has been replicated by many dealing with entrenched hostility and animus.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Today in Gay History

March 11, 1967 – Today is the birthday of Scottish singer, actor, and activist JOHN BARROWMAN. Best known for his role as Captain Jack Harkness in the science fiction series Doctor Who and Torchwood. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Barrowman and his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was nine. Growing up in the state of Illinois, his high school teachers encouraged his love for music and theatre and he studied performing arts at the United States International University in San Diego before visiting the United Kingdom and landing the role of Billy Crocker in Cole Porter's Anything Goes in London's West End.

Barrowman met his partner Scott Gill in 1993 and in 2005 they registered as civil partners under British law. They do not call their relationship a marriage: "We're just going to sign the civil register. We're not going to have any ceremony because I'm not a supporter of the word marriage for a Gay partnership." Barrowman explained later: "Why would I want a 'marriage' from a belief system that hates me?" A small ceremony was held in Cardiff with friends and family, with the cast of Torchwood and executive producer Russell T Davies as guests.

In 2009, Barrowman published I Am What I Am, his second memoir detailing his recent television work and musings on fame. In the book, Barrowman reveals that when he was just beginning his acting career, a Gay producer told Barrowman that he should try to pretend to be heterosexual in order to be successful. Barrowman was offended by the incident, and it made him more aware of the importance of his role as a Gay public figure: "One of my explicit missions as an entertainer is to work to create a world where no one will ever make a statement like this producer did to me to anyone who s Gay." To this end, Barrowman is active in his community supporting the issues that matter to him most. He worked with Stonewall, a Gay rights organization in the UK, on the "Education for All" campaign against homophobia in the schools. In April 2008, the group placed posters on 600 billboards that read, "Some people are Gay. Get over it!" Barrowman contributed his support to the project asking people to join him and "Help exterminate homophobia. Be bold. Be brave. Be a buddy, not a bully." In the same month, Barrowman spoke at the Oxford Union about his career, the entertainment industry, and gay rights issues. The event was filmed for the BBC program The Making Of Me, in an episode exploring the science of homosexuality

In 1998, Barrowman was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and in 2006 he was voted Stonewall's "Entertainer of the Year."