Pride Film Festival Highlight – Tel Aviv is Very Gay

We recently added selections from the Bloomington Pride Film Festival from years past to our collection. Here is one of the new additions!

Tel Aviv Is Very Gay

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In a part of the world often engulfed with constant cultural conflict, this film takes a look at the vibrant LGBT community within Tel Aviv, Israel. The documentary follows several gay rights activists putting on a city supported pride parade, survivors of a shooting at a gay community center, and other Tel Aviv activists speaking out about the queer issues in the Middle East. Numerous members of local GLBT groups in the community fight against the dominant culture and government, demonstrating that Tel Aviv is not as socially conservative as it seems.

History in the Making

 

LGBT History Month 2012

As LGBT history month draws to a close, we are reminded of those who pioneered the way for the freedoms we enjoy today, and that there is still much progress to be made. Equality Forum compiles a list of notable LGBT historical figures each year, and what is most remarkable about most of these individuals is not that they organized millions of people behind a cause or changed policies and laws single-handedly; what is remarkable about these individuals is that they were willing to stand out–and speak out–during times where to be anything but hetero-normative was a sentence for a lifetime as a societal outcast.

Pierre SeelPierre Seel (1923-2005) was imprisoned and tortured in a concentration camp during World War II because he was gay. After escaping from conscripted service in the German army and surrendering to the Allies, his imprisonment was not compensated or acknowledged by the French government. Neither were any of the others deported for their sexual orientation. In 1982, after having closeted himself for 37 years, he wrote an article for a French gay magazine in response to a prominent bishop’s anti-gay remarks. His memoir, “I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual” was published in 1994. And in 2003, he was finally recognized as a victim of the Holocaust.

Christine JorgensenChristine Jorgensen (1926-1989) was one of the first people to use hormone therapy to supplement her gender reassignment therapy. She was catapulted to fame when the New York Daily News intercepted a letter to her parents about her transformation and ran a story titled “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” She relocated to New York to speak out in support of transsexual and transgender people; Jorgensen moved into music and film, and toured the US speaking at colleges and universities about her story.

 

 

Tom Waddell's memoir, Gay OlympianTom Waddell (1937-1987) organized the Gay Games–an athletic event modeled on the Olympics that still takes place every 4 years, the most recent having been held in 2010. Waddell was part of the civil rights demonstrations in Alabama in the early 1960’s, and joined the army in 1966. He competed in the Olympics in 1968, after which he was a fellow at Stanford University. He came out to friends and family in the 1970’s, and inspired by a gay bowling league, he decided to create a unique sporting event where LGBT athletes could compete openly. Waddell lived to see the games become a great success, and died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.

Gloria AnzalduaGloria Anzaldua (1942-2004) “helped build a multicultural feminist movement and called for people of different races to move forward together.”  After teaching several courses in creative writing and Chicana studies & earning her master’s degree, she co-edited one of the most cited books in the history of feminist studies: This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. She refused to write in only one language, and her writings contain two variations of English & six of Spanish, and all manner of in-betweens. She died while working on her doctorate, and was posthumously awarded a PhD by the University of California, Santa Cruz for her scholarly contributions.

Although it is no longer a danger to speak out publicly in support of the LGBT community in most of Western society, many people still suffer harassment and exclusion in silence. October is also anti-bullying month. Bullying can be as simple as one child tormenting another, or an institutionalized hostility against hundreds of thousands of people. We have seen great steps taken in our society within our lifetimes, yet without continual individual effort, we cannot move forward. I am reminded of the children’s book “Horton Hears a Who,” where no-one can hear the voices of the tiny people living on a dandelion puff except an elephant with exceptional hearing. But when they combine their voices, they are able to make themselves heard by everyone in the larger world: “We are here!” So we need to remember: we may not think our voice counts or has any influence on our surroundings, but if we all speak up, we will be heard.

 

For more information on LGBT historical and modern figures, check out http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com!

Dangerous Reading

Banned Books Week is here again! 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the Freedom to Read movement.

Why does it matter?

The US Constitution not only supports the right to free speech, it also promotes freedom of access to information. Organizations (especially libraries, whose primary mission it is to support lifelong learning and provide access to information) that seek to censor certain materials from their surrounding communities are not just withholding information, but are actively damaging the quality of information being provided. An informed population is a critically thinking population. Without the ability to read and think about all aspects of themes addressed in literature (themes which stem from real life), there is necessarily a decline in the critical analysis skills of a population.

In 2010, a school district in California withdrew Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from their schools after a parent complained that their child had come across the term “oral sex.” Yes, the dictionary contains vulgar terms; it is meant to reflect the vocabulary used by the surrounding culture, a valuable reference resource. Removing an upper-reading-level dictionary from schools inhibits the expansion of the vocabulary of the students (not to mention working towards the utterly ridiculous goal of suppression of personal intellectual exploration).

Some of the most frequently banned books are children’s books, often banned for gay-positive content or ideas deemed too complex to be suitable for children. But as Margaret Mead said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  Limiting a child’s ability to explore their world and engage with new ideas is socially destructive. If someone does not learn to reason and in youth, they will not be a reasonable person in adulthood. A large population of adults that do not have critical thinking skills is a society that will not be successful or easy to live in–especially for minority groups.

The ALA keeps track of the most frequently banned books each decade, and also posts an annual list of banned and challenged books.

The stories behind banned and challenged books are not always negative, however. In 2005, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas–a prestigious private school–retained their right to keep Annie Proulx’s novel Brokeback Mountain on their suggested optional reading list for senior-level English and in their library. Despite facing rage from the surrounding majority conservative community, and the withdrawal of approximately $3 million dollars in funding for a new building, the school board voted to keep the book on the reading list. This victory for intellectual freedom shows that even in the face of extreme pressure, school boards and other committees need not submit to censorship.

With most public libraries holding to some variation of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA’s) guidelines on collection development, US libraries are privileged to provide access to banned and challenged books throughout the country.

What will you do with this privilege? Take the plunge into some of the best literature ever written: visit your local library and find a banned book to read.

If you’re in the Bloomington area, visit the GLBT Library to find new favorite! Just look for the  , or browse our banned books display.