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Archive: Jan 2017

#LGBTQProgress (Monday 30th January)

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Writing an LGBTQ round-up this weekend feels like a distraction away from what is rightly dominating the news and needs our full attention: the sudden and messy implementation of the Muslim Ban in America, signed on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The White House website for 45 (for that is how I will reference him) instantly wiped away any commitments or even interest in LGBT rights. The official line so far from his administration is they ‘don’t know’ what LGBTQ rights passed under President Obama may be revoked. Following from last week’s global Women’s Marches, an LGBTQ march in Washington DC is already being planned around Pride weekend in June. But as this weekend has shown, we won’t wait to gather and protest.

#No2LGBTHate

Digital activism makes an impact too. Linda Riley has been relentlessly campaigning and signing supporters up to her #No2LGBTHate Thunderclap this Wednesday afternoon at 4pm GMT. The campaign is asking Twitter to take more responsibility and action for homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse from its users. With over 2000 supporters so far, including Yoko Ono, the campaign will reach 24 million people and make clear that freedom of speech isn’t a permit for hate speech.

Love still doesn’t win in the Church of England

The Church of England has spent two years having Shared Conversations about sexuality. Last Friday, the House of Bishops ended that process with a report that changed nothing. They insist the church should ‘stand against homophobia’ while simultaneously refusing same-sex marriages. This is the very definition of homophobia that not only hurts and turns away LGBTQ Christians, but reinforces to non-Christians who care about their queer friends, equality and justice that the church is irrelevant and discriminatory.

Go shopping at Lush whose Valentine’s Day ads in America feature same-sex couples. This is a good time to remind everyone Lush is my favourite shop, and it’s my birthday next week. And keep reading The Independent and The Guardian/Observer. No other UK papers come close to their longstanding commitment to LGBTQ identities and reporting.

Love does win in DC church

Here’s one more story from Washington DC to tie all the others together. Sally and Maria are married and are about to jointly become Senior Pastors at Calvary Baptist Church in the city. On the same Sunday morning protestors told them they were ‘going to hell’, the church members voted to become a sanctuary church to help migrants facing deportation. That’s my Christianity.

Finally, some of my own news to share. I’m changing jobs and exceptionally fortunate to be moving from one charity I love, Christian Aid to another, Stonewall. I’ve also just started tweeting for @SohoGathering, a casual group I’m part of that meets every Thursday night in Soho. Follow me on Twitter @JoeyKnock for more #LGBTQProgress news throughout the week.

My Gay Agenda: Dreamgirls

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Every man has his own special dream, and last week at the Savoy Theatre that dream was about to come true. 35 years after its Broadway debut, Dreamgirls has finally made it to the West End. The show (totally not based on Diana Ross or The Supremes in any way) follows black girl group The Dreams from the start of their music career in 1960s Motown America, and tracks the relationships and power plays that define what happens next.

It is very Broadway, very slick and very sparkly. There was more wigs and sequins than any show I’ve seen before, and that includes Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I couldn’t help compare what I was seeing back to the polished 2004 film version. This production felt louder and more colourful, which I’m not sure was always welcome. I could feel the 1980s datestamp a bit too keenly on Step Into The Bad Side and Family. And a particular annoyance was the new duet version of Listen. If it’s not Beyoncé and Burke, I don’t want to know.

What makes this Dreamgirls production exceptional is the casting. Even more than the movie, the stage show is about Effie White’s transformation. Of course Amber Riley got a standing ovation for the iconic And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. She deserved a bigger one halfway through Act Two for I Am Changing, providing a rawness that just doesn’t let up. Jimmy Early is the other standout character, perfected by Adam J Bernard as he shares the James Brown-style soul and passion. The show isn’t revolutionary. I’m not sure it’s a ‘must-see’ but if you get tickets you won’t be disappointed.

Dreamgirls is booking until October 2017

 

Dirty Dancing

There’s another 60s and 80s throwback on offer from the touring production of Dirty Dancing though I wouldn’t recommend it. I was expecting a jukebox musical. Instead I got a very-faithful stage reproduction of a film I haven’t seen, with very sparse live singing. The cast were competent on their own yet I couldn’t buy into the holiday romance between bad boy Johnny (Lewis Griffiths) and innocent teenager ‘Baby’ (Katie Hartland). the whole show was cluttered with too many scene changes and too many characters not saying much. I pined just a little for Johnny and his arms of steel during that lift, but there wasn’t enough dancing or believability to make me want to see it or the film ever again.

Dirty Dancing continues touring the UK until September

Speak It’s Name and Andrew Salgado

There’s two small exhibitions at Trafalgar Square right now. The National Portrait Gallery has Speak It’s Name, a quick filler for a blank wall that combines quotes and photos of seven LGB people. Three of them are Will Young, Tom Daley and Ben Whishaw. Their photos and quotes told me nothing. If you’re already in the gallery, mooch your way to view it but don’t make a stand alone trip.

Instead, head to Andrew Salgado‘s exhibition across the Square at the Canadian High Commission (the flags obviously tell you where to go). Ten features imposing, bigger than life-size portraits and mixed media paintings. They’re bold, colourful, textured, despairing and witty. My favourite pieces were 20 Years and The Joke (centre and right above). Each painting commands being appreciated and analysed up close alongside the detailed notes in the free exhibition leaflet. This is a must see if you’re by Trafalgar Square, whether you’ve got 20 minutes or 2 hours to spare.

Speak It’s Name is at the National Portrait Gallery until 29th October and has an accompanying book. Ten is at the Canadian High Commission until 27th February.

Next month I’m seeing Rent, Wicked and a special cinema screening of Broadway musical Newsies

#LGBTQProgress (Sunday 15th January)

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We’ve made it through mid-January and my resolve to ignore anything by The Sun or Mail is just about holding strong. I’ll find my news to get angry and gleeful about elsewhere, and keep blogging about it here every fortnight instead of weekly while I’m job-hunting (reader, please offer me a job). So here’s the first #LGBTQProgress round up for 2017.

Bills and blocks in Westminster

This week the UK’s Conservative government blocked the introduction of compulsory, inclusive sex and relationship education in all schools. Simon Hoare MP’s comments had dangerous echos of Section 28 which vaguely blocked schools from ‘promoting homosexuality’ throughout the 1990s. The rhetoric again insisted SRE reform was a personal priority for Justine Greening, the Education and Equalities Minister who is in a same-sex relationship. But I’d expect a partisan watering down of any reform, with a continued opt-out for faith schools. Click on Ryan John Butcher’s Twitter thread below for a succinct summary of why we need #SREnow.

See also the Turing Bill, successfully voted through Parliament on Wednesday. The bill will automatically pardon deceased men convicted under historic laws prohibiting homosexuality. It’s a watered down version of the same bill suggested by the SNP’s John Nicholson back in October. His version, which was filibustered by the Justice Secretary Sam Gyimah, would have automatically extended the pardon to those still living with the convictions.

 

There’s No Way I Can Ever, Ever Go

There were two big stories about American singers in the last fortnight, both of which ended well. Kim Burrell, an American gospel singer gained a new global recognition when her homophobic sermon went viral. She lost both her scheduled performance on Ellen and weekly radio show when refusing to make ‘excuses or apologies’ for her comments.

And this weekend Jennifer Holliday was prematurely confirmed as performing at an inauguration concert for the President-Elect. On Friday night she accepted the gig then 24 hours later apologised for her ‘lapse of judgement’, making it clear she’d heard her LGBT fans’ vocal opposition. Despite recent challenges by Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley, the original Effie White and Broadway Dreamgirl still owns the definitive version of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. I’d glad we can listen to it guilt free.

 

Fast forward Friday and march on to Saturday

This Friday, the President-Elect of the United States will be inaugurated. He’s already received a letter from 156 LGBT politicians and had the White House LGBT liaison wonder if their crucial role will be made redundant. The fight to protect rights isn’t just in Washington though as state governors and governments, including in Texas are already introducing anti-LGBTQ legislation. On Saturday (the first day of the new Presidency) I’m joining the Women’s March in London, one of nine in the UK and 370 taking place globally.

 

Catch up on Hayden Cross’ interview with Lorraine Kelly, talking about the transphobia that’s targeted him as Britain’s first pregnant man. Don’t catch on Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? Instead, read this review from Trans Media Watch and play Channel 4’s recent documentary.

 

New reading for the New Year

I’m consciously trying to broaden the voices that I listen. Eliel Cruz-Lopez’s new column, perfectly titled The Bi Line, looks set to be essential reading. Eliel, John Paul Brammer and Broderick Greer (who I once explained Lorraine Kelly to in G-A-Y) are my favourite queer American tweeters, always intersecting LGBTQ issues with race and religion. Their collective quips and analysis on American domestic politics is bound to guide me throughout 2017.

 

Pride pens at the ready

My top tip for surviving January: dream of rainbows. This week the UK Pride Organiser’s Network and Gay Times compiled a video listing almost all of the 90-something Pride events for 2017. My friend and UKPON joint-chair Steve Taylor wrote about why everyone needs to go. Watch the video, book your train tickets and I’ll see you in Hull.

Follow me on Twitter @JoeyKnock for more #LGBTQProgress stories throughout the week.

My Gay Agenda: 2016 review and 2017 preview

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At the start of June I started lapping up and looking out for queer culture and news, which turned out to be exactly the right time to escape the world. Then in October, I started blogging my reviews along with #LGBTQProgress news. So here’s a look back at what I’ve loved in 2016 (mainly since the summer) and what’s coming up in 2017. I know we’ll want to dive into culture and keep escaping the world this year too.

Books

There’s a commonality of desire and experience that any reader can relate to in Garth Greenwell’s astonishingly accomplished debut novel, What Belongs to You. The kind of modern literature that my Mum wouldn’t like for it’s lack of speech marks (and tales of cruising in Bulgarian bathrooms), it’s best read in one or two Sunday sofa afternoons rather than on the commute.

Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket: How To Be Happy and Gay is a breakthrough book showing how the shame of growing up gay in a heteronormative society undeniably feeds into a problematic scene of drinks, drugs, body shaming and racism. It’s weighty and wordy but ultimately life-affirming. I started seeing an LGBT counsellor when I finished reading it. Queer: A Graphic History by Meg John Barker and Julia Scheele was an equally revelatory and comprehensive read to me with it’s accessible introduction to queer theory. For a more leisurely, humour-led look at the gay scene today there’s North Morgan’s third novel Love Notes To Men Who Don’t Read.

I’m making 2017 the year I catch up on four Patrick Ness books still sitting on my shelf ahead of his next YA fiction Release in May. And two of my LGBT faith role models have new books: Rev Richard Cole’s second memoir came out at the end of 2016, with Vicky Beeching’s first book following later in year.

Music

I fell in love with Bright Light Bright Light (off stage he’s Rod from Wales) and his third album Choreography. My favourites from this homage to 1980s dance movies are Running Back to You, Into The Night and Where Is The Heartache. The Guardian nailed it calling him ‘painstakingly optimistic’: he’s a sheer joy to watch live.

I was backing Hear Them Calling by Iceland’s Greta Salome to win, but in the best ever Eurovision Song Contest (watch a reminder below) it didn’t make it out of the semi-finals. National song selections for ESC 2017 have already started. Britain’s entry will be decided by BBC Two viewers within 90 minutes on Friday 27th January, while Sweden’s six-week long Melodifestivalen starts a week later. I’m also long overdue hearing more of Tegan and Sara in 2017 than just Everything is Awesome and somehow I’ve not yet blessed my ears with Christine and the Queens.

Film and TV

My six-year old nephew can’t work out if my best friend is Tigger or Emmet so it’s no surprise my favourite films of 2016 were Zootropolis, Moana and Kubo and the Two Strings. All three are nominated for Best Animation at tonight’s Golden Globes, the opener of Awards season and that time of the year when there’s too many good films to see. I’m just wiping away my tears from seeing A Monster Calls (there’s Patrick Ness again). Musical La La Land opens this Thursday, 12th January and Moonlight which tells the story of a young gay black American follows on Oscars weekend itself, Friday 24th February.

There’s still time to watch Pride on iPlayer and another British film, The Pass in selected cinemas (presumably before a home video release later this year). Doctor Who spin-off Class (written by yes, Patrick Ness) is also free to watch on iPlayer until the Autumn. Landmark TV for 2017 will come from Dustin Lance Black’s drama When We Rise, tracking five decades of American LGBT activism. For a British history, look out for BBC documentaries to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, British Museum and National Trust are all marking the anniversary too.

Theatre

In August I met Aimee from the LGBTQ Arts Review blog, and confessed I hadn’t seen any LGBTQ theatre before. Two weeks later I changed that with The Chemsex Monologues by Patrick Cash. His follow-up The HIV Monologues featured the same depth of description, wit and authenticity and is playing in London again this winter. More powerful monologues and scenes came from After Orlando reflecting on the Pulse Orlando shooting. The big gay plays to get in your diary now are Strangers in Between, opening this week at the King’s Head Theatre and Angels in America from April at the National Theatre.

The big show I haven’t seen yet is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but as it’s the theatrical event of a lifetime, it’s sure to run and run and continue releasing more seats. The other big show (there are only two) opens in November. Hamilton tickets are on general sale from January 30th.

Musicals are my big theatre love. Even in the cheapest restricted view seats, Groundhog Day was phenomenal. Old favourite Sister Act, still touring, obviously fed my soul while Ghost is also unfortunately still touring. This month I’m off to see Dreamgirls, Dirty Dancing and Rent and I’m already eyeing up a return to Wicked and La Cage Aux Folles before Easter.

That’s a quiet year ahead for me. What films, shows, books and music are on your gay agenda for 2017? Comment below and tweet using #MyGayAgenda.

A huge hat tip to yesterday’s Guardian for their 2017 previews and February’s Attitude magazine.