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Archive for February 2010

Olympic Pride House: Whistler readies for WinterPride

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You might think that after three solid weeks of welcoming the world’s LGBT Olympic-goers, Pride House’s Dean Nelson and Ken Coolen would retire to a chalet some place and rest.

There was a new piece of furniture in Whistler Pride House today: a registration desk for WinterPride!

Actually, the Olympic Pride House was just the kick-off to an even bigger party for them:  Whistler WinterPride. It kicks off Monday and runs through to March 8th.

Already, gays from all over North America are starting to turn up here, ready to take over the mountains just as soon as Lindsay Vonn has packed her bags.

As if setting up Pride House wasn’t enough work, Dean and Ken have organized a full menu of WinterPride events, from wine-tastings, beer tours and zip line treks to the usual compliment of decadent parties–including the annual mountain–top Snow Ball.

I bid a sad farewell to the guys yesterday, as that would be my last visit to Pride House on behalf of OutQ.  However, I might be back sooner than expected.  That Bubbles and Boobies spa day sounds awfully tempting.

Oh, and by the way, Pride House plans to stay open during the Paralympic Games March 12-21.

Click here to read the rest of this entry and to read more about Stephen Colbert’s visit to Pride House.
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Written by heatherkitching

February 28, 2010 at 10:37 AM

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Olympic Pride House: Tewksbury talks gay athletes

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Ever since Pride House opened its doors on February 8th, the big question has been:  would any Olympic athletes actually stop by and out themselves as members of our ‘team’?

I decided to ask Mark Tewksbury what life is really like for gay Olympians and where a visit to Pride House might fall on their list of priorities.

Mark is an openly gay swimmer who won the gold medal in the men’s 100 meter backstroke at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  He also won a silver medal in Seoul as part of the Canadian relay team.  Mark credits his gold medal swim to the empowerment he was feeling at the Barcelona Games-the result of having come out to his coach just months earlier and having received her support.  He came out publicly at the end of 1998 and was most recently on the board of the 2006 Montreal Out Games.  He has been in Vancouver all week, hosting events and doing media interviews in support of Pride House.

Me talking to Mark Tewksbury in the lobby of the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre (photo by Dean Nelson)

OutQ:  All the Olympic athletes must know who you are and know that you’re gay.  Have any Olympic athletes ever reached out to you and said, “Listen, I need to talk to you about what’s going on with me”?

Mark:  Sure, on a very private, intimate level and not wanting to be talked about publicly.  For sure, there’s been lots of people that have come out. And some surprising ones.  I never would’ve thought that this person was a lesbian or this person was a gay man, and it’s been great.  It’s been nice to have that and just to sort of empathize with them and feel their pain a little bit. Unfortunately, many of them still aren’t ready to make that public declaration and really integrate their life fully, and I respect people’s choice. I’m never one to push people past a point that they’re comfortable with. I think that to be a really good gay role model or lesbian role model, you have to be ready to do it, and no fair to put that banner on somebody that isn’t comfortable in their own skin yet.

Click the link below to read the rest of this interview and to read about the gay artist behind the Olympic medals.
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Written by heatherkitching

February 27, 2010 at 3:16 PM

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Olympic Pride House: Russia 2014?

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It’s getting hard to find time to sleep here in Vancouver these days with all the Pride House activities going on.  Tonight’s main event was a debut screening of Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, which, as it happens, stars Whistler Pride House coordinator Ken Coolen.  When not Pride Housing, Coolen is the parade director for Vancouver’s Pride Parade, and the film follows him as he visits Pride events around the world–from the mammoth, societally-sanctioned celebrations of Toronto and São Paolo to the violent confrontations of Poland and Russia. (Click here to see the trailer)

The panelists l-r: former Olympic volleyball coach Betty Baxter, Pride House's Ken Coolen and Beyond Gay director Bob Christie

The footage from Russia–which shows an organizer being beaten by an angry mob–was a sobering wake-up call to those who have been challenging Russia to host a Pride House at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Panelists who discussed the topic after the film shared the following thoughts:

A little comment about Russia:  In 2007, a whole bunch of international people went to Pride to try and have a Pride there, and it got lots of press and lots of people showed up, and it became very violent, and many people got arrested and punched in the face, and a lot of the Moscow queer community were really angry.  Nikolai (Moscow Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev)  isn’t actually the most loved person in Moscow because he’s a shit disturber, and people just want to live their quiet gay lives and not have to be put on the line. They feel that he draws attention to them in a way they don’t want.

So when we think about 2014 in Sochi, I like Ken’s idea of having it within Canada House, because I don’t think there’s a community there that’s ready for a Pride House as we know it, and I think it would be unfair to expect Russian people to put themselves in that position at this time. Nikolai’s unwavering and determined, so things will happen for sure, but we have to be careful with our own ideas about how things should be and not try to put them somewhere else where they don’t necessarily belong.

–Bob Christie, director of Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride

Click the link below to read the rest of this entry and to read more about Pride House’s gay nude hockey sculpture Slapshotolus.
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Written by heatherkitching

February 26, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Posted in Sports

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Cyndi Lauper’s LGBT youth housing breaks ground in NYC

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A New York housing facility for the homeless has broken ground on a new project – a residence for troubled LGBT young adults, conceived by singer and gay rights activist Cyndi Lauper.

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Written by OutQ News staff

February 26, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Posted in Youth

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Olympic Pride House: Staff stand up for Johnny Weir at press conference

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Pride House Whistler held a news conference yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) in an effort to continue to raise its profile at the Olympics–particularly in light of the homophobic comments made about figure skater Johnny Weir by a pair of Canadian broadcasters.

Much of the event, which took place at the Whistler Conference Centre, involved reintroducing Pride House and recapping the issues facing gays in sport  for the benefit of media who hadn’t already been following along.

When it came time for questions, however, talk turned to Weir and the remarks made about him on the French language Canadian television network RDS.

Commenting on Weir’s free skate, RDS reporters Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot criticized Weir’s perceived femininity, both in dress and style, and said he set a bad example in figure skating.

Jennifer Birch-Jones of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport responded saying:

Caryl Dolinko of Interpride and Jennifer Birch-Jones of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport

“I certainly was sad that it was a Canadian broadcaster, because I think in Canada we pride ourselves on our culture of acceptance, and certainly our legal framework. But I think it reminds us again that, just because we have a legal framework and have the rights and entitlements, does not mean we are free from discrimination and homophobic comments. I think it’s disrespectful to the athletes.  I think it’s also disrespectful to women–the feminization comments and all that.”

Birch-Jones added, however, “The good news is that it was only two broadcasters, and there are many more here, so I think that we need to look at the positive side as well.”

Click the link below to read the rest of this entry and to read about skeleton gold medalist Jon Montgomery’s visit to Pride House
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Written by heatherkitching

February 25, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Olympic Pride House: Movie night addresses homophobia in sport

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Openly gay Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury opened Tuesday’s Pride House movie night by saying that he never imagined he’d still be talking about homophobia in sport in 2010.  He said that ten years ago, he figured there would be tons of out gay athletes by now.  Instead, here he is still talking.

Tewksbury introduced the two films screened at Pride House’s movie night last night.

Michele Aboro is the subject of the documentary A Knock Out, which explores how image trumps talent in professional boxing

The first was Tessa Boerman and Samuel Reiziger’s film A Knock Out, which tells the story of world champion boxer Michele Aboro, who is dropped by her promoter despite a perfect 21-0 record because she was deemed “unpromotable.”  The film explores how Aboro, a mixed race lesbian from South London, rose up from an underprivileged background to make it big in sport only to realize that sometimes, image counts more than talent.  Her story is juxtaposed against that of wildly successful German pro boxer Regina Halmich, a blond-haired beauty who poses for Playboy, does press conferences in her underwear, and models for vampy photo shoots.

Jennifer Harris (front) finally brings down homophobic coach Rene Portland in Training Rules

Jennifer Harris (front) takes homophobic coach Rene Portland to court in Training Rules.

The second film was Dee Mosbacher’s Training Rules, about the highly-publicized case of Penn State women’s basketball coach Rene Portland. For close to 30 years, Portland maintained a well-documented policy of booting lesbian athletes off her team-until she was finally taken to court in 2006 by star player Jennifer Harris.  Training Rules tracks down several of Portland’s former team members, who relay heartbreaking tales of harassment and repression.  It also explores the powerful influences at play in sport that allowed Portland to continue coaching for years, even after the University passed a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy in 1992.

To read the rest of this entry and see more photos from Pride House, click the link below.
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Written by heatherkitching

February 24, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Obama health measure omits gay people

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Prospects for including pro-gay provisions in federal health care reform legislation took another blow this week as President Obama unveiled his version of health care reform. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OutQ News staff

February 23, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Posted in Health, Legislation, White House

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Think Tank Study: Integrate gays into military quickly

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Gays in the military think-tank The Palm Center on Tuesday released a study of how foreign militaries integrated openly gay men and women into the forces – and why they all did it quickly. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OutQ News staff

February 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Olympic Pride House: Photos of out athletes on display

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There’s more to look at at Pride House Whistler than just the TV screens and the handsome hosts.  The place is filled with original art work, from Gilbert Baker’s rainbow paintings to Edmund Haakonson’s nude hockey player, Slapshotolus.

There’s also Jeff Sheng’s photo exhibit Fearless, a collection of photographs of out LGBT high school and college athletes.  Jeff launched the exhibit this weekend at both locations of Pride House.  You can see a number of the photos on the wall at Pride House Whistler.

Here are some excerpts of a conversation I had with Jeff:

Jeff Sheng stands in front of some of his photos at Pride House Whistler

OutQ:  How did you get the idea to photograph out gay athletes?

Jeff:  I was a closeted athlete in high school.  I played tennis fairly competitively, and I quit the sport in college because of my perceived homophobia that I felt from my potential teammates from my college tennis team. I met more athletes who had a lot of similar homophobic stories to share who were closeted or coming out, and I decided that, in 2003, I’d begin this photo project on out high school and college athletes.

OutQ:  When you say that you perceived homophobia in tennis, what was it that made you feel like it wasn’t safe for you to come out?

Jeff:  There would always be things said about other people who were perceived to be gay.  In high school, for instance, a rival tennis coach had mannerisms that many people would associate with being gay–even though I know they’re blatant stereotypes.  And the tennis team in high school made so much fun of him that the coach of our team told us to stop.  There was also a senior when I was a freshman on the high school tennis team who came out, and we made fun of him so much that he quit the team.

One of the images from Fearless

OutQ: You made fun of him?

Jeff:  Yeah. I mean, that’s part of the story too.  When you’re 14 or 15 years old, and you’re a freshman in high school, you often times do things just because you think they’re cool or other people on the other team-seniors, juniors-lead, and you follow their example, whether it’s good or bad.

OutQ: So is this project a bit of repentance for you then?

Jeff:  Yes, very much so.  It’s repentance in many ways.  One is that I very much regret quitting the sport.  That was a decision I made in my life that I look back on and wish I hadn’t done.  And the other is yes, the fact that, when I was younger, I wasn’t able to come out in high school. I came out in college, so I was never an out competitive high school or collegiate athlete.  In many ways this photo project is trying to capture these heroes of mine that I very much look up to.

OutQ: How did you find out gay athletes?

Jeff: It was really hard.  The first year of the project, in 2003, I sent out mass emails to any organization–colleges, universities, high schools.  I got very few responses.  I finally was able to photograph maybe 10 athletes in 2004, five athletes in 2005, and it felt like the project wasn’t going anywhere.  In 2006, I started exhibiting the project at high schools and colleges around the country.  More and more campuses started inviting me to their schools.  And slowly, as the project got more buzz and reputation, I got more athletes to volunteer.

To read the rest of the interview and see more photos, click the link below.

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Written by heatherkitching

February 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Olympic Pride House: Government throws a party for the gays …

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…and the Olympic president lets the crowd know he’s one of us

Friday appeared to be unofficial “throw a party for the gays day” here at the Olympics in Vancouver. Pride House organizers took leave of their posts for the night and went out to celebrate at not one, but two parties for the gay community.

The main event was an invitation-only party at B.C. Canada House, celebrating (to quote the invitation) “the vibrancy of B.C.’s diverse LGBT community.”

According to amateur Olympic historian Charley Walters of Olympics or Bust, this one goes down in history as the first time a government has thrown an Olympic party for the gay community.

People were just starting to arrive around 8.

The space filled up quickly.

Philip Steenkamp speaks to the crowd.

The speaker was none other than Philip Steenkamp, president and CEO of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic games.

Steenkamp began his remarks by thanking his partner, saying, “He is a true Olympic widow. I really want to thank him for all the support that he’s given me.”

He then informed the crowd, “If you go down to the harbor now, you will see that the Olympic rings are glowing a hot pink.”

Asked later why he felt it was important to hold a party specially for the LGBT community, he replied:

“We’re wanting to showcase Vancouver and British Columbia and Canada, and the LGBT community’s a vibrant part of our society here.  Really we want to celebrate our diversity and the tolerance of our culture and also showcase ourselves to the world.  There’s also kind of a business imperative here.  Gay tourism is worth 60 billion dollars in the U.S., so there’s some good business networking that can occur.  But aside from that, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate those Canadian values of tolerance and diversity and what creates such strength in our culture here.”

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Written by heatherkitching

February 20, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Posted in Sports

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