Gay Marriage in South America

By Katelyn Bidondo.

Gay marriage in South America – sounds like an oxymoron, right? Gay marriage on a continent that is primarily Catholic – one would think that the two couldn’t go
together, but you’d be surprised. In July of 2010, Argentina became the first
county in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. On a recent study abroad trip
to Argentina, I was surprised to learn that not only is gay marriage legal, but that there was such a strong sense of acceptance.

I was even more surprised to see the “Marcha del Orgullo Gay” (Gay Pride) was held in Plaza de Mayo, directly in  front of Argentina’s equivalent to the White House, La Casa Rosada.

La march del orgullo gay in front of La Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires Argentina.

La march del orgullo gay in front of La Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires Argentina.

 

My roommate, Shelby, and I on the float during the parade.

My roommate, Shelby, and I on the float during the parade.

To me, this speaks volumes to level of acceptance of the LGBTQIA community in Argentina. It is truly inspiring. I went to gay pride with my roommate, and I have to say it was one of the best experiences of time abroad. We even got to ride of the first float of the parade!

 

 

 

This experience led me to wonder how the rest of South America views gay marriage. This curiosity could not have come at a better time. Last week, Uruguay’s senate approved gay marriage. This makes Uruguay the second South American nation and  12th country  in the world to legalize gay marriage. With further research, I have found that many other South American countries are allowing for civil unions and are slowly recognizing the partnerships. But, like here in the United States, progress take time and a lot of hard work.

Photos from Katelyn Bidondo.

Rutgers Coaches and Administrator Fired After Multiple Incidents

By Andrea Fowler.

Mike Rice, head coach of men’s basketball at Rutgers University, was fired Wednesday after video was broadcast on ESPN documenting Rice’s abuse of his players. Debate about Rice’s future at the university has surrounded the program since his behavior was first reviewed in December of last year. According to a written statement from Tim Pernetti, Director of Intercollegiate Activities, “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong.” In the last five days, Pernetti and assistant coach, Jimmy Martelli, have also been fired. Several dozen faculty members called on the administration to oust all those with knowledge of this abusive behavior.

Not only was Rice’s behavior (hurling basketballs from close range at players, grabbing and shoving players) under investigation, but he was also cited for inappropriate language, including sexist and homophobic slurs. According to the report by Don van Natta Jr. on ESPN’s website, Rice called Rutgers players “f—-ts,” “m—–f—–s,” “p—–s,” “sissy b—–s,” and “c—s,” to name just a few. At least three players have recently transferred from the team. A report from the Newark Star-Ledger reported earlier this week that two additional players planned to leave at the end of the semester.

This type of behavior by coaches is certainly nothing new. And this behavior exists to varying degrees at levels. Is it necessary to tear players down in order to build them up to greatness? And is every player destined to go professional? How many young athletes quit because they cannot handle this kind of “leadership?” And do these coaches realize that they are encouraging an environment of hate by using sexist and bigoted language? Players who do not measure up physically are considered effeminate. It’s a safe assumption that a men’s coach probably hasn’t watched a collegiate women’s basketball game recently. These women are tough, dedicated, and just as physically capable. Universities are showing that this behavior will be tolerated, especially when it gets the desired winning record. Those wins did not come for Rutgers under Rice’s tenure.

There is no excuse or justification for sexist and bigoted language and violence in any situation, let alone an environment that is supposed to be educational. It would be naïve to think that college athletes are attending classes just earn a degree and that they just happen to play a sport on the side. The phrase “student athlete” is a misnomer. Colleges and universities driven by the economic impact of their athletic programs are beholden to the tried and true adage “the ends justify the means.”

This is not the first time that Rutgers has found itself at the center of a media storm regarding homophobic behavior. In September 2009, freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after being harassed by his roommate and other students. Upon the discovery that Clementi was gay, his roommate, Dharun Ravi, shared video of an intimate encounter between Clementi and another man. Ravi was ultimately sentenced to 30 days in jail, but was not held legally responsible for Clementi’s death.

Tyler Clementi inspired New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” and helped state lawmakers pass the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation, which Governer Chris Christie signed into law in January 2011. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) have renewed their efforts in Congress to pass the “Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.” This bill is designed to prohibit the harassment of enrolled students by other students, faculty, and staff.

Recently, ESPN Films 30 for 30 aired “Survive and Advance,” directed by Jonathan Hock, documenting Jim Valvano’s incredible 1983 championship run with NC State. On clear display throughout the entire film was Valvano’s ability to reach his players and inspire greatness and teamwork through the family environment he created. Valvano may only have one championship to his name, but he left behind a legacy that a coach like Mike Rice could never even dream of. Mike Krzyzewski and Phil Jackson have frequently demonstrated that the highest goals can be met through hard work, dedication, and the right approach to the game – not through calling players names and physically assaulting them.

The Vagina Monologues: A gay man’s perspective

By Joseph Salazar.

IMG_7786I’m what the LGBTQ community calls a “Gold-Star Gay”. In other words, I’ve never been in any sort of romantic situation with a woman. Practically speaking, this means my experience with female anatomy is limited. Furthermore, I’ve never learned about vaginas in school. The Vagina Monologues, performed by students at UMKC on Thursday, March 7, was a very positive learning experience.

Before watching the performance, the vagina was, to me, a very mysterious place. Largely, this was because I was almost totally uneducated about female anatomy. However, in another respect, the vagina was mysterious simply because it was different than the anatomy I am used to seeing. Unlike a penis, the vagina is an internal organ. With a penis, what you see is what you get. Vaginas, as one performer put it, have layers upon layers upon layers. And when you have no idea what those layers entail, it’s terrifying.

After watching the performance, I can now say I know a little bit more about what those layers entail. I know what a clitoris is (and that it’s the only organ part of the human body that is designed purely to produce pleasure).  Unfortunately, I still have no idea what a labia is. And I’m still unsure as to what a clitoris looks like. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?

IMG_7753The most interesting thing about watching The Vagina Monologues was learning about how some straight men feel about vaginas. The monologue that sticks out most to me is the monologue in which an older woman from New York talks about her first kiss—it details how a woman’s first kiss goes wrong when she starts “flooding” unexpectedly. For the woman in the play, the young man’s negative reaction to her physiological response to his kiss is devastating. She closes up her vagina for good. My thoughts on hearing this sad, yet humorously performed story were full of questions, “Don’t straight men like vaginas? Don’t straight men like sex? Do straight men prefer artificial lube to the real deal?” To be brutally honest, the flooding is what I had always envied about women—for gays, preparing for sex can be an hours-long ordeal; women may come ready to perform.

 

Another aspect of the monologues that really startled me was how many of the characters revealed they had never seen their own vagina. The monologues being my first impression about women and female anatomy may have created the inaccurate impression in my mind that this is a common phenomenon. Even if it is nowhere near common, however, the play forced me to think about why any woman would never see her own vagina. I was shocked to hear characters express feelings of disgust about their own bodies in a heart-wrenching, shocking, and thought-provoking manner. In my mind, I contrasted this experience of women to the experience of men in a locker room, where the penis is celebrated as the physical manifestation of one’s masculinity and, in turn, worthiness.

IMG_7834In the end, The Vagina Monologues did not leave me with near as many answers as it did questions. In that respect, the performance was a success—the performance got me to think about things I had previously been totally unaware about, namely, the sometimes negative way women and straight men feel about vaginas. I want to know more about why women and straight men feel the way they do about vaginas. The shocking statistics offered by the performers about female genital mutilation and other forms of sexual and physical violence also made me more interested in learning about the ways in which I can do more to end violence against women. I feel more enlightened about women’s issues and how female anatomy relates to those issues than before the performance; the performance was a very rewarding experience.

Violence is violence, isn’t it?

By Joseph Salazar

Photo by DionGillard

Photo by DionGillard

Gays, like women, suffer from domestic violence at the hands of intimate partners. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an organization that “empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and support survivors through counseling and advocacy,” documented 19 cases of homicides committed in same-sex or transgender intimate relationships in the year 2011 alone. Of those 19 cases of homicide, 63% of victims were gay men.  The collation also found that 61.6% of survivors of violence in the LGBTQ community were denied access to shelter and other survivor resources.

Members of the House of Representatives taking up the Violence Against Women Act have called protection for LGBTQ victims a “side issue” that should be addressed separately, given that our federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships.

Photo by AnnieCatBlue

Photo by AnnieCatBlue

But that’s not entirely true. Already, the Violence Against Women Act serves women who are in relationships not federally sanctioned by the federal government, namely women who are in relationships that are not categorized as ‘marriage’. The idea behind the Violence Against Women Act is that women who have been victims of violence in intimate relationships should have access to resources they need, regardless of marital status or circumstance.

The version of the Violence Against Women Act passed by the Senate expands this principle to include men. The idea behind the expansion is simple: Violence is violence. And it’s wrong. Period. One’s gender does not make surviving domestic violence easier or harder. The exclusion of gays from protection in the Violence Against Women Act recently passed by the House is a troubling political tactic with an illogical rationale.

Violence should never be protected because it is politically popular to allow violence to happen to a minority group. Allowing victims of domestic violence to receive access to invaluable services isn’t an endorsement of a lifestyle. It’s not going to lead to the destruction of the American family. It simply allows for gay men to get the same resources as straight and lesbian women receive. However you feel about homosexuality, we should all be able to agree that any step towards the protection of people’s lives is a positive one. The House of Representatives should send that message to the American people and the world when they take up the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act once more.

Intimate partner violence should never be a “side-issue”.

In Case You Missed It

By Joseph Salazar.

The semester is in full swing. Take a quick break to catch up on some news items that you might have missed in the past week.

“First lingerie line for transgender women launches”

T-Strings are the fashion industries response to the lingerie needs of transgender women. Along with T-Strings, Chrysalis Lingerie will be launching a bra line with built in-silicon inserts that appeals to both women who are transgender and women who are not transgender but have received mastectomies. The new fashion line intended to make all women feel beautiful launches this spring.

 

“Senate poised to renew Violence Against Women Act”

7218014214_fb1a366f4e_tThe Senate is expected reauthorize the Violence Against Women act with new protections for gays and lesbians. Additionally, the legislation will allow Native courts on American Indian reservations to try perpetrators of crimes against women on Native land. Immigrant women married to abusers are also to receive new protections under the new law.

 

“More mammograms mean more problems for older women, study finds”3721951306_edbca985b7_t

Women should receive mammograms only once every 2 years and only between the ages of 50 and 74, a new study has found. Recent research published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims that women who receive mammograms once or more per year are more likely to receive false positive diagnoses. The study also found that receiving a mammogram every year does not reduce the chance of being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.

 

“For Women, Reduced Access to Long-Term Care Insurance”

Women who are seeking out insurance that will allow them to receive long-term care, either in a nursing home or at home, will soon be paying as much as 40% more than men in premiums. Companies justify the changes by arguing that women are much more likely to cash out on the benefits than men are. The changes come at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get long-term care insurance in the first place.

 

“Heart Disease: Women Can Miss the Warning Signs”

Women may experience different and easier to miss signs of heart disease. The confusion occurs because women often attribute warning signs to something else. This is because, for women, a heart-attack can feel similar to flu-like symptoms or dull pain.

 

“Funding: There’s a New Source for Women Entrepreneurs”

Astia Angel LogoAstia Angel is a new group looking to invest in women-led startup companies that have the potential to grow. The group, already known for providing business opportunities to women-led businesses over the past 14 years, is now starting an “angel” project that will connect women with investors interested in companies that are led by women. Startup companies led by women are much more likely to succeed than male-led companies and receive a very small slice of the pie in terms of investment.

 

“African-American women have played role in every war effort in U.S. history, research shows”5968195557_5f916edbda_t
Since black women were promised freedom if they served as spies in the Revolutionary War, they have been an integral part of fighting for America. During the Civil War, Harriett Tubman served as a spy and Cathy Williams, a former slave at a Missouri plantation, served for two years in the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment, passing as a man. Celebrate Black History Month by reading more about this story.

 

“Women In Combat Favored By Most Voters: Poll”

6891996935_6c71260946_t75% of respondents in a poll found no problem with women serving in combat positions in the military. Women and men support the new Department of Defense policy equally. About 59% of men and 45% of women also support including women in the military draft if it were to be reinstated.

 

“Robin Roberts to return to ‘Good Morning America’ on Feb. 20”GOOD MORNING AMERICA - ROBIN ROBERTS GM08 (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute )

Breast cancer survivor and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts will be returning to the airwaves on February 20. The popular morning host had been on leave for treatment of a rare blood disorder.

 

 

Awareness in the LGBTQ Community

By Ellen Parsons

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and here at the Women’s Center we have several projects going on to help raise awareness of the severity of the issue- including the “I’m Anti Violence…” Photo Campaign during LGBT History Month. This campaign seeks to raise awareness of violence against LGBTQ people, which  is oftentimes overlooked or thought as nonexistent when the topic of domestic violence is brought up.

Pride photo by infomatique on Flickr

The statistics on domestic violence against LGBTQ people can be quite shocking: according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, rates of domestic violence for gay men couples mirror that of domestic violence against women and the statistics. In one year, 44% of victims in LGBTQ domestic violence cases identified as men and 36% identified as women. It is estimated that 50% of lesbians will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In addition, 78% of lesbians report that they have either defended themselves from or fought back against an abusive partner. Statistics on those who are transgender are even harder to find on the topic of domestic violence (as are any statistics on LGBTQ who are not primarily middle class, white, etc.) and the best summary I can find on the topic can be found here.

With this said, abuse against LGBTQ people is similar to, yet different from that of non-LGBTQ people. In addition to the physical, sexual, emotion, and financial abuse that can take place in relationships, one can use the others identity status against them by threatening to “out them” in social circles they do not want to come out to. LGBTQ people have to worry, further, about how police officers, teachers, counselors, and other service providers (who are often not trained to deal with this kind of thing) will react. The lack of coverage on this topic may make LGBTQ people think that what is happening is not abuse, and oftentimes LGBTQ people with children may have to worry about their children being taken away by the courts if they are forcibly outed by reporting. In addition, transgender people oftentimes are excluded from shelters that are oftentimes male and female based, so they may be denied access due to their gender status.

All of this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talking about domestic violence in the LGBTQ community. I find it really unfortunate that the conservation around domestic violence often revolves solely around middle class, heterosexual, white women. As I mentioned before, domestic violence is not just an issue for one group of people, it affects all of us.

Want to show that you are “Anti-Violence?” Come partake in the Women’s Center “I’m Anti Violence…” Photo Campaign During LGBT History Month this October.

For more information and to keep updated, be sure to visit and ‘like’ the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project!

Leave Your Lipstick At Home

By Courtney Neaveill

“Gwyneth Paltrow lipstick lesbian”: Google that and you will get over two pages of results – all of which reference a recent interview that Ms. Paltrow gave with Harpaar’s Bizarre. The 39 year old film star mentioned her daughter’s affinity for pink, ruffled clothes and remarked that IF her daughter were a lesbian she would be a ‘lipstick lesbian’ – as opposed to a ‘butch’ lesbian.  So now you may be thinking, ‘what the hell is that?’ Definition incoming! The most popular description on UrbanDictionary.com, defines the lipstick lesbian as “a feminine lesbian who is attracted to other feminine lesbians. They generally enjoy fashion, flowers, perfume, sex and the city, lingerie, lipstick of course, and (gasp!) passionate sex with other women.” The authors at Wikipedia expand on their similar definition of a LL by adding “most female same-sex sex scenes in mainstream pornography [portray women] this way.”  I take issues with this designation.  It’s as if people are saying “ok- now that we know what she is, we’ll know more appropriately how to deal with her.” I think of scientists uncovering a new species of animal or better yet, Jack Hannah. “Hey everyone, how’r  ya’ll doin – I’m Jungle Jack Hanna and on today’s episode we’ll be looking for the allusive Lipstick Lesbian.” What about the lesbian who does not fit into the nicely outlined “lipstick” category – is she butch by default? Is there no such thing as a normal, everyday lesbian? I’ll admit when I first heard the term lipstick lesbian I was amused – but does this label serve a purpose or is it damaging to the gay and lesbian community?

The people over at Belladonna.org not only find lipstick classification necessary but they also commit an entire section of their website in support of feminine lesbians. The claim is that they are unidentifiable by appearance and therefore need a support community where they can find tips on how to navigate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), dating and social scene. “Since we “don’t look like Lesbians”, other Lesbians don’t recognize us, which means we are often excluded from the united front. (Also, we don’t get asked out.)” This makes sense. In 1998, the Village Voice published an article in which they addressed the lipstick lesbian phenomenon.  According to the article, after series like the L Word, Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy portrayed lesbians in a more feminine light, lesbians no longer felt obligated to wear Doc Martens and rainbow colored jewelry but instead ventured to strut around in designer clothes and high heels.  Executive producer and director of L Word, Ilene Chaiken, feels that lesbians are liberated by the increasing social acceptance of the feminine lesbian.

“I think that we all need representation, we need aspirational figures, and it’s a positive thing for girls growing up to look at a TV show and say: ‘Oh, so that’s a lesbian, and she can be successful and wear glamorous clothes. Feeling that I might be gay doesn’t relegate me to some dark corner of society.’ “

Sociologist and professor, Jane Ward, calls this “’an echo effect’: The media prefers images of beautiful women, so lesbians put energy into being pretty, and then the media reports that image as the new ideal. “It’s the same way that heterosexual femininity is packaged and sold to female consumers.” Lesbians are therefore more palatable to the media-crazed, consumer public.

So which is it – have lesbians been forced by the general public into acting and dressing more feminine or have they been liberated by lipstick and high heels? I think it is a matter of both social pressure and personal expression. Either way, it is not a very flattering reflection of U.S. American social culture when public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow keyhole people into such inescapable categories. Actress Portia de Rossi once quipped “Everyone is their own kind of lesbian. To think there’s a certain way to dress or present yourself in the world is just one more stereotype we have to fit into.”  We should not be persuaded to make the distinction between two potentially harmful clichés; the ‘lipstick’ and the ‘butch’ lesbian.  Why is it anyway that lipstick lesbians receive the special feminine treatment? One of the most beautiful expressions of femininity is the deep love and affection that one woman can have for her female friend, partner or lover; with or without lipstick.

Did You Miss These?


A trailer for the film “The Invisible War” about sexual assault in the military.

Gloria Steinem talks about feminism and women and aging at the TEDx Women event.

The plan to allow Plan B to be available to anyone regardless of age is blocked.

Amnesty International released some facts and figures about violence against women.

The International Women’s Media Foundation releases a Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media.

Secretary Hillary Clinton talked about LGBT human rights in Geneva.

House Republications push a bill to ban abortions based on the sex or race of the fetus.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) does a two part series on the Penn State sexual assaults and how it can be used to teach about bystander intervention.