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Rainbow Overboard: Carnival’s Faux Pas

12:21 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

A controversy broke out in queer social media yesterday — and just as quickly died down again.

A travel agency called Al and Chuck Travel chartered a cruise on a Carnival ship with special performances by some of the popular drag queen stars of the Reality TV program Ru-Paul’s Drag Race. Six days before departure, ticket holders received a letter from Carnival Vice-President Vicky Rey informing them that passengers would not be permitted to dress in drag. Daily Kos was among the many popular outlets which began to report the story:

So, essentially, Carnival has decided they like collecting gay people’s money by marketing to the community. But, if the gays’ ‘behavior affects the comfort and enjoyment of other [heterosexual, bigoted] guests,’ they’re kicked off the ship.

One passenger is understandably confused by the vague directive on what is appropriate behavior that will not disturb ‘the comfort and enjoyment of other guests.’ The gay experience is heterosexual people can be very easily disturbed by relatively minor things, he asks: ‘I’m worried that holding my partner’s hand could get a rise out of some parents… Will I be kicked off for that? What about a romantic kiss at dinner? This is awful!’

A fabulous drag queen

Are drag queens harmful to children? One Carnival employee thought so.

Perhaps worst of all, both of those perennial scapegoats — the need for security and the need to ‘think of the children’ — are cited in attempts to spin the situation.

I posted about this on my Facebook wall, where a former Carnival passenger cautioned against reacting hastily — she recalled a male partner of hers who routinely cross-dressed on goth subculture-themed cruises. Sure enough, by the end of the day Carnival caved to the intense social media pressure. Gay South Florida reports:

Carnival Cruise Lines of Miami has apologized to gay passengers on an upcoming drag cruise who were told Monday they would be kicked off the liner Glory if they cross-dressed in public.

“Anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so,” writes Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill, adding that any passengers who are still unhappy and choose not to travel will be given full refunds.

A mutual acquaintance brought Rogi Riverstone, the creator of the above video, to my attention because we were both talking about this story. Rogi makes the point that we need to hold Al and Chuck Travel responsible for how quickly they seemed willing to capitulate. Hours before the apology of Carnival’s president, Al and Chuck Travel were boasting of their gay activist cred in public statements (they’re strong supporters of Human Rights Campaign, those honored guests in Obama’s veal pen) and insisting that a ban on drag is necessary for security reasons in a “post 9-11 world.”

Riverstone retorts:

This has nothing to do with 9-11, it’s a load of crap. Genderqueers did not blow up any buildings. You may be a gay man, but you are obviously a cisgendered gay man, and identify with hetero binaries. In other words, Mary, you pass as one of them and you’re going to enforce an outdated, unhealthy and arbitrary dress code that requires people with penises to wear pants and people with vulvas to wear non-pants.

This is sick, this is toxic … Shove your Chick-Fil-A Cruise!

In the wake of the Chick-Fil-A controversy, there were calls to not just boycott that hateful brand but to organize days of appreciation for other corporate brands which were perceived as supportive. What began as Starbucks Appreciation Day ballooned into a day of support for other major corporations like Macy’s. It’s possible — even probable — that most of the employees and management of Carnival Cruise Lines are open-minded, queer-loving people but this incident reminds us that brand support is fragile. When corporations answer to their shareholders first and their ethics second, support for equality will only last as long as it is perceived to be profitable. After all, let’s not forget the example of Walter Mack and Pepsi.

The other lesson one might take away from this incident is a reminder that a segment of the LGBT population is still all too happy to throw the rest of the rainbow overboard to protect themselves.

Photo by Phillip Pessar under a Creative Commons license

Watercooler: Closeted 1%

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

It’s nice to see the Wall Street Journaltouching on the growing number of openly gay CEOs especially when they are up front about the stakes of being open in the workplace:

Some top executives are tiptoeing out of the closet about their sexuality. Many describe their coming-out experiences as unexpectedly painless—and most say they were met with overwhelming support.

Being gay in the corporate world is still far from being a “nonissue,” said Deena Fidas, deputy director of corporate programs at Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil-rights group in the U.S. Companies can still legally fire a worker for being gay in 29 states, for one, and many subtle biases remain in the workplace, according to the group.

Queer rights are of course really class rights. The top 1% of CEOs could undoubtedly survive being fired for queerness. Human Rights Campaign has sold out queer rights many times, acts like workplace rights themselves are a non-issue compared to marriage and certaily doesn’t deserve to be called a transgender civil-rights group.

What good is marriage if (some) worker can be fired for talking about your partner? That’s what’s on my mind tonight.

What’s on yours? This is the latest MyFDL open thread.

Austin Stonewall Rally & RiseAboveH8 Vigils

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For more of MyFDL’s coverage of OccuPride, see also Why Occupy Pride, Gay Crumbs from the Table of the Masters, and the Watercooler posts Pride, Pride Revisited and Vigil.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on MyFDL, unlike most cities Austin celebrates ‘official’ LGBTQ pride in September. However for the past two years the same organization which holds pride has honored the actual anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with a rally at the Texas State Capitol. A small contingent of the Occupy Austin OccuQueers attended last Thursday, bringing our new Stonewall Was a Riot banner along with fliers for OccupyJ4 (our own all-day Independence Day rally at the Capitol).

About 75 people gathered for the rally by the south steps of the Capitol. As members of the queer community recited the history of the day and read from first-hand accounts, it was hard not to compare the radical, angry nature of the original riots with the sedate, low energy rally. Though there may be valid complaints about Austin’s official queer pride events (such as their sponsorship by Wells Fargo), I can’t lay all the blame at their feet — in weather over a hundred degrees, it was hard to imagine much more revolutionary fervor from that crowd. It was still interesting to compare where we’d been (angry drag queens throwing pennies at police) with where we are now (long debates between nonviolent activist groups about the definition of nonviolence), for better or worse.

For me the highlight of the rally was a drag show with about a dozen drag queens. It may have been a historic occasion — possibly the first every drag show at the Texas Capitol. Just as importantly, it was a gesture by Austin’s Pride organizers that they aren’t trying to whitewash the history of pride, as has often been the case with other events (or groups like Human Rights Campaign and their anti-transgender stances).

There was an even bigger sense of community — and I believe a bigger turn out — the following day for a vigil for Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin, the two victims of a shooting in Portland, Texas, one of two dozen vigils organized across North America by Get Equal TX. Mollie Olgin died at the scene, but her girlfriend Mary Kristene Chapa remains in the hospital without health insurance, though she has recovered consciousness, motion to one side of her body, and memory of the night of the shooting. In Austin, our numbers filled City Hall steps and spilled over beyond.

Two occupiers in rainbow clothing hold a banner, "Stonewall Was a Riot."

Two members of the OccupyAustin OccuQueers 'Rainbowbloc' at the Austin Stonewall Rally (Photo: @OccuQueers, used with permission).

This rally was an opportunity for the queer community to draw together in our grief, to send not just supportive energy, but also comforting notes, gifts, and financial support to the survivors of this tragedy. We set up a small altar; it began with a stuffed animal and some lights and ended the night covered in signs, flowers, glowing LED lights and other gifts as each of the dozens in attendance visited it to pray, reflect, or meditate on the events. I choked up a little when I saw a sign reading “Your Austin Family Loves You” surrounded by glowing offerings. That was hardly the only moment that tugged on our hearts — I was not the only one with tears in my eyes as Michael Diviesti led the vigil in singing (see video above) or when event organizer Amanda Williams and gay dad Paul Rodriguez‘s voices quavered with emotion as they compared Kristine & Mollie to their own children.

Though police still say there is no sign that sexual orientation provoked the killer, we all have to join together against crimes that are so hateful, regardless of whether they qualify as hate crimes. At the end of the night, the girls’ relatives and friends seemed deeply moved as we helped them fill bags with our gifts — moved by the outpouring of loving, grieving, unified energy as much as by anything physical we’d given.

Visit Approximately 8,000 Words for more photos from these events.