Category Archives: LGBT

“The Danish Girl”

a review by John Wilson

The Danish Girl (2015, 1 hr. 59 min., directed by Tom Hooper) is a mesmerizing, moving account of how transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (originally Einar Wegener) came to be one of the first persons known to have gender reassignment surgery. Adapted from David Ebershoff’s 2000 fictionalized novel, it features Eddie Redmayne’s amazing performance as Einar. He discovers who he really is, and transitions into Lili. Alicia Vikander, as Einar/Lili’s wife, is brilliant in her almost equally demanding role, at times becoming the central focus.

The film is mainly situated in a lush, 1920’s middle class Copenhagen where Einar is a celebrated landscape artist. Wife Gerda is also an artist. She fights for recognition – until she starts painting the emerging Lili as a femme fatale, which started with a whimsical, half-joking sitting by Einar for her as a female model.

But for him this is the start of his self-realization as Lili.

Lili endures horrific experiences consulting with “experts” in the biased and prejudiced medical system who are determined to “cure” her, or banish her to a psychiatric facility. Then she meets Dr. Warnekros (Sebastian Koch) who proposes what he candidly described as experimental and risky gender reassignment surgery. Of all the doctors, only he seems to have a sympathetic understanding of what she is going through. (Since Lili, who was raised in a context of relative class privilege, suffered such difficulty, can we imagine how truly impossible would be the situation of a transgender person born to a working class family?)

Gerda is steadfast in her love and support for Lili – despite being very conflicted and confused by a process she knows will lead to her losing her husband.

In short, this film is well worth seeing. It comes at a time when transgender issues are finally gaining prominence – thanks to decades of LGBTQ activism. Despite ongoing challenges of medical access, the cost of surgery, and persisting prejudice, in Canada and elsewhere real gains are being made. In revolutionary Cuba, the treatment is free. We should note, though, that with all the attention that this film is deservedly getting, other pioneering films, such as Transamerica, are being overlooked.

Queer Liberation through Socialist Revolution!

Warmest solidarity greetings from Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste for Pride Week 2015.  We celebrate the growth of queer liberation internationally.  The latest victory is the spectacular referendum win for same sex couples on May 22 in Ireland.  62.1% of the votes cast approved gay marriage, making Ireland the 20th country to do so, the first by popular vote.  It was a serious blow to the Catholic Church, which blocked divorce, abortion and helped to keep homosexual acts illegal – as recently as 22 years ago.

But let’s remember that there are vast areas of the world where things are actually getting worse, notably some African countries and now-capitalist Russia. Continue reading Queer Liberation through Socialist Revolution!

Queer Liberation through Socialist Revolution!

Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies

Warmest solidarity greetings from Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste for World Pride 2014. While we justifiably celebrate the growth of queer liberation internationally, and its victories and gains, let’s remember that there are vast areas of our world where things are actually getting worse, notably some African countries and now-capitalist Russia.

    Queer members of SA/LAS participated in the planning committee for the February 6 rally and 1795713_687419107948283_836193987_nmarch in Toronto against the Putin regime’s anti-gay law. Our speaker at the rally noted that the early Soviet Republic was the first state in the world to decriminalize homosexuality and abortion. Sadly these gains were reversed in the 1930’s with the consolidation in power of the privileged, self-serving party-state bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin and his murderous security apparatus — of which Vladimir Putin is a direct descendant. While acknowledging its repressive past on queer issues, it is no accident that today, among “less developed” countries, revolutionary Cuba leads the way.
    In Canada and Quebec, we have made significant gains through decades of struggle, but there is far to go. Look at Ontario. Last year the furor over Blue Jays baseball player Yunel Escobar’s anti-gay slur demonstrated an increased awareness of homophobia. This increased awareness has several sources. At its heart is the determined struggle by queer rights activists and their allies resulting in victories on two fronts. The passage of “Toby’s Law” mandated inclusion in the Human Rights Code of gender identity and gender expression. The Accepting Schools Act addressed the issue of anti-gay bullying in the schools, particularly in Catholic schools.
 lgbt_school   However, a federal law regarding transgender rights remains stalled in the non-elected Senate. And reactionary Catholic school boards continue to stall and obstruct the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s). As with all human rights “protections”, enforcement is key. We call on all human rights supporters to demand dissolution of Catholic schools into a single, secular school system. Not only would this advance the interests of LGBT students and other minorities. It would save up to $1 billion a year that could be better spent in classrooms.
    The scandalous rise of homelessness is another issue that particularly affects queer communities and other minorities. We demand that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal provincial government, and municipal governments, provide safe spaces for all the homeless, especially street kids, among whom queer youth are heavily over-represented. Lives are at stake.
    The health system is another issue. The government’s priority is ever more cuts and privatization (including the notorious P3’s) while the system remains largely unresponsive to the needs of LGBT people and other minorities. We have to stop this.
    While our struggle on these issues and many other fronts continues, we also need to look at what DSC_6927kind of society we want, and what we actually have. Queer rights will never be safely ensconced in the capitalist system. “Divide and rule” remains the practice of the tiny, obscenely rich minority who call the shots in the economy and the state. The massive income inequality gap continues to grow, and won’t be reversed until we take mass action.
    Bay Street governments have done, and will do nothing to address this, despite uttering hypocritical “anti-poverty” mantras. The present provincial government does not even support a liveable minimum wage. It has offered only miniscule increases in the abysmally low “welfare” rates, while pretending to prepare people for jobs that don’t exist.
    In a socialist society housing, food, education (at all levels!) and healthcare will be human rights, as they are today in Cuba, despite the U.S. blockade and very limited resources. Public ownership and workers’ democratic control of the commanding heights of the economy are essential for production to be for human needs, not for private profit. We invite you to join us in this fight.
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste www.socialistaction.ca    Call: 647 – 986-1917.   E-mail: socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

Boycott Sochi?


by John Wilson
    Outrage over the Putin regime’s recently enacted vicious anti-gay law has sparked a debate over how best to oppose it, and support queer communities in Russia. Already many protests have occurred. August 3 was an international day of protest, originated in San Francisco, which saw demonstrations in many cities.     In Toronto several hundred people rallied at Church and Wellesley, then marched to the site of the Russian Consulate at Bloor and Church. Protests continue, including one of 10,000 in Denmark held on August 20.
    The anger behind demands to boycott the Winter Olympics is more than justified. But is this the way to go? First of all, boycotts are notoriously ineffective. Two of the most successful, that against apartheid South Africa and the one in support of US farm workers, took years to organize and succeed. The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Zionist apartheid state of Israel is starting to have some bite, with a long way to go still. Secondly, considering who controls the Olympics, the prospects for success are remote. For the spectacularly corrupt and reactionary International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its local franchise, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), the overwhelming priorities will, as always, be profits and power. Both organizations have refused to protest Putin’s law (“inappropriate”!) and both prohibit any kind of demonstration or protest. Let’s not forget that anti-gay and anti-poor “clean-ups” have been a feature of practically every Olympics in living memory. Thirdly, as Greg Louganis, the openly gay Olympic gold medalist diver points out, a previous Olympic boycott meant the sudden end of many athletes’ international careers. And while it’s true that many contestants from rich countries come from a privileged elite, many do not, especially from the global South. The reactionary way that the Olympics are organized is not the fault of the participating athletes.
    Rather than spend enormous time and effort on an almost certainly unrealizeable goal, it makes more sense to organize mass protests both inside and outside the 2014 Winter Olympics. The International Coalition of LGBT Sports and Human Rights Organizations demands that the IOC organize a Pride House at Sochi. Lou Englefield, a spokesperson, says “We believe in action that is concrete and goals that are attainable. We also believe in listening to our partners in Russia who tell us they don’t want a boycott. Athletes should not bear the burden of Putin’s homophobic regime and what in effect is the complicity of the IOC.”
    1968 proved that protest can be very effective. Then, Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute after their medals presentation. This action rocketed into international fame. Of course, outrageously, the IOC reactionaries rescinded their wins after the fact. Effective protest actions can take place again. Let’s make every effort to see that they do.
    Significantly, in all the furor, the mainstream corporate media have failed to mention the tragic irony that the early Soviet Republic was the first state in the world to decriminalize homosexuality. This, along with the right to abortion, was reversed by Putin’s predecessors during the consolidation of Stalin’s dictatorship in the 1930s.