Wednesday, April 05, 2017

While Dutch Men Protest Gay Couple Attack Hand-in-Hand, Anchorage Protests By Electing Two Gay Men To Assembly

Last summer,  already campaigning at PrideFest, Christopher Constant told me (off camera, but his poster didn't hide things) that if he won his seat on the Anchorage Assembly (city council), he'd be the first openly gay member.

He won yesterday, but he wasn't exactly right.  Because another openly gay candidate, Felix Rivera, in mid-town, won a seat as well.  Here's the video I took of Chris last summer. You can see he's not coming onto the Assembly without experience and knowledge about the neighborhoods he will represent.

I took some liberty with the headline.   I doubt any Anchorage voters even knew about the Dutch hand-holding protest when they voted.  I'm guessing that most people who voted for Christopher Constant or Felix Rivera didn't even knew they were gay.  It didn't really come up in the election until the very end when one of Rivera's opponents sent out a last minute attack ad, and even that used coded language rather than say he was gay.  And Rivera got 46% of the vote in a four way race. The next highest opponent got 29%.

No, Anchorage elected two gay men, not because they were gay (though perhaps some voted against them for that reason) but because they were the strongest candidates in their races.

As understated as gender was in the race, it is a big deal in Anchorage.  After years and years of fierce opposition from an evangelical pastor, Anchorage finally added LGBTQ to its anti-discrimination ordinance in 2015.  There was an attempt to put an initiative on yesterday's ballot to block parts of the 2015 change, but it didn't meet the legal requirements for an initiative.    Mayor Ethan Berkowitz won his mayoral race in 2015 by a landslide supporting gay rights against a rabidly anti-gay opponent.

Felix Rivera at candidate forum March 2017
So this is a milestone after a lot of bitter history over this issue.

And here's Felix Rivera at the AFACT candidate forum a couple of weeks ago.

Dutch Hand Holding Protest

While there was no direct connection between the Anchorage election, and the Dutch protest, there are a lot of indirect connections.  The article says that after the attack on the married couple who were walking home holding hands, the prime minister condemned the attack.  But two lawmakers took it a step further.
"Alexander Pechtold, who is the leader of the Democrats 66 (D66) party, arrived hand in hand with his party’s financial specialist, Wouter Koolmees, in support of Vernes-Sewratan and Sewratan-Vernes. “We think it is quite normal in the Netherlands to express who you are,” Pechtold said, according to People."
Then lots of Dutch men posted pictures of themselves holding hands in support of the couple.  One picture in the article shows a group of men who work at the Dutch embassy in London walking along the street holding hands.

Jay Brause, Gene Dugan, and Out North

Which gives me a bridge to mention Jay (Jacob) Brause and Gene (Eugene) Dugan, a gay Anchorage couple who sued the state of Alaska when they weren't allowed to get married here way back in 1994.  They won their case!  But then the state (led by that pastor) amended the constitution to define marriage to involve a man and a woman only.

Jay and Gene ran Out North, a small theater/art space that regularly brought acts that challenged conventional thinking.  They played a huge role in giving Anchorage a space in which to stretch its mind and continue to reexamine long held assumptions.  I'm sure Out North played a role in preparing Anchorage for this day, when two openly gay men have been elected to the Assembly in a race where their sexual preference was almost completely a non-issue.  For those of you who think I've gone off in a totally different tangent, Jay and Gene now live in London where those Dutch Embassy colleagues held hands.  Jay and Gene they got fed up living in a state that vigorously denied their right to get married and moved to UK.  But they did come back to Anchorage to get married here after that became possible.

Holding Hands In Thailand 

I'd like to make one more connection to the idea of men holding hands.  When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, one of the American values that was deeply embedded in me was that men do NOT hold hands.

But in Thailand they do.  It's no big deal.  It happens all the time.  Dealing with my own visceral response when men wanted to hold hands with me in Thailand, helped me understand the idea of biases that our cultures teach us without us even knowing that they are biases.  Instead we think that they are 'truths' about nature.  In this case, that it is unnatural for men to hold hands.  But in Thai culture it isn't and a gradually became comfortable when someone took my hand as we walked somewhere.  

The Other Winning Assembly Candidates

Here are some pictures of the other winners last night.

Suzanne LaFrance at the AFACT candidate forum March 12.  She's won the south Anchorage seat 6 that tends to be conservative.  But not always.  Janice Shamberg held this seat.   Suzanne LaFrance was supported by Berkowitz.  In fact all the winners were except Dyson.

Pete Petersen was reelected to his east Anchorage seat 5. Not only are there now two gay men on the Assembly, Petersen is one of two returned Peace Corps volunteers on the Assembly.

Fred Dyson Introducing Joe Miller 2010
Fred Dyson won in Eagle River's seat 2.  He wasn't at the forum, but I had this picture from 2010 when he introduced US senate candidate Jim Miller.  That was the meeting where Miller famously said, If the East Germans could build a wall, we could.  And it was the same meeting where journalist Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by Miller's 'security.'

Tim Steele also missed the March 12 forum and I don't seem to have a picture of him in my files.

I realize this post seems to wander all over the place, but society is complicated.  Lots of things are interrelated and if we look at everything as an isolated event suitable for a Tweet, then we don't get all that interconnectedness.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.