Tag Archives: equal rights

A Bi Bank Robber, His Trans Wife, and a Documentary to Love

There is something alluring about John Wojtowicz, the real-life man who inspired Al Pacino’s legendary character in Dog Day Afternoon. He’s a colorful braggart, an early and abrasive LGBT rights activist, a mama’s boy (in his words), a bank robber, a sexual liberationist, and a lover of both men and women. More than anything, Wojtowicz, whose real story is immortalized in the brilliant new documentary The Dog, is an incurably romantic criminal, and the “who” and “what” components of his story aren’t nearly as interesting as the “why” of it all.

Filmed over the course of 10 years by codirectors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, The Dog (which hits theaters today and iTunes August 15) interweaves extraordinary archival footage of the robbery, 1970s-era interviews, early film of what was then simply the gay liberation movement, recollections from gay activists who know Wojtowicz, and a decade of interviews with the man himself.

Wojtowicz was an unlikely gay rights pioneer in New York City, at a time when he says gay couples couldn’t publicly hold hands, even in the famously queer Greenwich Village. Once, when he did hold hands with another man, a police officer called Wojtowicz a “faggot.”

His response? He grabbed the man and “tongued him” right there on the street.

But that would be a life-long M.O. for a man who as an early LGBT advocate would embarrass even other activists with his coarseness, vulgarity, self-aggrandizing, and yes, his unabashed sexuality. He loved sex. He had his first gay sexual experience while serving in the Vietnam War. He left his first wife to immerse himself in gay culture, got involved with the Gay Activists Alliance shortly after the Stonewall riots, and though mostly in the background, in 1971 helped organize one of the earliest same-sex marriage protests, when seasoned gay activists and groups like GAA didn’t want to touch the issue.

But Wojtowicz, who was nicknamed Littlejohn (he says it’s because he has a “little prick”), believed in love and marriage.

“When I love somebody, I want to marry them,” he says in the film. A message that resonates with marriage equality activists today, but one that was unusual in 1971.

He fell in love with a transgender woman, back when the word “transgender” wasn’t commonly employed and pronouns usage was rarely what we’d call politically correct today. He wanted desperately to marry Liz Eden, and so the two had a wedding ceremony — she donned head-to-toe white, and her veil towered nearly a foot above Wojtowicz. Footage of the wedding shows up in The Dog and helps remind us what a romantic this guy is, without reservations about gender.

He was openly bisexual without using that word. Though he’s hardly a great role model, with cheating on his lovers and his bank-robbing ways, when he loved, he loved.

Eden had been living as a woman but desperately wanted gender-reassignment surgery. Wojtowicz fought it at first — when the two met, Eden was still going by Ernie and performing in drag — but when Eden became suicidal he changed his mind and supported her medical transition in a big way. A very big way. In August 1972, he attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn to finance his new wife’s surgery. That effort resulted in a 14-hour hostage situation that was broadcast live on TV and eventually left his partner in crime, Sal Naturale, dead, shot by police during their bungled escape.

Wojtowicz went to prison. Three years later, Eden sold the story to Sidney Lumet, who made the critically acclaimed film Dog Day Afternoon, in which Al Pacino plays Wojtowicz. The film had a huge impact on Wojtowicz. Fellow prisoners called him “The Dog,” in part because they couldn’t pronounce his last name (it’s WAHT-a-witz). The Dog embraced that persona and left prison as that man.

But not before falling in love again, with Georgie Heath, a gay man he met at Lewisburg Pennitentiary. Heath performed drag but identified as a man. Still, Wojtowicz calls Heath his “third wife.”

There’s plenty more to The Dog than can be summed up in a review: a mother who is as close to her son as can be; a developmentally challenged brother who is beloved; The Dog himself, now dying of breast cancer and skin cancer, getting thinner and thinner in every shot but never losing that wonderful libidinous spirit; footage of Eden, who died young of AIDS.

It’s a rose-colored trip down memory lane of a larger-than-life guy who, even in celluloid, continues to seduce just about anyone who sits down to watch The Dog.

I must watch this! Sounds fascinating.

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Eminem, I’m disappointed in you.

Eminem has been on the music scene since my childhood, and I’ve enjoyed his songs, lyrics, videos and his witty humour. His success makes him no less of a rapper than underground artists (despite many of them believing so), and I fully appreciate the message of his song ‘Rap God’. However, his use (I typed ‘overuse’, then back tracked … it should never be used) of the word ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’ has made me lose all respect for him. Perhaps I have missed, in the past, previous use of this word in his songs, but in ‘Rap God’, he says it 4 times. There is no justification for using such an offensive word (the same goes for ‘nigger’, of which many black artists use … which I cannot fathom any justification for), and I believe as long as such influential people continue to use derogatory; crass language, homophobia (and general discrimination) will continue to exist. Particularly, in the case of todays youth, where using ‘gay’ as an adjective is common in every day conversation. Whilst I (ashamedly) had used this in my early teen years, as it was popular to do so, I am repeatedly shocked to hear people of my own age (18-21+) using ‘gay’ to describe something negative. I wish every person who decides to use this word as an adjective replace it with the word ‘black’, and see how stupid and offensive it sounds.
Just the other day I was watching the fantastic series on ITV1 ‘Masters of Sex’, and the doctor treated a patient from ‘the negro ward’ – both my partner and I looked at each in a ‘wtf?!’ manner, and I have this exact same reaction when people use ‘gay’ as an adjective or openly use the word ‘fag’/’faggot’. (As Macklemore once said in ‘Same Love’, “humans rights for everybody, there is no difference”!!!) It is of huge importance of me to make it clear to people that using such language is ignorant, OFFENSIVE and moronic. Using a sexuality as an adjective or the way to describe someone negatively is simply simple-minded and puerile. We do not (most of us, I’d hope) use the ‘n word’ to describe black people anymore, and I hope for the same with gay people.
I do not think people (especially of my generation) appreciate how amazingly far the world has developed with human rights, particularly LGBT rights. You don’t have to be gay/bi/trans/whatever to appreciate the positive impact equality has on the world, you simply need to have an open mind, an open heart, and a clear, intelligent understanding of what is offensive. [If you think this is an overreaction, I feel genuinely disheartened and sorry for you that you cannot put yourself in someone else’s shoes, that you cannot relate and sympathise with others, even if they share no similarities with you. We are all human.] I believe the impact words have on people, especially young people, needs to be made clearer.
It is deeply insulting to thousands of people who have protested, sacrificed, and put their lives at risk for MANY years, all over the world, to gain rights for the LGBT community, by using one word. People fought to have black segregation removed (I still can’t fathom that that was actually a thing!!), and we now need to fight for the understanding of sexuality and gender. It is all the same. We are all the same!!!

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GAP’s “Love Comes In Every Shade” Campaign

What a lovely campaign!

Gap’s print ads for its holiday campaign this year, “Love Comes In Every Shade,” celebrates various forms of love and includes several celebrity pairings. Among these couples are musician Rufus Wainwright and his husband, artistic director Jörn Weisbrodt, who represent “Married Love” in the colorful new campaign. Wainwright and Weisbrodt wed in New York last August.

The ads and film were shot by director/DP Peggy Sirota. Gap CMO Seth Farbman said of the campaign’s featured couples and families, “Their personal relationships help remind us that every family is unique and often goes beyond just those we’re related to—it also includes the people we share our lives and deepest passions with. This campaign celebrates these diverse, optimistic views on family and the many forms love can take.”

 

Gap has a history of being an LGBT-inclusive company, joining other brands in featuring same-sex couples and families in its advertisements as well as stirring up controversy with its inclusive billboards.

In fact, Gap is one of an all-time high total of 252 businesses that have achieved a top rating of 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s latest Corporate Equality Index. The eleventh edition of this annual in-depth survey of U.S. employers and their practices and policies in relation to its LGBT employees, released this week, shows that support for the LGBT community from the business world has never been greater. Gap received a perfect score, meeting criterion including prohibition of discrimination, partner health insurance benefits, competency and diversity programming, external engagement in the LGBT community, and more.

Aaaaaand of course there are some annoying people who just HAVE to disagree, don’t they?! – Clothing retailer GAP has come under fire from a parenting group over a new advertising campaign which features a gay couple hugging under one t-shirt.

Billboards show the two men pressed cheek to cheek with their arms around each other with the slogan “Be Bright, Be One” across the image.

One Million Moms, a US organisation which aims to stop the exploitation of children in the media, blasted the campaign, branding it “immoral advertising”.

The activist group, which has previously attacked JC Penney and Urban Outfitters for their pro-gay adverts , are campaigning for the billboards to be removed.

In a post on its website, the controversial Christian group claimed retailers “need to choose morality or remain neutral”.

They wrote: “GAP… does not deserve, nor will it get, money from conservative families across the country.

“Supporting GAP is not an option until they decide to remain neutral in the culture war. GAP needs to seriously consider how their immoral advertising affect the youth of our nation. (sic)”

Urging members to “take action”, the post continued: “GAP Inc. Brands approved this type of ad in public areas where families and children are sure to see it.

“Please send your email to GAP now and let them know you are offended by their disrespect for family values and common decency.”

Earlier this year, One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, attracted criticism for its attempt to boycott Urban Outfitters for using an image of two female models kissing in an ad.

The group claimed the picture, which appeared in the clothing retailer’s April catalogue, was “offensive and inappropriate for a teen who is the company’s target customer”.

The anti-homosexual activists also attacked JC Penney for using lesbian TV host Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.

The organisation was forced to drop the case after the 54-year-old star received huge support from fans.

Speaking at the time, group director Monica Cole told OneNewsNow: “We have heard back from men and women – not just moms – saying they will no longer shop there at JC Penney, as long as Ellen DeGeneres is their spokesperson.”

Just shut up.

UPDATE: got a tweet from GAP!

Gap ‏@Gap   Thanks for the huge compliment. It brought a smile to our faces.”

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