Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bell's Palsy Diary: Love, Acupuncture and a Steroid

I have an update to share on the past few days of learning the tricks of living with Bell's palsy.

1) Wednesday, the day after receiving the diagnosis in the emergency room, started with Mike returning home and I felt 100% improved having him hold me again. There's nothing equal to the healing power of love.

Mike soon sent me off to see my physician Dr. Toby Dyner at the Castro Mission Heath Center. It was my first outing since my face drooped and paralyzed, and folks were concerned and glad to see me crack a half smile.

Empowered with my questions, a pad and pen, the doc and I evaluated the state of the Bell's palsy and my over all wellness. We've settled on a treatment plan for one week involving a steroid and higher dosing of acyclovir. I go back to her in one week to assess what's changed.

Dyner was pleased to hear my plan for wellness includes packing as much natural healing modalities as possible, starting with an acupuncture treatment less than hour after leaving the health center.

At the Immune Enhancement Project, my regular alternative health center, I received a neck massage and acupuncture. I felt small sensations when the needles pricked the paralyzed side, and bursts of feeling like when novacaine wears off. After the treatment, my speech was noticeably improved and could pronounce P words, which are difficult now, much better.

Before long I picked up my new meds and began taking them, before taking a nap. Spoke with my brother and sisters, hearing and seeing them did me a world of good. My sister Angela had me cracking up on Skype when she told me to tell Mister DeMille that when I was ready for my close up, it would only the left side.

Gotta laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.

(Day eye wear protection, since my eye doesn't totally close.)

2) Thursday went well too. A whole lotta love, prayers and best wishes came my way from friends and family, and my spirits were positively and tremendously lifted. Much gratitude to all of you who wrote and apologies for not getting back to everyone.

Mike and I were having breakfast, bantering about the news in the papers, when Robbie Sweeny stopped by unannounced to cheer me up. Who has time for pity or depression when surrounded by good people and strong support? I had to make the day's acupuncture appointment.

My emotions are quite raw from the shock of the Bell's palsy diagnosis and dealing with all the changes, and don't know why but a few of the hardest messages to read and sometimes most tear-inducing ones came from ACT UP/New York colleagues. Let me also say that this message from one of them elated me: I want to remain optimistic that your "new face" will be your "temporary face." Still no amount of paralysis could still or silence that mouth of yours. 

In the evening, went to the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley to see Bela Tarr's "The Man From London" for the second time. Just what this cineaste required. An Hungarian-French art film, beautiful black and white cinematography, long takes, gloomy scenario and existentialism to the max.

3) Friday morning was my first visit to see Dr. Andy Lesko, my bone-crusher chiropractor half a block from our home. After seeing my face and saying it was good I came in for an adjustment, he said in his East Coast delivery, "So, dealing with Bell's palsy now are we?"

He runs a store-front sliding scale chiro clinic, always buzzing with volunteer massage therapists and had a short reflexology treatment at both my morning adjustments. Yeah, I saw Dr. Andy twice yesterday and the miracle worker was able to crack both sides of my neck. Just wow.

I also made it to the UN Plaza farmers' market before squeezing in another acupuncture appointment at Immune Enhancement project. This time, the e-stim electrical charges flowing through the needles in my paralyzed cheek stimulated my nerves to the point I could feel the sensation. At one point, my lower eyelid and skin near it twitched so much my practitioner saw the skin moving.

After the treatment, my practitioner who had closely looked at the paralyzed area particularly the eye, had me close the eyelids and they almost totally met to block out light. We both got, ahem, a charge out of that clear improvement.

(Night wear mask to keep the affected eye healthy and moist during sleep time.)

4) What a short strange week it's been. Other stuff. I have an ointment and drops for the eye, along with a patch for the daytime especially when out of the house and a full eye mask for naps and sleeping at night.

The benefits from the acupuncture, the e-stim and the chiropractic adjustments are genuine, felt immediately in small important ways. I'm sure the drugs are also contributing toward my improvements.

Saw Dr. Andy today, no healing appointments on Sunday, and two adjustments on Monday when Dr. Andy is open again. Next week, I'm keeping with an adjustment (probably two) with Dr. Andy and acupuncture treatment daily.

My first post about this new life path I'm on is here. Thanks again, everyone, for the love and nurturing friendship. Onward!
Weekend Woof #52: Eye Candy for Man-Lovers

After a week of medical turmoil and fears, along with lots of love and health care attention, I'm happy to say my spirits are up and with Mike home again, there are lots of reasons for me to show my half-smile. Full update on my Bell's palsy issue later today.

This edition of Weekend Woof is mostly focused on construction workers, seen around the Castro neighborhood. Oh, and a sprinkling of boys. There are not many positive things I can say about all the buildings for high-earners going up, except that there sure are lots of sexy dudes who work at the sites.

 And how was your week?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inter-Fax Russian News: 'Sex Minorities' Protest SF Church

(Russian Orthodox priests sure like dressing up with funny hats, embroidered flowing robes and gold chains. Credit: Moscow Patriarchate.)

Nice to see two handfuls of gay protesters in San Francisco in the Castro are getting some media attention in Russia. From the Inter-Fax news wire:

Moscow, August 28 – Protest action of sex minorities was held before St. Nicholas Patriarchal Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco at the background of the prayer of clergy and laity of the Russian Church Abroad and the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, the ROCOR website reports.

Activists of the action who were unhappy about legislation passed in Russia banning the propagandizing of homosexuality to children the day before on the Internet called for supporters of the LGBT community to gather at the Patriarchal cathedral during the Sunday Liturgy with anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian placards.

On Sunday morning, "for edification of the worshippers" a reliquary with portions of the relics of St. John of Shanghai were brought to St. Nicholas cathedral and after partaking special prayers were intoned from the rite of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Neither the cathedral nor any parishioners suffered any violence from the protesters.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

BAR: 3 S.F. Russian Churches Silent on LGBT People

(Mike Hoban holding poster reading "Putin + Russian Church = Homo Hate!", left, and Ernest Camisa, right, at the Sunday action. Behind them is a man who spoke only Russian, and refused to identified himself, who aggressively taped the protest. Credit: Rick Gerharter.)

The Bay Area Reporter sent writer David Elijah Namhod to our protest at the Castro's Russian Orthodox Church, and he's filed a terrific story that is now online. Please read it in it's entirety. Here are extracts to whet your news appetite:

A protest outside a Russian Orthodox Church in the Castro last weekend went on as planned, but activists found the church closed, locked, and empty despite timing the demonstration to the end of Sunday worship services [...]

"Eleven o'clock is when they usually let out," protester Mike Hoban told the Bay Area Reporter. "What apparently happened is that the congregation got into cars and left at 9:30 a.m. The press and the police were appraised of our action – we were told this by a gay neighbor."

Two police officers stationed across the street from St. Nicholas Cathedral, 2005 15th Street, told the B.A.R. that they had no knowledge of the church receiving a warning about the protest [...]

According to a post by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, it was local church officials who gave police notice of the planned action, after reading about it on blogs. Church officials also informed Sergei Petrov, consul general of the Russian Federation in San Francisco [...]

A gentleman in a white shirt could be seen hovering near the front door of the church, speaking in Russian into a cell phone. He also aggressively photographed the protesters. When asked if he was affiliated with the church, he turned away and did not respond [...]

As [protester Don] Massey spoke, a voice from across the street could be heard shouting, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Stoli vodka has got to go!" Chris Powers repeated the chant several times from his second floor window across the street from the church [...]

On Monday, August 26, the B.A.R. phoned Saint Nicholas' office. The woman who answered the phone hung up without a word as soon as the reporter said, "Bay Area Reporter."

The B.A.R. then put in calls to two other Russian Orthodox churches in San Francisco to ask them for a comment on the plight of the Russian LGBT community.

A man who answered the phone at Holy Virgin Cathedral, 6210 Geary Boulevard, said, "I can't talk to you now," then hung up.

A woman answered the phone at Saint Sergius of Radonezh, 1346 12th Avenue. "We don't have a gay community here," she said. "Thank you for calling." She also hung up.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My New Face: Living With Bell's Palsy

I'm still here, resolutely queer and able to laugh after shedding a few tears.

My life journey now takes a turn as I learn to live with Bell's palsy, a disorder of the facial control muscles and few other problems.

On Sunday and most of Monday, I thought all I was dealing with was bad pain on the back of the right side of my head and a case of oral thrush. Late Monday half of my tongue was numb and my upper right lip was slightly drooped.

After a night where my right upper eyelid wouldn't close all the way, woke up and my speech was slurred. Off to the emergency room at Davies Hospital in the Castro.

In their calm and controlled ways, the ER staff from the moment I walked in went into a quick routine. Luckily, they all know me from previous visits. No registration, ordered to sit at the vital signs station, the nurse pulling up my records without having to ask for my name, data recorded, few short questions, then led to a room.

On the way, the chief nurse greeted me with well-hidden alarm and wasted no time having me remove my shirts, ordering his aide to start heart monitoring tests and I giggled before tears fell onto my chubby cheeks.

They thought I was experiencing a stroke by the look of my face and were in urgent mode.

The ER doctor came in, introduced herself to me before asking about symptoms and HIV cocktails, latest labs, then checked my eyes and heart. We got into a friendly argument over why she was so curious about my acyclovir medication. It was because it's used to treat Bell's palsy, she said and she would soon know if that was the condition or a stroke.

A youngish hairy built hunky orderly with an almost-shaved head and tight white pants entered the room, to make me comfortable. He bent over to pick up my bag, and doing so displayed his well-developed legs and butt. Damn, what fine man-candy I saw. Lord, I thought, if this is the end, with that dude as one of the last things to see with my eyes, what a way to go!

The test results and evaluations indicated no stroke and the onset of Bell's palsy. What a relief. Knowing what was wrong with me, gave me reason to be happy, and seeing my friend Rich Gerharter come into my room to gather me and take me home.

My partner Mike returns home tomorrow morning after a much-needed vacation, I've told my biological family what's going on, I see my physician Dr. Toby Dyner in the afternoon and decided to make a video explaining what's happened to my face and my speech.

A huge shout out to all the health care professionals who take such good and rapid care of me today. It's been an emotionally raw day and glad to be here to experience it, no matter how frightening and weird it was.

And now, time for old "I Love Lucy" shows for laughter - the best medicine after love.
Gay Journalists Group Accepted $10K Stoli Grant for a Party

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association last week held its annual convention in Boston. Among the sponsors, according to their web site, was Stolichnaya vodka:

Night Out Boston: Have a positive impact as convention attendees hit The City on a Hill to celebrate our Boston convention, networking with their peers. Date: Friday, August 23 Sponsorship: $10,000 Sponsor in 2013: Stoli USA

Since I'm a community organizer boycotting Stoli because the parent company SPI Group has strong Russian ties, was silent as the anti-gay propaganda laws in Russia were being enacted at the regional level and did nothing to oppose the federal law signed by President Vladimir Putin, I asked NLGJA about their partnership with Stoli.

The association shared this reply, which was signed by Ken Miguel but he asked me to omit his name from this post since we never spoke directly with each other and that is why I have amended this post:

NLGJA is grateful for the support it has received from Stoli for its 2013 National Convention. Our organization's fundraising policy evaluates potential donors on their individual merits, without regard to the political situation of the region in which it is based or represents.

NLGJA has expressed its concerns about the safety and freedom of journalists covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi, as well as the need for NBC and other Olympic broadcasters to highlight Russia's laws regarding homosexuality. We will continue to monitor these issues through the Olympic games.

Click here to read their August 6 statement encouraging fair coverage of the Olympics.

Color me very disappointed that NLGJA fails to take into account the political situation of LGBT people in the regions where a corporate donor is based or represents. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Moscow Patriarchate Reacts to San Francisco Gay Protest

(Gay protesters display rainbow flags and posters at St Nicholas' church in the Castro district on August 25.)

My activist colleague Melanie Nathan, who operates the O-blog-dee-o-blog-da site, informed me this afternoon that a number of Russian Orthodox entities have united to condemn the protest yesterday organized by and Gays Without Borders.

They went to great lengths, including contacting the local church's superiors in Moscow, other Orthodox churches and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. Claiming concern for the Moscow Patriarchate's outpost in the Castro district, one of the gayest neighborhoods in the world, several Russian religious and political leaders traveled to San Francisco.

All because a few dozen peaceful activists declared our intention to stage a simple picket and exercise our freedom to assemble and freedom of speech rights on a public sidewalk.

One thing these Russians omit is our efforts via email and voice mail to have a conversation with them. None of our messages received a reply.

I am fascinated at how these Orthodox leaders use the politically correct term LGBT and not the more generic word gay. Maybe once they calm down they will consider responding to our requests for dialogue, or chat with other LGBT advocates and the gay and straight press.

Excerpts from the statement at the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia web site:

Clergymen and laity of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia responded to an LGBT protest with joint prayers.

On Sunday, August 25, 2013, a protest was held before St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, by local LGBT members against legislation passed in Russia last June banning the propagandizing of homosexuality to children. The day before, blogs on the internet called for supporters of the LGBT community to gather at San Francisco’s Patriarchal cathedral during Divine Liturgy with anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian placards [...]

Representative of the International Russian People’s Council to the United Nations, and Hegumen Nikodim (Balyasnikov), both of St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City, traveled to San Francisco to support the local parishioners.

On August 25, Archbishop Justinian spoke via telephone to His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America of ROCOR [...] Priest Leonid Kazakov, Rector of St Nicholas Cathedral, gave advance notice to the planned action to the local police and to Mr Sergei Petrov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco.

On the morning of August 25, Archbishop Kyrill and His Grace Bishop Theodosius of Seattle, Vicar Bishop of the Western American Diocese, arrived for the beginning of Divine Liturgy [at] the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco.

Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Fr Leonid and Hegumen Nikodim. Praying at the service were parishioners of St Nicholas and laity of ROCOR [...]

By Divine mercy, neither the cathedral nor any parishioners suffered any violence from the protesters. Member of the police secured the protest area and did not permit the breaking of any laws.

Huh? We said it was going to be peaceful protest and we kept our word. Also, the police stayed a block away during our picket so I'm not sure what they're referring to about securing the area and preventing law-breaking. 

Our little action sure generated a big response within the Russian Orthodox community and that is a good thing.
Russians Flee San Francisco Church Before Gay Protest

(Picket in front of the empty and locked church. Credit: Peter Menchini, Gays Without Borders.)

Members of Gays Without Borders and arrived at St. Nicholas' Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) on 15th Street in San Francisco’s famed Castro neighborhood for a peaceful picket only to be told that Rector Leonid Kazakov had left an hour earlier in full vestments and headdress accompanied by members of the church.

The August 25 picket, which was held to protest the Russian government’s continued crackdown on LGBT Russians, went ahead as planned with people holding a brief silent vigil to remember the LGBT citizens of Russia who were killed because of hatred, harmed by the anti-gay propaganda law, or now suffering because of the politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and ROC Patriarch Kirill.

In June, the Russian government enacted its “anti-gay propaganda” law that bans any pro-LGBT statements or demonstrations in public or private and on the Internet. The Russian government has effectively made being openly LGBT and pro-LGBT a crime. That law has launched protests and boycott calls around the globe.

(A moment of silence was observed standing in front of the church and rector's house next door. Credit: Bill Wilson, Gays Without Borders.)

When protesters arrived at 10:30 am they were greeted by half a dozen uniformed San Francisco Police Department officers in four squad cars parked in front of the church. The picket was set for 11:00 am, which was the usual end time of the worship service and protesters hoped to finally communicate with church leaders and parishioners after weeks of not having our emails or voice mails returned.

(The ABC affiliate KGO-TV ran a teaser and news note, mentioning they couldn't get a comment from the church.)

A gay neighbor came over and told the protesters that he had seen the rector and congregants leave the church roughly 30 minutes earlier and drive off to an unknown location. The church and the rector’s home were locked. There were no members of the church present at any time before or during the action.

After a short conversation between the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and the police about keeping the sidewalks clear, the activists laid out their rainbow flags and posters.

(A rainbow flag was well-hung by a gay neighbor across the street . . .

. . . which was reflected in the window of the rector's house. Credit: Bill Wilson, Gays Without Borders.)

Prior to starting, another gay neighbor who lives directly across the street from St. Nicholas was given an enormous rainbow flag and he hung that flag from the front of his home. It flew in the breeze during the picket. With the attention of residential and business neighbors, as they leaned out their windows and stood on the opposite side of the street, and passing drivers honking their horns in approval, the action began.

Holding several rainbow flags and "Boycott Russian Vodka" signs, activists formed a human chain in front of the church. Turning their backs to the church, the moment of silence was observed.

(Credit: Bill Wilson, Gays Without Borders.)

Melanie Nathan, pictured, Mike Hoban and Michael Petrelis of Gays Without Borders, and Robbie Sweeny of gave speeches.

Nathan addressed the plight of LGBT Russians and the need for the ROC to curb its dogma of stigmatizing and demeaning gays. Hoban said international LGBT solidarity was succeeding in staging protests for the past month at Russian embassies and consulates. Petrelis called for the repeal of Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws at the regional and federal levels. Sweeny promoted the Dump Stoli campaign and boycott of all Russian vodkas saying targeting Stoli was a powerful tool to build awareness.

(Credit: Bill Wilson, Gays Without Borders.)

Activists included Joseph Rose, pictured, chanted "Gay Russians under attack, what do we do? Act up! Fight back!" and "We're here, we're queer, we're Russian. Get used to it!"

Joining the American protesters were several gay and straight Russians whose last names are being withheld for confidentiality reasons. One gay Russian named Vladimir, who has resided in the U.S. for more than 20 years, conveyed his support for all efforts on behalf of Russian LGBT people.

(Credit: Gays Without Borders.)

Anatoly, pictured at right, a straight Russian, said he was a friend of the gay community and wants the ROC hierarchy to stop hating LGBT people. Anatoly spoke in Russian and English to the crowd.

(Credit: Peter Menchini.)

From across the street, another gay neighbor, pictured, leaned out his window to shout approval of the picket and he hollered his own slogans of gay liberation.

Once the speeches, chanting, and moment of silence were over, lyrics to the gay anthem "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" were distributed. Everyone cleared their throats then raised voices in unison and sang this powerful song of love and dreams.The activities lasted for 45 minutes. An estimated 50 persons participated at some point in the action.

Here is the video of out action made by Peter Menchini. Many thanks to everyone who assisted in creating this action.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend Woof #51: Dore, Dudes and Daddies

I took so many pix of lots of fine fellas at the recent Dore Alley Fair, they couldn't all fit into my report on the fair. Here are more of the dudes and Daddies from Dore. Many big thanks to all the guys for gracing my camera lens.

Striking a pose.

Genuine security guard, standing duty at a nearby business.

He gave off construction worker vibes all afternoon

Two solid furry men. Growl.

Drunk young skinny guy who's hair color matches his trunks.

Big Daddy Bear waiting to use the loo.

Tinky-Winky made an appearance at the fair this year.

The bouncer at the Powerhouse Bar, holding a patron's yellow clutch.

Handsome bear with fine gray facial fur.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Russian Orthodox Christians Want Chats With SF Gays

(A preview of tomorrow's action. On the right is Bill Wilson, and yours truly is holding the flag and a sign.)

The announcement from and Gays Without Borders about our peaceful picket tomorrow, Sunday, August 25 at 11 at St Nicholas', located at 15th and Church Streets, was picked up by the American Orthodox Institute. It appears to be a group of Orthodox Christians who are not specifically Russians.

One Fr. Johannes Jacobse weighs in:

It is not that culture rise or falls with homosexual activism. About 3% of the population is actively homosexual and of that number only a few are radical activists. Rather, the near universal collapse of Western institutions to the gay rights cultural agenda indicates that the moral foundations of Western culture are weaker than we want to believe [...]

The protest at St. Nicholas is just another means to pressure [the Russians] [...]

The Russian resistance is against homosexual “propaganda” (their term), and while it offends American sensibilities to frame it this way, there is no denying that homosexual activism seeks to change culture [...]

Another commentator made this friendly suggestion:

If you’re in San Francisco Sunday and see Mr. Sweeny & Mr. Petrelis, invite them in for coffee.

Would that the leaders at St Nicholas had returned our emails and voice mails asking to chat with them, instead of silence, we'd be happy to dialogue along the lines of the discussion above.

I've received two emails from other folks offering to gab over coffee or tea. For confidentiality reasons, I've omitted the names of the writers. The first came from one woman also willing to make a donation to our cause:

I am a Russian Orthodox Christian, and I'm unable to come see you this Sunday for the protest. But I would like to offer to buy you all some bottled water in the name of St John Maximovitch. I can offer $20 via Paypal, and if you'd like to use some of that for sunscreen or snacks that's great too. I will be visiting friends in the Mission from September 7th through the 14th, and I would be happy to buy you a cup of coffee if you'll be in the neighborhood.

I'd prefer to be there to provide some hospitality in person, but I'm in Indiana and my schedule won't allow me to make my visit earlier.

There are a lot of people praying for you all, that your protest goes well, and that there will be good dialogue, dignity, love, and respect.

Looking forward to sitting with this woman when she's my city next month. The second note, also from a woman, also offers something to wet the whistle and clearly spells out her support for our action and intentions:

I saw on your blog that you're expecting at least 20 protesters on Sunday. I wish I were in San Francisco; I'd love to come by with iced tea and cookies for you. I'm a straight ally and an Orthodox Christian who is (like many other Orthodox Christians) more than a little displeased with Metropolitan Kirill's scapegoating of LGBT people. Although I can't be there, y'all will be in my prayers on Sunday. I hope your effort opens a channel for mutual understanding and good will. 

Feels good to have generated communication among and with Orthodox Christians, and we haven't staged our action yet.

Please join us tomorrow at 11 am at St Nicholas' for a number of activities, including a moment of silence for all the LGBT citizens of Russia who have died because of hate crimes, or have been demeaned and harmed by their government and the Russian Orthodox Church

The event will end with a singing of the Gay Anthem "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Don't worry if you can't recall the lyrics. We'll have them printed on paper for you.
150 at Edinburgh's LGBT Russian Solidarity Rally

Activists displayed signs in English and Russian, featuring a photo of a brutal and bloody attack on LGBT Russian youths.

The Russian Consulate's front entrance is behind this fine group of LGBT comedians and community activists, with a sprinkling of straight allies.

Two shots of the solid 150 people who participated in the rally, facing the Russian Consulate. All photos are credited to Marina Menezes's Flickr stream.)

Tonight's good news about continuing local actions in solidarity with gay Russians, comes from the British Comedy Guide site, about an action two days ago:

A large crowd turned out for the free LGBT support gig Mark Thomas organised in Edinburgh on Thursday. The gig came about because, as the basis of his current show, Thomas has set himself the task of 'committing 100 Acts of Minor Dissent' in a year.

For his 26th act, he chose to organise a free LGBT comedy gig outside the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh in response to Russia's new anti-gay rights laws. Amongst the gay, lesbian and bisexual stand-up comedians performing at the gig were Joe Lycett, Zoe Lyons, Susan Calman, Chris Coltrane and Dana Alexander. 

With loud cheers from the crowd, Stephen K Amos said at one point: "Do you hear that Russia? If you expect fear, we will bring you fear. We will not take this lying down."

Good going, queers and friends in Scotland!

A reminder that this Sunday, August 25 at 11 am at Russian Orthodox St Nicholas Church at 15th and Church Streets in San Francisco, there is a protest taking place and you are invited to participate. Please join us.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pushy Pansies Prep Protest at Pro-Putin Church in San Francisco

This afternoon, community photographer Bill Wilson, right, and I took a few tests shots of how we will display our pro-gay propaganda this Sunday, August 25 at 11 am, at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at 2005 - 15th Street near Church Street in San Francisco.

As members of Gays Without Borders, we and our allies have 25 posters with either this message: PUTIN + RUSSIAN CHURCH = HOMO-HATE!; or this: BOYCOTT RUSSIAN VODKA.

Whether you're part of the Dump Stoli and Boycott Russian Vodka movement or not, you'll have a choice of message to hold up.

We also are so pleased to announce that our good friends at SF Pride have donated ten rainbow flags measuring 6'x10' for use on Sunday.

We've printed up 100 postcards with the lyrics to our anthem "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" because after a few speeches, lots of chants and conversations with the parishioners, we're concluding the rally on a note of hope by raising our queer voices in song.

All the possible prep for the action has happened and I told a reporter today I know of only twenty folks totally committed to showing up. It's impossible to gauge if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender San Franciscans and our allies beyond that number care enough to skip brunch and participate in the rally.

If you can be there, please leave a comment saying so or email me. You should also share the protest info via your social networks. Regardless of whether you're coming or are not in the San Francisco Bay Area but want to show solidarity with us as we show solidarity with LGBT Russians, we could use your assistance in creating awareness about the action.

For info on St Nicholas' links to Patriarch Kirill who recently said gays are a sign of the apocalypse, and is best friends with Vladimir Putin, click here.

See you this Sunday at 11 am at St Nicholas' church at 15th and Church Streets?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stoli Executives Come Out for Gay Russia Boycott Meeting

(Stolichnaya executive Lori J. Tieszen, left in black blouse, and colleague John Esposito. Credit: Queer Nation.)

Did you read that lame Op Ed piece in Wednesday's New York Times titled
"Boycotting Vodka Won't Help Russia's Gays", written by Mark Lawrence Schrad? The boycott and Russian gays are unquestionably helped when this paper runs such a prominent piece. Be sure to check out Queer Nation's rebuttal here, from writer John Weir.

Here's the explanation from my pal Duncan Osborne about the photo above:

That's a suited, but tieless John Esposito, president of the newly formed Stoli USA, and Lori J. Tieszen, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Stoli USA, in the dark top. 

I was staffing the welcome table when they joined the August 21 Queer Nation/RUSA LGBT town hall meeting held at Manhattan's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. I recognized Tieszen from her picture when she stepped through the door and correctly assumed that the guy with her was Esposito. 

We had a round of introductions and Esposito said they were there to see if we couldn't "work things out." I told them they were welcome and if they wished to speak all they had to do was put their hands in the air and they would get 90 seconds like everyone else. 

Later, they were recognized by a Queer Nation NY member and our moderator, Ann Northrop, and by Andrew Miller, a Queer Nation NY member, who discussed the ongoing Russian vodka boycott. I did not watch them for the entire evening, but they never looked more cheerful than this as far as I could see. They chose not to speak. I wonder why.

Also on Wednesday, fearless and tireless lesbian Russian journalist, mother and activist Masha Gessen was the featured speaker at Queer Nation's town hall meeting. Read Nancy Goldstein's tweets on the meeting here.

In other news, my friend Jamie Kirchick zapped Russia Today during a live TV interview on Putin's propaganda channel over the Russian hate laws against LGBT people:

He's promised to come visit me in San Francisco this summer, and now that he's become an international news and queer sensation, I've tweeted congrats to him and said execrable ex-leader of Human Rights Watch's gay desk, Scott Long, would soon attack him because Long loathes any Western gays except himself opining on gay Russia. Our exchange:

Sure would be great to have Jamie visit us and speak at a public event or two. Regarding public actions showing solidarity with LGBT citizens of Russia and sending a message to Vladimir Putin and his staunch backer in homo-hatred Patriarch Kirill, please come out this Sunday for an important protest in San Francisco.

We're gathering Sunday, August 25 at 11 am at St Nicholas' Russian Orthodox Church located at 2005 - 15th Street, near Church Street, for a peaceful picket. We've got great signage, lots of enormous rainbow flags loaned to us from the good people at SF Pride, and other props. All we need are bodies to join us on the picket line.

Please join us!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GLAAD's New IRS 990 Available to the Public When? 

Five days ago, I blogged about the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's new tax report that should be available this month on their web site for public inspection. You may recall that the 2011 tax report revealed a $2.5 million deficit.

The organization's spokesman Richard Ferraro informed me yesterday when their new tax report will be ready for the public to look at. Mark your calendars:

GLAAD filed an extension with the IRS extending the filing deadline for our 2012 Form 990 to November 15, 2013 and we expect to make the filing close to that date.

Click here to read four previous 990s for the group.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gays to Picket San Francisco's Pro-Putin Russian Church

Who: and Gays Without Borders  
What: Picket line and speak out  
Where: St Nicholas Cathedral (pictured)
Location: 2005 - 15th Street, between Church and Market Streets
Date: Sunday, August 25, 2013
When: 11:00 AM

Protesters will peaceably challenge the Russian Orthodox Church in San Francisco over its support for Russia's anti-homosexual propaganda law that has led to rising violence and anti-LGBT bigotry in that country.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I, who lives in Moscow, is a leading proponent of the law. Patriarch Kirill is a longtime supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the two leaders both strongly back the recently enacted anti-gay propaganda law that bans any pro-gay statement or demonstrations in public or private and on the Internet. The law, which was enacted in June, has drawn international condemnation.

Speaking in the English-language Moscow Times on July 21, Patriarch Kirill said of same-sex marriage, "Those who are true to their conscience in fighting these minority-imposed laws are subject to repression. It's a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse."

This action is designed to show the love and beauty of LGBT people through the display of the rainbow flag, our international symbol of acceptance and respect for our community.

The St. Nicholas Cathedral in the gay Castro district is under the control and direction of Patriarch Kirill, who in December 2010 appointed Father Leonid Kazakov of the St. Petersburg diocese to lead the San Francisco church. Emails and voice mails to the church were not returned.

On Sunday, August 25, starting at 11:00 am, which is after the worship service at St. Nicholas' church, members of the LGBT community will speak outside the church on the public sidewalk for acceptance and respect for the Russian LGBT community and call for the repeal of the anti-gay law. Rainbow flags will be displayed on the sidewalk.

Community organizers Robbie Sweeny of and Michael Petrelis of Gays Without Borders are coordinating the picket line and speak out.

(President Putin and Patriarch Kirill)

Russian Orthodox Church's Views on LGBT People and HIV/AIDS

January 2010, Moscow Patriarchate on Homosexual Marriage
The resolution condemns propagation of homosexuality as a fancy way of life because it undermines the foundations of family relations which are an integral part of relations in society. Using slogans to protect the rights of people “with nontraditional sexual orientation as a cover, their advocates have set up a background in society which largely discriminates natural marital relations of men and women.” Putting a homosexual marriage on the same level with a conventional one is a conscious destruction of fundamental public morals providing a basis for a global demoralization of society.

October 2012, Moscow Patriarchate on Alleged Church Harassment by Gays
'A cultural revolution’ against the family as subjected to persecution are expressions of the traditional vision of the family as the union of man and woman, not of two persons of any sex; subjected to legal persecution are statements concerning homosexuality as a sin and vice even made in a soft form; harassment by the LGBT and the use of the term ‘homophobia’ as an instrument for excluding disagreeing groups from pubic space.

Undated Sexual Orientation Position Paper, Moscow Patriarchate
The debate on the status of the so-called sexual minorities in contemporary society tends to recognise homosexuality not as a sexual perversion but only one of the "sexual orientations" which have the equal right to public manifestation and respect. It is also argued that the homosexual drive is caused by the individual inborn predisposition. The Orthodox Church proceeds from the invariable conviction that the divinely established marital union of man and woman cannot be compared to the perverted manifestations of sexuality.

This is why the Church denounces any propaganda of homosexuality.
Undated Transgender Persons Position Paper, Moscow Patriarchate
Sometimes perverted human sexuality is manifested in the form of the painful feeling of one’s belonging to the opposite sex, resulting in an attempt to change one’s sex (transsexuality). "The change of sex" through hormonal impact and surgical operation has led in many cases not to the solution of psychological problems, but to their aggravation, causing a deep inner crisis. Transsexuality should be distinguished from the wrong identification of the sex in one’s infancy as a result of doctors’ mistake caused by a pathological development of sexual characteristics. The surgical correction in this case is not a change of sex.

Undated HIV/AIDS Position Paper, Moscow Patriarchate

Social and medical factors and developments, which contribute to the formation of the so-called risk-groups, are only indirect and secondary causes of the HIV epidemic. The real first cause and source of the rapidly spreading epidemic is an unprecedented growth of sin and lawlessness, loss of fundamental spiritual values, moral traditions and guidelines in society.

From the medical point of view, there are no obstacles for administering the sacrament of Baptism to an HIV-infected person in the parish baptistery if he or she has no open bleeding wounds.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Weekend Woof #50: Furry Boys & More

This photographic series has been on hiatus for two weeks, and now I'm back to sharing images of various dudes attractive to my queer eye. Many thanks to all the guys for striking sexy poses and smiles for me!

Two photos from last month's Dore Alley Fair. Top image is of a skinny blonde who seem to get too much pleasure picking up the plastic bottles and such, while the bottom image shows one of the cutest young chubs at the event on the left. His name is Charlie and he was giving out lots of great vibes and warm hugs.

These fine furry faced fellas came to the Boycott Russian Vodka Facebook group's liquor dump at City Hall earlier this month. They held boycott signs during the action, but I wanted a photo of them without the propaganda, to better show off their adorable faces.

There sure seem to a lot of blonde skinnies crossing in front of my camera.

Cute young thing, Cyd, from the ACT UP/San Francisco chapter seen shopping at the dried fruit section of Rainbow Grocery recently. It was great to have a chat with him about local and global politics.

Is this the best Mohawk cut with styling you've ever seen on a young dude working at Harvest Market in SOMA?

Ah, all the handsome men and boys on the streets of San Francisco!

Friday, August 16, 2013

GLAAD's IRS Filing for 2012: Where Is It?

(The SF Pride Parade included a collaborative float that joined GLAAD and Stoli vodka together.)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has never been fully committed to transparency. Until the Bay Area Reporter and myself began raising questions about the group's finances under the former executive director Jarrett Barrios, and his salary, GLAAD didn't post any IRS 990s on their site.

GLAAD's tax filing for 2011 revealed a $2.5 million deficit and I'm curious to learn what their 2012 filing contains, and wish it were posted to their financials page.

Previous 990s show GLAAD files its tax report with the IRS by mid July, so their 2012 has been filed with the Treasury Department and they are fully aware that federal law states the date upon which a nonprofit files with the IRS is the date when the filing must be available for public inspection.

Despite numerous email and vmail requests to GLAAD executives for the 2012 IRS 990, I've not received a reply nor the filing.

Hey, GLAAD, when are we gonna see your tax filing for 2012?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

KTVU/Fox: Three Gay Russia Stories in a Single Clip

Robbie Sweeny, who initiated the Facebook group Boycott Russian Vodka and is about many issues related to LGBT citizens of that country, received the above message today and is sharing it along with this note:

Just wanted to share this note that I received on my Instagram today, for some reason it has touched me in a very strong way. To know that people on the ground are seeing what little we are able to do and to have them be thankful, well it has pushed me to do more. Lets keep going at all the angles we are going.

Day by day, we all find our inspiration from our courageous queer sisters and brothers in Russia to fight Putin's anti-gay laws and show solidarity with our community over there.

From Paul Barwick of Gays Without Borders comes this clip of last night's teaser and package of three LGBT Russian related stories in one package, that appeared on KTVU/Fox last night during their popular 10 PM broadcast.

If you're wondering why actual Stoli swill wasn't spilled last night, there are two reasons. First, it's against the law to have an open container of alcohol on the streets of San Francisco. This ain't New Orleans, you know.

Secondly, we're boycotting Stolichnaya so the last thing we're gonna do is purchase it for any reason.

Bottom line regarding KTVU's coverage last night, it was fantastic because it showed three distinct approaches activists are taking in solidarity with gay Russians. The first story is about our Stoli dump, next piece informs us about gay U.S. runner at a Moscow track meet dedicating his win to gay Russians and lastly a story about Bay Area debates to potentially sever sister city pacts.

Big thanks to Robbie and Paul for their organizing and advocacy work on behalf of LGBT people of Russia.
Queerty Editor Zapped at Stoli Pageant & Vodka Dump

(Photo credit: Rick Gerharter Photography.)

Ten activists from Gays Without Borders and the Facebook group Boycott Russian Vodka protested last night outside the Original Stoli Guy pageant at a gay bar in San Francisco's SOMA district. We were there because Stolichnaya is a Russian brand and not doing enough to support gay Russians and other reasons.

The Queerty site has partnered with Stoli to organize these pageants and has allowed huge Stoli ads on their site, while being generally dismissive of the boycott.

Queerty editor Chris Bull showed up with an armload of Stoli t-shirts and had to show his ID before being allowed into the BeatBox bar, which hosted the pageant.

(This photo and all others below should be credited to Bill Wilson, Gays Without Borders.)

The gay ambassador for Stoli is Patrik Gallineaux, center with the pouffy hair and upturned collar, mingled with the crowd waiting to get in and say a few hellos to us protesters.

Mike Hoban, on the left in black t-shirt with back to camera, drove down from Sonoma County with a flyer explaining how Stolichnaya's parent company SPI Group is a Russian company and the importance of the Russian vodka boycott. Many folks took and read the flyer.

Before we dumped Stoli, a few of us protesters arranged ourselves for a group photo. From the left is Paul Barwick, yours truly, Mike Hoban, Robbie Sweeny and Alan Shaw.

Chanting "Boycott Stoli!" and "We're here, we're queer, we're not drinking Russian vodka!" as Sweeny dumped the Stoli.

Once the bottle was empty, Sweeny held it upside down and encouraged everyone to like the Boycott Russian Vodka group at Facebook.

By the way, the popular 10 PM broadcast of the KTVU/Fox news ran two teasers about our action and the actual short story was part of a package of three LGBT Russian stories. The first was on the vodka dump, the second story was about gay U.S. track runner Nick Symmonds at a sports event in Moscow dedicating his medal to gay Russians, and the final piece reported that Bay Area cities are considering severing sister city pacts with Russian cities.

Thanks to everyone who showed up and participated in the action!