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Janis Ian is NOT politically correct and brilliantly defends her ‘Howard Stern’ appearance, 1994

Janis Ian
 
My love of “AM Gold” is well-documented on this blog, and I defend the soft-rock/easy listening genres of the 1970s as an artistic movement of intimacy, reflection, and pathos. John Denver? Absolutely! Let’s open the windows, and smell the fresh air! Thank god, I’m a country girl. Bill Withers? Great! I’ll make some chamomile tea and we can wrap ourselves in kaftans! Carol King? Just give me a flowing maxi dress of natural fibers, I think I’m ready for motherhood. And Janis Ian? Do you even have to ask? Janis Ian makes me want to paint my apartment burnt sienna and avocado green, put on “At Seventeen,” and do some fucking macrame.

There’s a lot that’s great about Janis Ian. Yes, “At Seventeen” is a beautiful feminist anthem of isolation and loneliness, but her first hit, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),” is also remarkable. Released when Ian was just fifteen (she wrote it at thirteen), “Society’s Child” told the story of an interracial relationship. Despite its “Leader of the Pack” teen-melodrama sound, it was actually banned on the radio. While the lyrics are pretty earnest (she was thirteen, what do you expect?), her subject indicated a serious-minded commitment to social justice. (And that didn’t come out of nowhere. Ian’s family were serious leftists, and often under surveillance for their politics.)

In 1993, at the age of 42, Janis Ian came out as a lesbian. She then immediately shocked her fans by appearing on Howard Stern’s radio show. Below is Ian’s 1994 defense of the appearance, penned for The Advocate. It seems like they have a legitimate friendship, which doesn’t surprise me—Howard always struck me as “the gentleman’s shock jock.” (I don’t really see her being friends with Mancow, right?) After the interview, you can even see video of Ian performing “Seinfeld’s Girl is Seventeen with Double Ds,” a parody of “At Seventeen” with Howard; the lyrics are reworked to mock Jerry Seinfeld’s then relationship with a 17-year-old high schooler.

And this is what’s so great about Janis Ian. For all her humanity and insight and the vulnerable beauty of her music, Janis Ian does not give a fuck about your approval.
 

I did Howard Stern last year, and joined the ranks of the Politically Incorrect.

I love doing Howard. I’ve done his morning radio show, his E! television show, and his disgusting New Year’s Eve special. (Don’t ask.)

I like Howard. He treats me with courtesy, and he recognizes my relationship as valid. In fact, he tried very hard to find an appropriate term for introducing my partner. After rejecting “Mr. Ian”, “Mrs. Ian”, and “Her Better Half”, he finally settled on “Mr. Lesbian”, a term we find appallingly funny and poignantly correct.

Stern is currently running for governor of New York, and I’m betting he’ll get over 50,000 votes. Why? Because he touches people - although by his own admission his penis is too small to touch much. (Another reason to like him: who was the last man you heard admit to that?)

Howard operates from the theater of honesty in a way very few performers dare. He says things I’m afraid to say, and admits to feelings I’ve overheard on tour buses and in mens’ locker rooms when no one thinks I’m listening. He’s thoroughly uncomfortable with gay male sexuality, but he also excoriates anyone who would deny their right to consensual sex.

The fallout of doing Howard has been both educational and frightening. People writing to my “fan club” who identify themselves as politically correct are ‘horrified’ and ‘furious’ that I find any common ground with him. The hate mail contingent seems to mistake theater for reality—and their own bigotry for enlightenment—threatening us both with “dire consequences”.

I’m at a loss as to why they find the friendship so dangerous. Howard’s “Lesbo Dial-A-Date” is one of the hottest shows on radio; during it he treats us exactly like he treats his heterosexual female guests—snidely, with double entendres flailing.

Yet my mail assumes that because many of the guests on Dial-A-Date are women with big hair and harsh rural accents (yes, I consider a heavy Brooklyn accent rural), who strip/spank/tease with gleeful abandon, he’s “victimizing the lower economic strata, who can least defend themselves”.

Excuse me? Do they mean that if you have a sixth grade education, you’re less capable of deciding what to do with your body than if you have a Ph.D? Is someone who makes less money also less capable of choosing their own path? I find that attitude incredibly patronizing, and demeaning to all women.

Political correctness is a form of censorship. I learned about censorship in 1966, when as a 15-year-old singer/songwriter I saw my record “Society’s Child” banned across the United States. Disk jockeys were fired for playing it; a radio station in Georgia was burned to the ground for the same reason. Now that it’s being called a “standard” in the books, everyone forgets that when it was released it was attacked by the politically left-wing as well as the rabid right.

I learned about the dark side of political correctness at the same time. The right-wing hated me for encouraging miscegenation, and my left-wing friends jumped on me because the white girl in the song gave in to peer pressure and stops dating her black boyfriend.

When “At Seventeen”, which I recorded in 1976, received five Grammy nominations—incidentally the most any solo female had received to that date, but who’s counting?—I was accused of selling out to the commercial interests. People said I was “mainstreaming my message” by using strings on the record, “disguising my message with pretty words and music”.

Still later I was attacked for going to South Africa during the apartheid years, though I took an integrated band and played to integrated audiences and (unlike Linda Ronstadt and various black Americans who will go unmentioned here, but couldn’t order dinner there) avoided Sun City. The same English committee that prevented Johnny Clegg, probably the best known white South African artist in the world, from performing at a tribute to Nelson Mandela because he’d performed in his residence country of South Africa, also banned me from playing in England.

And when I came out loudly last year in the media, someone wrote “I find your lesbianism suspect now—where were you in the 80’s when we were fighting for our rights?”

As a matter of fact, I spent a good part of the 80’s trying to get a record deal, because no record company would take a chance on a gay 40-year-old female who’d already had two careers. My partner and I mortgaged our home so I could make the album Breaking Silence. Howard Stern and singer/songwriter John Mellencamp, both dismissed in a recent article I read as “misogynistic breeders”, were the only performers to back me with air-time and money before my record broke and got its Grammy nomination.

 
Janis Ian’s letter continues after the jump…
 
“Society’s Child” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Pretty—and bearded—in pink: Poster boy takes shot at pro-military attitude in gay rights movement
11.07.2013
09:55 am

Topics:
Queer
Unorthodox

Tags:
Queer
LGBTI
anti-war

poster
 
Published in 1993 by the Queer caucus of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, (formerly the above-ground auxiliary to the Weather Underground), this sly little bit of radical propaganda was handed out during the 1993 National Lesbian/Gay Rights March in Washington, DC. The event was far from culturally or ideologically uniform, with Sir Ian McKellen, RuPaul, Eartha Kitt and Urvashi Vaid (radical, anti-assimilation queer activist) all present.

At the time, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was becoming a high-profile issue, and as gay rights began to seep into the mainstream, the more radical queer communities began to push back with a critique of the newly “family-friendly” direction of the movement. Of course, now queer rights are almost wholly represented in mass media as naught but marriage and military service, and those who want no part of the US military or the wars they fight are dismissed as marginal malcontents.

Given the scatter-shot state of the anti-war movement at present, maybe we can bring this guy back as a new mascot?
 
Via Bolerium Books

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Shishani: Award-winning Soul artist releases video for her new LGBTI Equality anthem ‘Minority’

shishanilgbtiaf.jpg
 
The excellent blog Spectra Speaks reports that award-winning African artist Shishani, has just released a video for her new LGBTI Equality anthem “Minority”.

Award-winning acoustic soul artist, Shishani, has just released the music video for her latest single titled, “Minority”, a catchy, upbeat, acoustic track that calls for freedom and equality for all people despite perceived differences.

Shishani got her big break when she performed at the 2011 Namibian Annual Music Awards in the capital city of Windhoek, where it’s still illegal to be gay. And though, she says, she’s made no real attempts to hide her sexuality, she hasn’t come out as an “out lesbian artist” till now.

“I wanted people to get to know my music,” she says, “Sexuality doesn’t matter. It’s like pasta — asking if you prefer spaghetti or macaroni. It just doesn’t matter… I’m an artist first, before being a gay artist.”

Nambia is one of several African countries where Homosexuality is illegal, and “LGBTI people risk harassment and violence due to a strong culture of stigma in part reignited by religious leaders and government officials.”

As an African musician who identifies as being a part of the LGBTI community, the lyrics of “Minority” no doubt challenge the infamous meme “Homosexuality is unAfrican.” But, Shishan insists, her song is about much more than being gay.

“In Namibia, it also makes a difference what ethnicity you are. “Minority” argues for equal rights for all people regardless of their cultural backgrounds, economic status, sexuality, religion,” she says, “There is so much systemic discrimination against people, for so many reasons.”

The release of “Minority” is timely; January is the month in which outspoken Ugandan LGBT activist, David Kato was bludgeoned to death in an anti-gay attack three years ago, sparking an outcry from fellow African human rights activists. January is also the month in which people in the U.S.–perhaps even all over the world–celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a powerful civil rights leader and icon. His call for freedom and equality of all people has been taken up by activists all over the world, including Shishani, whose lyrics echo his principles of love and unity.

“Homophobia all over the world comes from the same place; colonialism, apartheid, racial segregation. All our struggles are connected.”

Read the interview with Shishani at Spectra Speaks.

Follow Spectra Speaks on Twitter. Shishani on Facebook.
 

 
With thanks to the wonderful June Millington
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Russia’s Full of Queers’: free benefit album highlighting Russia’s new anti-LGBT laws


 
Compiled by friend of Dangerous Minds Elizabeth Veldon, and available as a free download from the net label Black Circle, Russia’s Full of Queers is a 29 track album designed to highlight the abuse of LGBT people’s rights currently being passed as law in several Russian cities. Elizabeth says:

This album is a response to proposed laws in Russia that would outlaw any discussion of homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderism.

The artists involved gave their tracks free and in many cases produced work to a tight (24 hour) schedule.

There is a wide variety of styles here from Harsh Noise through weird Jazz Cut-Ups to Hip Hop and Ambient.

We only ask that you sign the online petition against these laws and pass the word on.

Alone our voices are tiny, when raised together we can change the world.

 
You can sign the petition here, and you can download Russia’s Full Of Queers here.
 

 
Previously on DM:
Petition to stop Russian authorities passing “draconian” anti-gay bill

 

Petition to stop Russian authorities from passing ‘draconian’ anti-gay bill

russialgbti
 
In what has been described as “a throwback to Soviet times”, Saint Petersburg passed a law banning the promotion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender lifestyles, last week. It is now feared that other Russian cities will follow St Petersburg’s homophobic and bigoted lead, and pass similar laws against the LGBTI community. The Arkhangelsk and the Riazan region have already introduced such legislation.

The law was passed by a majority of 27 to 1, and bans members of the public who acknowledge gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender or inter-sex issues in the presence of a minor. The law is on the same level as pedophilia, and enforces fines of up to $1,500.

A petition has been launched by All Out, which aims to alert the international community to stop what is happening in Russia:

TO: WORLD LEADERS

The party led by Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin is pushing discriminatory legislation against lesbian, bi, gay and trans people that could eliminate their freedom to speak publicly and assemble.

Russia is a signatory to numerous international human rights treaties - including the European Convention on Human Rights. We call on you to urgently speak out and hold Russia accountable to its treaty obligations - and stand with LGBTI Russians whose ability to speak for themselves is under attack.

It was in 1993 that President Boris Yeltsin repealed the law against homosexuality, and in 2009 GayRussia launched its campaign for same sex marriages. However, homophobia is still rife in Russia, which can be seen by Moscow’s ban of Gay Pride rallies over the past 6 years, and Chechen authorities claim Chechnya is a gay free zone.

Amnesty International has asked St Petersburg not to enact the new law which Amnesty claims will lead to violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth said:

“This bill is a thinly-veiled attempt to legalise discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Russia’s second-biggest city.

“The notion that LGBTI rights activists are somehow converting Russia’s youth through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable if the potential effects of this new law weren’t so dangerous and wide-reaching.

“Legislation like that proposed in St Petersburg will only further marginalise LGBTI people, and must be stopped.

“Instead of seeking to restrict freedom of expression and assembly for LGBTI people, the Russian authorities should be doing more to safeguard their rights and protect them from discrimination and violence.”

All Out’s petition can be signed here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment