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The Queer Politics Of Drugs

We live in a world in which the pharmaceutical industry produces and markets drugs, not merely to treat disease and restore health, but increasingly for purposes of enhancement: simply to make life better.  One only need think of the lucrative markets in sexual and mood-enhancing pharmaceuticals, which surely blur the distinction between the medical and the recreational.  It’s a curious fact that almost every substance that is currently popular at dance parties has been used or is being trialed for medical purposes (ketamine for depression, GHB for narcolepsy, even ecstasy for post-traumatic stress disorder).  In the age of biological psychiatry, where brain chemistry is posited as the explanation for just about everything, it isn’t surprising that psychoactive drugs should emerge as a significant source of sub cultural pleasure, collective retooling and experimentation.  But it is precisely in this context that a punitive war on drugs has been escalating.

It’s a balmy summer night in Sydney in 2007, and the Azure Party, part of Sydney’s annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras, is underway.  Planning for the party, as usual, has been extensive.  Alongside the party outfits, suntans, drugs, lights, and DJs is a volunteer care team trained to deal with the drug-related emergencies that occasionally occur. But with a state election around the corner, the event attracts an unanticipated form of attention, which creates an emergency of its own.   When police appear at the gates with drug-detecting dogs, mild panic ensues. Some patrons down all their drugs at once in an attempt to avoid detection, heightening their risk of overdose. Others try their luck at the gates, hoping to evade the public humiliation of being searched and the possibility of a criminal record. Police roam around the party with the dogs and after 26 attendees are arrested with small quantities of illicit substances, the party is shut down and the remaining partygoers disperse into the night.

This scene of intervention and panic expresses certain tensions in the government of drugs – between an approach that prioritises harm reduction, and an approach that imagines it is possible to use law enforcement to stop illicit consumption.  It’s a scene whose casual intimidation of ordinary citizens is, if not already normalised, then rapidly becoming so – at youth events, in migrant and racially marked suburbs, and in the recreational precincts and public transport arteries of numerous states and nations.  What’s striking is how the status of certain substances as “illicit” provides an occasion for the state to engage in what could be described as a disciplinary performance of moral sovereignty. This performance bears little relation to the actual dangers of drug consumption – in fact, it often exacerbates those dangers. The contradictory effects of such operations are not lost on those who are subject to them. One Azure partygoer put it plainly: “I find it hard to believe the police shut down the party for the concern and health of the people at the party.  If there were genuine concern from the police for partygoers then to me it would make sense to make an announcement to patrons and step up crowd monitoring. Instead, they ejected 5000 people from what was a medically supervised event onto the streets to fend for themselves”.

The drug search cites the protection of the health of the population as its rationale, and, to be sure, the substances it targets are not without their dangers. This is why volunteer teams go to great lengths to devise care practices uniquely adapted to this environment, designed to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies. It is also why many drug users themselves devise fairly intricate dosing practices, which aim – as far as possible within given constraints – to prevent adverse events. But these care procedures are made precarious by these practices of enforcement.  The state knows this – its own agencies did the math.  Still it persists in pursuing these costly and counterproductive measures despite condemnation from the NSW Ombudsman – a point which raises the question:  why does the supposedly rational state override its commitment to public health at the very moment that it cites that commitment most insistently? The state allows many forms of dangerous recreation, such as hang-gliding, football and mountaineering – not to mention those legal, revenue-raising drugs like alcohol, which are much more likely to be associated with violent crime and aggression.  We would be horrified if the state tried to make these activities as dangerous as possible in order to discourage people from trying them. But this is exactly what is allowed in the attempted enforcement of drug prohibition, which in its present form precludes quality control, puts the drug market in the hands of organised criminals, and threatens users.

In recent years, anti-drug initiatives have been given over to ever more blatant forms of political opportunism. The illicit drug user has come in particularly handy as a scapegoat for those who wish to promote a very exclusive idea of moral citizenship while deflecting attention away from governmental failures. Exploiting drug fears has become a favourite way of promoting investment in what has become known as a “family-based, aspirational society”.  Perhaps the best illustration is the drug campaign booklet mailed to every home in Australia just before the 2001 federal election. The title proposed by the Prime Minister’s office? “The Strongest Weapon Against Drugs … Families”.   The title glows with familiar political symbolism– in which the family is proposed as the antidote to all manner of social problems. But is promoting family values really an effective response to the issue at hand? For many people, families are just as likely to make them want to take drugs!

Even in the prohibitive context, queer communities have developed ways of tailoring drug use to avoid certain harms while maximising pleasure. Some of these strategies have been effective, while others have not. But in the current climate, few are game to share these techniques. Drug use is not for everyone, to be sure, but if people are going to do it, they may as well learn from each other how to do it well. It is wrong to think that the pursuit of pleasure rules out the possibility of care. We need a new approach to drug education, one that acknowledges the legitimacy of pleasure.

It is abundantly clear that drugs are now part of popular culture. This situation presents many dangers as well as possibilities. Given the failure and unjustness of punitive strategies, it is high time we asked: What can be done to promote a more intelligent public culture with respect to drug use? What can be done to bring care into better conversation with pleasure?

 

Kane Race is the author of Pleasure Consuming Medicine: The Queer Politics of Drugs, recently released by Duke University Press, 2009, from which this argument is taken.  He teaches in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.

 

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In 1993 the US Congress passed a law “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” mandating the discharge of openly gay, lesbian or bisexual service members. Since this law was passed, more than 13,500 service members have been fired under this law.

 

Back home here in Australia, our own government directed in 1992 that the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel be removed. Now 17 years later, same-sex couples enjoy the same benefits as our heterosexual married/de facto couples. People are free to be themselves without fear of discrimination or harassment. Most importantly, no fear of being fired for simply being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

 

But people argue that DADT is ok; one can serve, just not be open about their sexuality. How can this be bad? Should ones’ sexuality be checked at the door?

 

Imagine the following:

 

You are sitting down at the Green Bean Coffee Shop at Camp Victory in Iraq. A US Solider approaches and starts chatting. He seems down and upset, so you ask him what was up. He replies that his partner has been killed in action a few days earlier. He continues to tell you that his partner was attached to another unit in Iraq and that you are the first person he has been able to tell. Seeing that he was in need of support for his loss, you sit with him awhile and then approach your Aussie Chaplain to provide additional support and help this soldier through his time of loss.

 

Now imagine you are sitting at home watching the TV and the phone rings. It’s a US Marine that you became friends with while stationed at the US Embassy in Baghdad Iraq. He tells you he’s now stationed in Germany and that his partner was in Afghanistan. He goes on to tell you that he recently received a phone call from a very close friend serving with his partner, only to find out that his partner had been killed in action. All you can do is sit and talk to him about his loss, letting him speak, pouring his heart out.

 

You might think how one could imagine loss and grief like this. The truth is, I wasn’t imagining either of these two stories; they are real and hit me hard. While both of these cases may seem normal (no matter how sad) in a time of war, there is one major difference. Their partners were both male. Both of these men, could not turn to their supervisors, Commanding Officers, Chaplains or other people within their commands for fear of disclosing their sexuality and being fired.

 

Sine my time in Iraq, I’ve presented at two conferences in the US “Sexual Orientation and Military Preparedness – An International Perspective” (Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC - March 2008) and “Freedom to Serve Forum” (President Truman Library, Independence MO – July 2009), where I talked about my service as an openly gay member of the Australian Defence Force.

 

The encouraging words “I will end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from President Obama’s speech during the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in October, brings hope to the thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women currently serving in the US Military.

 

I felt honoured having served side by side our US allies, but at the same time very saddened by their current policy. All any of us wish to do is serve our respective countries. I say let them; free of discrimination, free of harassment.

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Scott Herman


Scott Herman is already famous for being a nice guy - from MTV's Real World, to becoming an internet phenomenon. He has gays and well nearly everyone around the world clamouring to their nearest gym to workout and his youtube and online projects are just massive. Guidetogay.com's Mark Dickson got to sit down with the fitness industries newest superstar...


Hi Scott, thanks so much for taking this time out from your busy schedule to talk to GuidetoGay.com. You started visiting the gym around 14, but were you always fit and sporty from being a kid so this was a natural progression?

Yes, I was always into sports growing up but my main motivation to go to the gym was to blow steam because I was picked on a lot.  I was very quiet as a kid and therefore was an easy target.  I could release negative energy at the gym and it quickly became a second home.


A lot of your clients and viewers may have been scrawny or lumpy or both (like me!) for decades.  How do you relate to their personal image issues that I guess you have been genetically lucky enough to avoid?

Well it is a struggle at both end of the spectrum.  On my side, It is very hard to gain muscle but easy to be lean.  On the opposite, that person can gain muscle but has a hard time staying lean.  So I can relate to the amount of work it takes to reach a goal.  That is what working out is all about. Setting a goal and then accomplishing it.  I see myself as a great coach and helping people reach their goals is what I take pride in.


How do you get up in morning,  or go to gym when stuffed after a long day at work? Is that easier when it becomes a routine part of your life and start enjoying it?

I enjoy going to the gym at night.  I need the day to eat to have the energy to expel at night.  I am a very intense weight lifter and a half empty stomach in the morning just won’t cut it.


Is there an optimum time to work out? Morning or evening, or just when you are committed and going to make most effort?

The best time to workout is anytime after you have eaten enough food to have energy in the gym.  It can be any time of the day.  Just make sure you eat because meal plan is key to your results!


I recently had a cold - is that the perfect excuse to skip gym for weeks till it's entirely gone? Or would you recommend people rest up for the worst few days then get back and do some light stuff. I know I've skipped endless time due to this and it's difficult to get back into it after break – this time I changed tack and went to gym and seemed to get over it faster.

Well I have had hives for the last two days… allergic reaction to a cologne I believe, and I have been all kinds of miserable.  But I still went to the gym to at least “go through the motions” as opposed to not doing anything.  Whether that is the best decision or not… I guess that is up to you.  I just don’t like to accept defeat.


You have a LOT going on in your life, when hives isn’t trying to interrupt. How do you Balance gym and socializing? To go on a date, or gym? Or both?

Well the gym is a part of my daily routine so that’s never hard to fit in.  However my social life has suffered a lot. But I do have a date tomorrow!  Yeah!! Wish me luck!


Yay, Good luck for sure  - we’re so jealous!   Speaking of which: Sex sells! Your image obviously helps promote the videos but do you actually work out shirtless normally at the gym like the guys all seem to do in fitness magazines?

I would actually always workout shirtless at my gym after I closed it.  Me and my buddies would close the place, throw our iPod on the sound system and tear it up for a couple hours.  It is really fun.


Some gyms in Australia are notorious for people (mainly guys I noticed!) standing around gossiping, primping and preening more than working out - is that just a gay ghetto issue in Australia or do you see that across the states too? Should gyms should be serious or social or maybe both if doesn't affect others.

That is something you will see in every gym.  But it isn’t a bad thing because a lot of people wouldn’t go to the gym unless they had that sort of social atmosphere.  However, their workout and results will suffer.  But hey, it’s better than nothing right?


How's your acting coming along post your stint on MTV’s Real World? I know you have your eyes set on a role as Captain America in an upcoming movie (& could use the angle that you don't need 6 months of Intensive training before the role like most actors would!). Are there any other acting jobs you'd consider and do you have plans to build up a background in theatre or movies before this and have you done any amateur theatre in the past?

I am actually up for the lead in a new HBO series.  It is still in preproduction but I should know more very soon.  I want to venture out and do some serious acting, but my goal is to use those opportunities as vessels to bring more attention to my fitness websites.  I want to teach fitness to the world and more face time will for sure help me spread this message.


You’re in demand as a fitness/underwear model: "guys wanna be you; girls (and some guys!) want you" ...do you think this could be your main career aside from movies, or do you like the challenge of several jobs?

Modeling is great but I enjoy the challenge from several jobs.  I am a business man by nature and like to have something to work on each day.  I like to see things grow and become successful.


You seem to have Lots of gay followers of Youtube, but often people are asking if you’re gay or protesting that you’re straight. We don't care to know either way, but do you thing in the 21st Century we should have moved on from this?

I really don’t feed too much into the “are you gay or not” questions I get on youtube.  It never made sense to me.  We don’t ask someone if they are straight, so why do we have to ask if they are gay?  I think at this point in time it shouldn’t matter.  However the best thing about Youtube is that most of the time I cannot tell if I am talking to a girl or guy because of their username.  So when I respond to comments I can respond more naturally to something like.. “You’re hot!!” from a username like skatifs345.


Have you encountered any discrimination against Gay or Lesbian's in the fitness industry? It seems not to be a problem in inner Sydney but our gyms are often Gay run so maybe not that surprising! Also being in the fitness and modeling industry do you have many Gay friends?

I don’t see any discrimination against gays or lesbians in the fitness industry.  In fact, I have had many gay clients.  But as far as modeling goes, I’d say most of the people I meet in the entertainment industry in NY are gay men and they have made up the majority of my new friends since starting in the industry.


How do you find time to reply to posts online personally & why is this so important to you?

I make the time because I know there is going to be a point where I just won’t be able to do it anymore.  So while I can I want to let everyone know that I do care.  Even when I start getting 1,000s of comments per video I know I may not respond as much; but I want my viewers to know that I am still listening to what they need by reading them.


What drives you so hard to help people achieve their personal fitness goals?

Helping others fills me with joy.  I am a very social person and like to get involved in the lives of the people around me.


Any plans to visit Australia in the future?

I would love to visit Australia.  I am hoping a club or event coordinator will call me soon and book me for an appearance.  That would be so amazing! [Ed: anyone interested? drop us a line & we’ll put you in touch !]


What do you do when you get time to relax? Ever go to music festivals / clubs and what do you listen to at gym or when you’re out running?

My relaxing is playing video games with friends and watching TV or I will go for a jog.  I also enjoy working on my car.  I used to be a DJ so music is a big part of my life.  I listen to anything and everything.  If I am weight training I usually listen to hardcore rock like Korn, Disturbed, Godsmack, Slipknot, Static X, or Linkin Park.  When I run it is more upbeat music like Rhianna, Britney, Veronicas, Janet, Blackeyed peas, Pitbull, Lil Wayne or Beyonce.  A fast beat helps me run faster.


Do you think you have had an advantage by presenting well (looks/body/attitude) - research seems to say good looking people often get favored in life; but do you think by someone increasing their fitness that they can help this, regardless of if they're considered stereotypically good looking?

I have always been under the impression that if you are fit that it gives off the vibe that you have discipline.  However that is not always the case.  I have been approached by good looking men and woman and could see that they were full of it.  So in all actuality, it may help to get your foot slightly in the door, but it is your personality that is going to sell you 100%.


Finally, thank you for talking to the Guidetogay members, and good luck with all your goals, especially making more of us work out properly and pay attention to our health. One final question: if you come to Sydney and hit Bondi beach with us, would you want to be wearing Speedos, Boardies or Footy shorts?

Well after modeling all the jockstraps for UnderGear there is really nothing left for the imagination, so I guess I could go with the Speedo.  No one likes knee high tan lines anyways!


For more fitness advice and to watch a selection of Scott’s training videos check out the Guidetogay video section and subscribe to Scott’s Youtube channel: ScottHermanFitness for the entire set.

You can get great advice on health and fitness for free by watching these, and for a small charge get personalized assistance and dietary advice through his main website (let Scott know you read about him on Guidetogay.com). We hope to be doing a review of these features at a later date for you.

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International Drag Day 2009

Pride Week is pretty much over for another year across the globe, but the proud keep on getting prouder, with Drag queens and Kings all over the globe flocking to a new concept in celebration - INTERNATIONAL DRAG DAY!

Guidetogay.com is the official media partner of Drag Day, and we caught up with creator, Adam Stewart, to get the low down on FAAAABULOUS and FIERCE celebration.



So tell us a bit about International Drag Day... Why did you launch this concept?

International Drag Day is a day where all around the world on every gay scene we take this opportunity to celebrate and thank the drag artists that add so much to gay life and culture. This is the reason I launched this concept. I saw that there was no such day or event on an international platform in which we celebrated drag artists. So I went about launching is via my “Drag Queen” fan page on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/dragqueens. I thought this would be the best way to reach drag queen fans internationally and for free, as I obviously had no funds to launch the day or event like you would launch any other. The fan page has over 5,000 fans and interest has been greatly received and very positive and is still gaining interest about the event and how they are getting involved.

In your opinion – which country has the best drag?

I would obviously be somewhat biased to my home country the UK, as I think we have some great drag talents such as the retired Lily Savage, Vida Las Vegas, Drag with no name and Lola Lasagne to name but a few. I also live in Birmingham which has a thriving drag scene with many great artists. I would also have to say Australia would be a close second as they certainly have the most fun and outrageous drag queens especially a little know star called Dame Edna Everage as well as giving us one of THE best drag movie and now a stage show ever, “Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert”. 

Do you think Drag differs from region to region, and how do you see your project bringing different drag genre’s together?

If by region to region you mean different countries then definitely, yes. I think each country has their own ideas and qualities of how a drag artist should be, look and perform and I do believe and hope that IDD does bring these different types of drag artists together. Especially Drag Kings, which have to some degree been out of the lime light. I hope this day allows them to shine. I also think it will bring the different genres together through the events that people will put on. Just having a handful of different performers and artists in that sense brings them together, under one roof, for one cause, it is as simple as that.

What specifically is involved in IDD, and how can people get involved?

International Drag Day is what you make it. It works on the premise of the local gay bars and clubs in the gay scenes around the world throwing some kind of event to celebrate the day, that way people can go out and show their support and love for drag artists within their cities around the world. However it can be as simple and as poignant as going out that night, possibly dragging up yourself and supporting the drag talents performing, and showing your appreciation towards them. However of course ideally the bigger the celebration the better and I do urge owners/managers of the bars and clubs as well as local gay community projects to recognise this day and help in the celebration of drag.



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Damien Mancell Celebrates his new single and the Sydney GLBTI community

He graciously provided us with a kick ass soundtrack for the Guidetogay.com Mardi Gras soundtrack, and now, Sydney boy, Damien Mancell is kicking ass on all the charts, making his debut single 'Be With You Tonight' one of the hottest dance/pop tracks of the winter. We caught up with Damien during a very hectic week to find out more about Sydney's freshest singer/songwriter...



We obviously know you very well (firstly, thanks for providing the awesome soundtrack for our mardi gras coverage!) but for those that don't know Damien Mancell... can you sum yourself up if possible?
well..And thanks for the Mardi Gras coverage, as it kind of kick started this whole whirlwind. Im a sydney based singer songwriter that's been working behind the scenes for years now. I worked with dancers, artists, film directors, other bands, boy bands etc.I had been an active member of the GLBT community for many years now & I've worked in and out of the Sydney club scene for years.
I really enjoyed working behind the scenes,  but now its time for me to do my own thing. So I hooked up with one of Sydney's most talented writer/producers, Steve Mellare, and decided to write a few tracks. I met Steve whilst working on someone else's project. A few tracks turned into a larger body of work. Then the possibility of an album. I was well aware of who Steve was, and knew he was just the guy to help me deliver something substantial. We just clicked in the studio. I had been producing for others for years, but when it came to writing for me, I needed his guidance. I wanted to make a club record, as I love that scene. I live with a DJ, alot of my friends are DJ's, and I place myself firmly in that world. 

Your very active in the music and gay scenes in Australia, which is the bitchiest? lol
ooh..tough question, both are bitchy but in different ways .. the gay scene is a "why dont I have that.. lets cut him down" mentality, where as the Music  industry is a "kill him at all costs" mentality. You need a thick skin to survive. The gay scene is less harsh, hard to believe , but when your playing with the big nasty boys , they can "out bitch' any seasoned queen anyday. The only problem is when you mix the two, that can, and has been disaster!!LOL

So your single has been out for a week now - how does it feel?
Over the moon, Its taken so long to get it here. The reaction is a little overwhelming. Its kind of cool that people I dont know have bought it for some reason, like it, and have joined my facebook page. From all over the world. I couldn't believe that many people bought it on the day it came out.
That motivates me to do more, and deliver a great 2nd single, great remixes, great show and a killer album...

Why did you choose to go with "Be With You Tonight" as your lead single?
I chose it because it was a great introduction to what I am about. I love the song, the remixes are awesome. I felt that this would be a great way to introduce myself to the world. Its also a very catchy song, and it sticks in your head for days. I seem to have made the right choice..

What's the best thing about being a singer/songwriter?
The best thing is being able to express myself honestly and to be able to tell my story in a way that people can relate to. Im very lucky that people actually like what I do. So as a songwriter it gives me a little boost when it does well.

Can we expect any shows? Appearances? Maybe even Sleaze Ball or Mardi Gras Shows?
Im planning a few things for late july in the show department. I personally cant wait.. As for Mardi Gras? Hell YES! I am a staunch supporter of Mardi Gras. I think they are an important part of the Sydney culture, and will do anything I can to support them. I dont believe Sydney would be "sydney" without Mardi Gras. If they ever asked me to work for them in any way, I would say yes

What are your plans for future releases?
My plans are to promote this single (Be With You Tonight), working the clubs, and getting people away from their couches and back on the dancefloor Haha. Because of the success of the first single , it looks good for a  second single in September/ October, with a new batch of killer remixes,  and then the album for Christmas. Im also planning some shows, and some cool multi media aspects to what I do to make the music more accessible to people. Can I just take this opportunity to thank you guys for all your support...it means alot!



You can check out Damien on any iTunes store across the globe, Amazon.com, Walmart, Napster, CDBaby and every leading digital retailer.
Check out more on Damien at http://www.damienmancell.com



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Palmer Marchese (Spokes)

Palmer Marchese is 19-years-old and currently lives in Brisbane, but was born and raised in Melbourne. He is already a seasoned performer, with an extensive training resume and a growing list of credits in stage productions, short films and television.

Its a rare thing to be a fresh face with a list of credits as long as your arm, but this lad has managed to pull it off... last year, he won a national vote to host Network Ten’s Toasted TV and gained a wealth of presenting, interviewing and production experience. He recently made the tough decision to leave the show in order to pursue more serious roles.

It’s quite a gamble to walk away from a well-paid job, but it’s a decision that was made easier by recent interest form prominent casting agents and directors. This buzz is thanks to Palmer’s lead role in the critically acclaimed short film
Spokes, in which he delivers a moving portrayal of a love-struck and isolated gay man.

His versatile performance wowed audiences in Sydney and saw Spokes take out the short component at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. Now the film is embarking on a national tour as part of the Queer Film Festival, before heading off overseas to travel the festival circuit.

Guidetogay.com got to sit on the virtual couch with the talented young man to fire off some quick questions and help us get to know him just a little bit better.




Veteran actors say you should never work with animals and children... is that why you left your role on a kid’s TV show?

I love kids, but what I really want to do with my career strays outside of the boundaries of children’s television. I’m ready to take on more serious and challenging roles that appeal to a wider audience.

You’ve done a lot of theatre work – what was your favourite production and why?

The production of My Pet Human by Leah Pellinkoff was my favourite. I’ve always been a pet lover and this play explored the similarities between a dog and its owner. The raw Australian dialect in the script made me feel right at home and the fact I had to transform in and out of being a panting, barking and talking dog helped to build my self esteem whilst performing.

Harold from Neighbours – cool or not?

I don’t know him personally, but I know Neighbours fans miss him dearly!

You play the lead in short film Spokes. Did you hesitate before taking a gay role?

To be honest, I didn’t know it was a gay role until I was in the audition room. When I found out, I took it on board as a challenge and an opportunity to show my diversity.

As a straight guy, what preparation did you have to do for this role?

Firstly I had to break down the walls I had put up as a straight guy. I realised I didn’t know that much about gay guys – I mean, I have gay friends but there was a lot that I didn’t understand. I tried to observe how women interact with men and transferred the emotion I would use towards a woman to convey what I was feeling in Spokes.

What was the most challenging part? Did you learn anything from playing a gay man (better sense of style, dancing ability etc.)

Spokes made me appreciate the sensitivity of life and the full extent of sentimental value. My character’s passive nature proved that having a strong will can be rewarding.

Your character doesn’t speak – how do you convey emotion without words? Did you have to spend lots of time in front of the mirror.

I always work with thought first, and action second. The body conveys our thoughts and emotions, and strong thoughts can be visible to an outsider. People say speech is only a small part of communication and things like body language and expression make up the majority. But yes, the mirror and I have been friends for a very long time – it’s an amazing self-critique tool.

You also provide the voice of the animated French ant in Spokes – is the ant gay too?

No, he’s a typically hard-working French ant. He has a certain charisma perhaps, but he’s not gay.

Heath Ledger’s career was helped along by his role in Brokeback Mountain and everyone’s talking about Sean Penn after Milk. Are you hoping for a similar boost?

I saw this role as an opportunity to try a new, daring and bold genre that I’d not experienced before. I got so much out of this opportunity and for that I’m incredibly grateful. If it results in some additional success, that’s just an added bonus.

What’s on the horizon for you? Would you rather a gig in film or TV?

There are some very exciting things in the pipeline at the moment. I wish I could tell you, but I’m sworn to secrecy until the contract ink is dry. Television is something I definitely enjoy but I think film is where I’d love to end up. It gives an artistic license to explore a larger variety of choices and ideas, with fewer restrictions than television.



More Info :: www.palmermarchese.com.au/





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Queer As Folk's Robert Gant

In Australia, Queer As Folk originally screened as the UK version, and now we have the US version - there are significant differences in the show, and the characters - what do you think about the two shows, and how do you feel about the differences, and the added facets to the US series?

Comparing the UK and US versions of QAF is like comparing apples to oranges. I love them both, but they are fruits of very different trees. While the original had the luxury of being almost solely artistically driven and “indie” in feel, the US version had to deal with the mandates of series television. In other words, it had to concern itself with maintaining its audience for the long haul, with commercial viability. The original didn’t have to worry about ratings in the same way, so I think it likely had freer artistic reins with far less, if any network oversight. The US version also had to contend with the inevitable comparisons (such as this one) to the original. It took a bit of time to shake those comparisons and to become its own entity. I think that both endeavors succeeded very well within the parameters that they were given. Given all of that, too much comparison doesn’t really make sense.

Your character, Ben, emerged in the plot lines after the UK versions story lines were finished - was it easier for you to do a role that had not been portrayed by other actors?

I don’t know that it was necessarily easier. I don’t think that any of the actors really looked to the preexisting characters to contemplate the new ones. Like my fellows, even if there had been a preexisting Ben character, I don’t think I would have focused on him at all in my preparation. Again, these shows are very different creations, despite they’re shared title. They represent very different worlds. I don’t think I would have constrained myself by trying to do or not to do something the original character would have done, that is, had there been one.

As an actor - who just happens to be gay, is it easier, or harder to play a gay character?

Other than one episode of Veronica’s Closet, Ben was the first gay character I’ve played, certainly the only one of any depth. I don’t think that there’s really a whole lot of difference one way or the other. I will say that it has been invigorating to get to play Ben. As actors,we draw upon our life experiences to inform the characters we play. So it is freeing and fun to get to immerse myself in a gay character and use my own life experiences to inform him. That said, the difficulty in portraying a character has more to do for me with the depth to which the character is drawn. In many ways, Ben has been the hardest character for me to portray because he is the most textured that I’ve played. A straight character with no depth is not tough at all. So, I suppose it’s not a gay/straight issue at all but rather a simplicity/complexity issue.

Do you feel a sense of duty or burdon when it comes to playing an HIV positive character?

The script writers seem to be very aware of issues relating to positive people - would you have written the script differently if you held the pen? I think the writers have done a nice job with their handling of HIV. The only thing I would love to see explored are some of the other ideas and theories about HIV and its role in AIDS. So much really powerful and intelligent literature challenging some of our current beliefs around HIV has been sent to me. As someone who believes that discussion is always a good thing, I’m troubled by the extent to which parts of the medical community and pharmaceutical community seem so completely unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion about differing ideas and possibilities. A really interesting site I was pointed to is aliveandwell.org. I don’t know what the answers are to this great and painful dilemma, but I feel certain that only through meaningful discussion will we reach them.

As part of the Queer as Folk team - do you or any of the other actors get to have input into the script development?

The producers/writers are very good about fielding our concerns for the characters’ continuity. They often mention that we are keepers of our characters in a sense. With so many different directors on the show,we each keep an eye to some extent on our character to doublecheck that we’re not doing something that’s not in keeping with previous episodes. That said, this really is the baby of the show’s creators, and they are ones who develop the stories.

You are a role model to many gay Australian guys - what are the things you have done in your life that have made you the success you are today?

My life has really been about learning as I go with particular emphasis on the learning. I’m committed to expanding constantly what used to be my very narrow understanding of myself and the world. I think that therapy, self-help reading, and exporation of spirituality have been my greatest keys to growth and “success.” For me, it’s pretty much about the understanding of self and the world around me and the extent to which that understanding affects my actions, usually for the better.

You had a very cool career prior to taking on the role of Ben in Queer As Folk, what was your highlight of your past experiences as an actor?

Most of my experiences were highlights at the time they occurred. I really enjoyed doing a lot of the sitcom stuff (Caroline in the City, Friends, etc.). It’ll be fun to revisit that world once I move on from Queer as Folk. I think I’m ready for some comedy.

Have you been to Australia before?

I’ve not yet been but would love to go one of these days. All I hear are incredible things about the land and the people. Australia really sounds like my kind of place. And just once, I’d like to see what that Mardi Gras thing is all about before I reach a point in my life when it’s just no longer of any interest. To tell you the truth, I’m just about at that point now, so I’d better hurry down! Unfortunately, we always film at the same time, so it just hasn’t been a possibility. Maybe next year.

Do you have any business or acting ventures outside of QAF at the moment?

I’ve started a production company called Mythgarden with actor Chad Allen and producer Christopher Racster.We’ve optioned a number of fantastic scripts that take the storytelling of our community to a new level. We also have several television shows in development. It’s been very exciting, so stay tuned for next steps for Mythgarden. Acting-wise, I’ve been offered some great projects, but, unfortunately, they’ve conflicted with the shoot schedule for QAF. Once we wrap the season, I can turn my attention more to that. I did do a short film called Billy’s Dad is a Fudge-packer that is premiering in the Sundance film festival.

You are one good looking lad - is there ever going to be a Robert Gant workout video???

That’s funny. Umm, not likely in the near future. But maybe at some point, I’ll do something that has to do with one’s total sense of health and beauty. Physical, spiritual, the whole bit.

Are you currently in a relationship? Or do you find the binds of work make it too difficult?

I’m single. I look forward to finding a meaningful relationship. I feel very certain that the universe will provide that and that it will do so in its own time. And I’m okay with that. I didn’t use to be. I believed in my younger years that a relationship was somehow necessary to complete me. I didn’t feel okay being alone. I get now that I’m whole already. Today, I really enjoy spending time with myself. It’s such a nice place to have arrived.

Does your life reflect that of your characters in any way? How do you find inspiration to play Ben?

Sir Laurence Olivier once said,“Ask not who I become to play a character. Ask rather who the character becomes because I play it.” I’ve found that analysis to be very accurate. Any character an actor plays is who that character is largely as a result of the life experiences of the actor. So while Ben and I are not one in the same, while many of his storylines do not reflect my life, his expression is almost entirely me. His expression of emotion must necessarily be drawn from my own personal well of life experiences. If Ben’s experiencing something that I haven’t, then I must analogize his journey in that moment to mine as best I can. Because I’ve lived in his skin for quite some time, that happens much more readily for me.

Do you have a message for your Australian Fans?

I’ve gotten many terrific emails from fans in Australia through my website. I hope I get the chance to visit one of these days and to meet some of the great Australian folks who enjoy the show.

***Queer As Folk Screens on SBS Television.
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The Obama/Biden GLBTI Plan

The President-elect Barack Obama transition team and agenda website change.gov has listed comprehensive plans for the nation, including plans for LGBT rights.

The Obama-Biden Plan

  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. Barack Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
  • Fight Workplace Discrimination: Barack Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. Obama also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: Barack Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
  • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
  • Expand Adoption Rights: Barack Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Obama will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. Obama also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. He will continue to speak out on this issue as president.
  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Barack Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.



    Previously stated support for the LGBT Community by Obama

    "While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
    -- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
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    Same Sex Marriage Gets Socially Active

    With the recent action in the United States about Same Sex Marriage, Guidetogay.com started to look into those folk who are trying to do something about raising the awareness locally here in Australia. Is the fight for rights just limited to organised groups with logos and banners? Hell no! We caught up with social networking 'activist' Tim Redway - who is not a member of any arranged group, just a concerned member of our community hoping to make a difference.

    Gay Marriage has taken a blow in the United States recently - what made you personally want to stand up and do something like this facebook group?

    I started recieving information and invites to join causes or groups about overturning prop 8 and I joined a couple. At that point I also decided to do some online research on the topic and while getting carried away with the American experience, I thought, "Hold on, whats happening in Australia? Why are'nt we talking about it or debating it?"

    I also remember that Australia, just after Federation was one of the first countries to give women the vote, which also made me think that we are definitely falling behind the rest of the Western world on this subject.

    Aside from that, I am not a gay activist, and have never participated in any equal rights rallies, meetings or memberships. I am a regular, professional gay guy who just thought, 'what if?'

    I am not even that big on using Facebook!

    How do you feel about the current Australian Governments position on same sex marriage?

    I'm quite pragmatic about any governments stance on the issue. The fact is that most will go some way to support legal recognition in some form, but none will grant full equality. I don't really think that is often a ministers or MP's personal view, just a collective view because they are too afraid of electoral backlash.

    What dissapoints me about that is that in my view, governments should probably leave it out of any election debate, but could move swiftly to bring it in once elected.

    Many governments make major changes once in power, with years of office still ahead of them.

    The Rudd government, should, in my view, as a left wing government, address this issue. Social equality for them, should include everyone.

    Have you had any negative feedback to your Facebook group?

    No, and for some reason did'nt think I would or receive any. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    Do you think the gay community really wants same sex marriage ... why/why not?

    I think the gay community would like complete equality. I am an athiest myself. But even athiests get married.

    What do you plan to do with the group once you hit your targets?

    I don't know to be honest. Hand it over to someone who knows what they are doing? (Laughing)

    I looked at the numbers of members on the US groups and thought, well, it should be possible to make 1,000 at least. And then I thought, if it gets there, I may as well aim for 10,000.

    If it burgeons into something huge, I will contact my local member.

    I'm used to taking the lead in life, so perhaps I will find myself fronting something that if you had asked me 6 months ago, would I ever do, I would so, absolutely not.

    Let see.



    You can join Tim's Same Sex Marriage Group on Facebook by clicking on the link on Guidetogay's facebook group page.
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    Mr Leather Sydney: Alan Norman

    We recently caught up with the winner of the Sydney/NSW Mr Leather competition - who will head to Melbourne for the national competition, Mr Alan Norman. We wanted to know why a pageant for the Leather community was still valid in todays society and what its like to be a member of a vibrant sub section the the GLBTI community.

    What does winning the title mean to you?
    Winning the title is an honour that carries with it great responsibility. It means that I will have an opportunity to meet a larger group of people in Sydney and surrounding regions. As a representative of the community it also provides with the chance to discover and learn more about the many other organizations in the community and - volunteer my time where possible.

    How do you plan on representing sydney's leather community throughout the year?
    I plan on representing Sydney’s Leather Community in a positive and non threatening light. Often the community is misunderstood - and throughout the year wherever possible at events, functions, workshops, meet and greets and through day to day contact with people I hope to be able to break down some of those misunderstandings through open and honest communication.

    What is it about the leather culture that you admire most?
    The diversity of the people. Rarely will you encounter someone on the street and immediately identify them as a member of the ‘leather culture’. Leather culture encompasses many different segments of the whole community – gay and straight.
    Who knows – maybe the person sitting beside you in the office embraces the leather culture – perhaps your lawyer, the bus driver, a policeman, a teacher, a member of the clergy or maybe even the anaesthesiologist that is watching over you in the surgery. Leather is an attitude and not necessarily something that is always worn on one’s sleeve.
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