“I love that half of the people posting about the death of Margaret Thatcher are actually posting pictures of Meryl Streep,” wrote gay blogger and author Kergan Edwards-Stout on Facebook. At first I thought he might be joking, but on further reflection I fear not. Social media is full of such inaccuracies and one must admit that Meryl Streep, in her Oscar-winning turn as the Iron Lady, is more photogenic.
“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good…Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” – Bette Davis (1977)
One of the first things I read about Thatcher’s passing (again on Facebook) was by an award-winning journalist friend: “I guarantee you we will now be flooded with retrospectives praising the legacy of Maggie Thatcher. Never speak ill of the dead.” I felt the need to comment two words: Section 28. I also mentioned the irony of her death coinciding with the Putin demonstration I was about to attend to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws. My former colleague replied with a Wikipedia link to Section 28. I realized that some might not get the reference, but was surprised when my intelligent friend admitted even he didn’t understand until he looked it up.
Sir Ian & the Abseiling Lesbians
You can do the same using the link above. Or if you’re interested in a more thorough and fascinating account, I highly recommend “Abseiling Lesbians” on The Blog That Peter Wrote, which I came across via Twitter a couple of months ago. The main points are that in 1988 under Thatcher’s government Section 28 banned the “promotion” of homosexual material in schools. Protests sparked the rise of gay rights groups like Stonewall UK, co-founded by actor Sir Ian McKellen. Twenty-five years doesn’t seem that long ago, but I guess it depends on where you live. Section 28 is exactly the same kind of legislation under consideration in Russia today.
That’s part of why it was particularly gratifying to discover unprecedented interest in my previous blogpost Queering Vladimir Putin. I’d like to think the attention comes from more than the provocative title. It’s been read by people from over a dozen countries, including Russia and others struggling with gay rights (such as Turkey and Romania.) More than 100 visitors have shared the post on Facebook or Twitter, as have community pages such as DutchNews.nl and Gender Anarchy. OK. Not exactly viral, but nonetheless it was pretty amazing for someone like me. An old friend in New Orleans commented:
“Interesting reading, David. None of that stuff hits the papers here where gay news is all about Supreme Court stuff. We don’t know there are queers anywhere else in the world. Lol.”
“Not Putin Up with Homophobia”
An estimated 3000 protestors turned out for the colorful demonstration in Amsterdam, waving or wearing rainbow flags and carrying an array of clever signs. The atmosphere was defiantly joyful as speakers rallied the crowd to make themselves heard with piercing whistles and chants of “Putin Go Homo!” – an attempt to disrupt the Russian and Dutch leaders’ dinner at the Maritime Museum. The video below gives a sense of the event (featuring Amsterdam drag artiste/activiste Dolly Bellefleur.)
I gave “live tweeting” a try, with limited success – a handful of photos with quick captions. Few followers seemed to notice. But there were a couple of retweets from two Russian LGBT organizations. That made me happy enough to have been there. Two activists from St. Petersburg spoke from the podium. “You are making history here,” said one. “This is the biggest show of support for the LGBT community in Russia ever.” Twenty-five years from now (or on Putin’s passing, after having been played by Ryan Gosling in a biopic) one can only hope this whole episode will be reduced to a Wikipedia entry.