Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Obama Backs DADT Repeal

The latest: the Obama administration will support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal put forward by Congress  this week. It’s a compromise between gay rights groups’ wish for immediate repeal and the Pentagon’s study-in-progress. The Pentagon’s study is due December 1.

If the vote happens in Congress, and the President signs it, the move will be one step forward for Obama’s stagnant record in gay rights. Public pressure must be credited to Lt. Dan Choi and the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network for recent acts of civil disobedience as well as the protest art that’s cropped up.

Let’s hope this happens. The bad, 17 year-old law has led to more than 13,500 discharges. You can add your name to the list of supporters here.

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Filed under: gay rights, military, , , , , , , , ,

DADT’s Growing Political Art: Subverting History

A simple, hopeful message with a twist.

A group of artists called the “Open Artist Movement” has released a set of poster images subverting the war posters of the early 20th century for the purpose of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This comes on the heels of widely-covered protests by Lt. Dan Choi yesterday on the front lawn of the White House.

Instead of Rosie the Riveter, we have lesbian icons Rachel Cantu and and Stephanie Roberts. Standing in for WWII veterans proclaiming, “We Can Do It!” are Wilson Cruz and Daryl Stephens.

It’s heartening to see the artists subverted the all-American image of white male soldiers leading the campaign with actors, models, and activists of color. I’m reminded of the fantastic imagery railing against corporate America by Sheperd Fairey and his “Obey” series. Both series of artworks are meant to be in the public sphere and to evoke parallels to already-established propoganda machines.

Filed under: art, gay rights, , , , , ,

Like Kanye, But for a Cause

While I was teaching about gender stereotypes of Asian American women (check out Jessica Hagedorn’s excellent essay about the lotus blossom and tragic, weeping woman-stereotypes in The Joy Luck Club), Lt. Dan Choi was taking this warm afternoon to handcuff himself to the White House.

During a rally to protest Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, organized by the Human Rights Campaign and featuring funny lady Kathy Griffiin, Choi took the stage to call for immediate repeal of DADT. Kanye may have done the same thing at the Grammys to perky Taylor Swift, but this afternoon it was Choi taking the mic to call for gay rights.

Choi, of course, has been a longtime spokesperson for the rights of gay soldiers. It was surprising to hear recently that Choi was not officially discharged from the Army; his paperwork was still weaving its way through the bureaucracy. Technically, he’s still a servicemember of the U.S. armed forces, and a gay one at that. We’re lucky the whole institution hasn’t imploded, as predicted by naysayers (flip-floppers?) like John McCain.

Apparently, White House spokesman Gibbs was hosting a press conference in the Rose Garden at the same time; when asked by a reporter about the civil disobedience, Gibbs knew nothing of the incident. Here’s a video of Rick Sanchez reporting on CNN:

Filed under: gay rights, military, , , , , , , ,

DADT Images, in Shadow and Light

A man in uniform, seated on a bed, his body turned away. His face hidden by a white windowpane.

Jeff Sheng’s photographs of gay and lesbian servicepeople are based on a simple premise: like our faulty “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the photographs focus on appearances: women and men in uniform, not being asked about their sexual orientation, and by hiding this part of their identity, safely secure in their military positions. The visual imagery, however, belies, comfort in a secure job: in one of the first images Sheng took, a hand covers one soldier’s face. In another, shadows hide two women in a kiss.

For Sheng’s subjects, the choice to participate was a complex, personal decision. Just being photographed, despite the fact that faces would not be shown, was to risk dismissal. One of the soldiers, Jess, describes the feeling of always asking whether to come out or stay closeted:

After serving in Afghanistan, Jess was moved from what he called a “more liberal” unit to one where he was “pushed back in the closet.” He finds his situation difficult. “You can’t get to know people,” he said. “You can’t develop bonds with the people you’re fighting with day in and day out. I can’t talk about myself. I’m afraid I’ll reveal something. I’m constantly on guard.”

Sheng’s image of two women is particularly striking. Facing each other, one woman in her navy uniform, her partner in a red dress with tightly coiffed hair, evokes 50’s glamour and style; it’s ironic to apply the secrecy and shame of a bygone era to an ostensibly more progressive 2010.

Though President Obama and legislative leaders seem to be crawling in the repeal process of DADT, the conclusion that DADT will be repealed is certain. It’s just a matter of time.

Filed under: art, gay rights, military, , , , , , , ,

A Smart Thing to Do: Swarm the HRC, not Obama

They’re calling it a blog swarm, and I’m on board.

Tired of the “yes men” (note the intentional gendering of that term) attitude of the Human Rights Campaign, notable bloggers (including Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, at right) are calling on HRC to make truly represent the needs and demands of lesbian and gay citizens in the U.S. Rather than passively accomodate the agenda of the White House and the democrats, the so-called, self-identified blog swarm is calling out the Joe Solomonese and the Human Rights Campaign for its inaction.

Yes, call your Senators and Representatives. Yes, make your voice heard in the White House. But also call on your foremost gay rights advocacy group–intentionally called the “Human Rights Campaign”–to stand up for human rights, namely:

  • the 2010 repeal of DADT (which may not happen in Obama’s first term without HRC agenda-setting),
  • the passage of ENDA, to forbid employee discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • and, of course, an end to legalized federal discrimination in DOMA.

The blog swarm says call on Human Rights Campaign to stop accepting the donations and accomodating agenda of an elite donor list–and to step up to the plate on issues of real importance for the glbt community.

Filed under: gay rights, , , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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About Me

https://rsiasoco.wordpress.com/about/

About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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