Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween: America's Gay Holiday

By: Irene Monroe via

Halloween is America's gay holiday.

In the words of the lesbian poet and scholar Judy Grahn, Halloween is "the great gay holiday."

And this weekend of lavish costumed theatricality will attract everyone, but especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) revelers.

Back in the day Halloween, the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day), was linked to the ancient Celtic festival Samhain in the British Isles, meaning "summer's end." And because the celebration is associated with mystery, magic, superstition, witches and ghosts, the festivity, not surprisingly, was limited in colonial New England because of its Puritanical belief system.

But today it's an LGBTQ extravaganza that rivals -- if not out-showcases -- Pride festivals.

Long before June officially became Gay Pride Month and October became Coming Out Month for the LGBTQ community, Halloween was unofficially our yearly celebrated "holiday," dating as far back as the 1970s, when it was a massive annual street party in San Francisco's Castro district.

By the 1980s, gay enclaves like Key West, West Hollywood, and Greenwich Village were holding their annual Halloween street parties. And the parades the night of Halloween did and still do draw straights and gay spectators out to watch.

Gay cultural influence on Halloween has become such an unstoppable phenomenon here and abroad that anthropologist Jerry Kugelmass of University of Florida published a book in 1994 on the new trend, titled Masked Culture, describing Halloween as an emerging gay "high holiday."

"The 'masked culture' first developed by the gays of San Francisco has reached across the lines of orientation -- and now jumped across the boundaries between nations and languages. It's not just a party. It's an ideal of personal emancipation, self-expression and self-fulfillment -- an ideal that loses none of its power when it takes the form of a sexy nurse's outfit," CNN contributor David Frum wrote last year in "Halloween craze started in gay culture."

Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, points out that while Halloween is enjoyed by everyone, "it has been the Gay community that has most flamboyantly exploited Halloween's potential as a transgressive festival, as one that operates outside or on the margins of orthodox time, space, and hierarchy. Indeed, it is the Gay community that has been arguably most responsible for Halloween's adult rejuvenation."

Halloween allows many LGBTQ Americans at least one night annually, Oct. 31, of safely being out and "unmasked" while remaining closeted. The community revels the entire night like there is no tomorrow, and for many there isn't. Like its pagan roots, Halloween provided an outlet for us cross-dressing and gender-bending LGBTQ outsiders who are ostracized by mainstream society.

As Halloween flourishes as a gay cultural phenomenon, so, too, flourished a backlash by the fundamentalist Christians with their "Hell Houses."

And these Christians targeted our children.

(Believing Hell Houses are no longer up and running in 2011, I'll speak of them in the past tense.)

Hell Houses were a contemporary form of both anti-gay bullying and witch-hunting. Created in the late 1970s by the Reverend Jerry Farwell, the deceased fundamentalist pastor, Hell Houses were religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses. They were tours given by evangelical churches across the country designed to scare and bully people away from myriad sins. And one of those sins is homosexuality.

In 2006 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) put out a report titled "Homophobia at 'Hell House': Literally Demonizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth," explaining how hell houses specifically targeted youth.

"Instead of spooking youth with ghosts and monsters, Hell House tour guides direct them through rooms where violent scenes of damnation for a variety of 'sins' are performed, including scenes where a teenage lesbian is brought to hell after committing suicide and a gay man dying of AIDS is taunted by a demon who screams that the man will be separated from God forever in hell," the NGLTF stated.

A study published in the Journal of Psychology stated that a strong belief in Satan is directly related to intolerance of LGBTQ people.

Religious leaders who supported Hell Houses believed that by scaring LGBTQ youth into "heterosexual" behavior, they were saving their souls.

However, the message that "homosexuals" are going to hell can have a deleterious impact on our youth. But with Halloween flourishing as a gay cultural phenomenon, our children, too, can joyfully go door-to-door trick-or-treating.

Our influence on culture is being acknowledged and celebrated more as we come out.

As Kwanzaa is a black holiday, and St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday, maybe someday soon Halloween will be officially acknowledged as a gay holiday.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Denmark expected to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, says minister.

By Brody Levesque via

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government is set to introduce a bill in early 2012 that will allow gays and lesbians to marry, positioning Denmark to become the eighth country in Europe to recognize same-sex civil marriages.

The government’s appointed Church minister, Manu Sareen, a social liberal, said that the government plans to introduce the bill just after the New Year which will allow same-sex couples to hold weddings in the Church of Denmark and be “married” legally as recognized by Danish law, reported Jyllands-Posten, a leading Danish newspaper.

Currently under the law, same-sex couples are allowed to have “registered partnerships,” a civil status, but are barred from marriage and church weddings.

“The first same-sex weddings will hopefully become reality in Spring 2012. I look forward to the moment the first homosexual couple steps out of the church. I’ll be standing out there throwing rice,” Sareen said.

Sareen’s appointment to the post of minister was one of the more more controversial of the new coalition government.

He is a professed religious “doubter,” who, before becoming church minister, came close to writing himself off the national church registry, in direct protest against its long-standing ban on same-sex marriage.

Denmark was the first country in the world to allow gay civil partnerships with legislation in 1989. But the country stopped short of calling it “marriage” and same-sex couples still are not allowed to have marriage ceremonies in the Church of Denmark.

Public polls taken over the years, and as recent as last week, suggest around 69 percent of the population supports same-sex marriage.

In Europe, only The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and Iceland currently recognize same-sex civil marriages.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jupiter Hotel GM Al Munguia puts PDX hospitality on the map

By Ryan J. Prado via

It’s hard to imagine Portland’s hospitality industry without the Jupiter Hotel. For more than six years the former motor inn has attracted exceedingly diverse clientele to Southeast, trading in the baiting of corporate executives, so synonymous with big box hotel chains, to instead welcome—sometimes with a Bear hug—an inclusive guest list.

It’s likewise difficult to think that any of it might have happened without Jupiter general manager Al Munguia.

Munguia, 49, relocated to the Rose City following a distinguished run working for corporate hotels along the West Coast. Originally a student of political science and international relations, Munguia had global ambitions—namely to work for the United Nations. But during college, he accepted a position as a telephone operator at a hotel—a decision that would change the trajectory of his career.

“It was a way of paying the rent, and it just sort of got in my blood,” Munguia explains.

After climbing the corporate ladder at hotel chains like Marriott, Holiday Inn and Starwood, Munguia sought to further his resume—and creativity, and diversify the hotel experience for guests. For the former high school disco dancing champion—yes, really—the general manager position at the Jupiter couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Most of my experience has been nothing like this,” Munguia says of his time with the Jupiter. “That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy this so much. With traditional corporate properties, it’s all recipes that you follow with very little regard to thinking outside the box. Jupiter was just opening up, and speaking to the owners I realized that there was this mass flexibility that was going to allow me to really challenge myself from a creative standpoint.”

For Munguia, the variety has been there since the beginning. Just a few days after accepting the job, Munguia got a taste of this freedom with his first booking: Darklady’s annual Masturbate-a-Thon charity event.
“That moment to me was really [one of], ‘I entered a whole new dimension,’” Munguia says. “We would never touch this—excuse the pun—at Marriott.”

As a gay man, Munguia set to ensuring that the Jupiter’s marketing efforts would welcome the LGBTQ traveler. One of the first phases of that approach was to connect with Community Marketing, Inc. to begin the company’s Travel Alternatives Group (TAG) training. For a hotel to become TAG certified, staff and management undergo diversity training, specifically as it applies to the LGBTQ community. The Jupiter Hotel became Portland’s first TAG-approved property, and is also a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

“It really is about awareness,” Munguia says. “It’s about those micro-aggressions that we use on a daily basis that we may not really be conscious of in our speech, or in our body language as we interact with people.”

Upon TAG certification, staff and management take an exam designed to assure they can deal effectively and positively with issues sensitive to the LGBTQ community—and, most importantly, says Munguia, have been trained not to make assumptions.

“We all grow up with prejudices, and pre-formulated ideas as to how people want to be treated,” he says. “The certification just lets the LGBTQ traveler know that this property is aware of who they are.”

Linking the entire community to the experience of the Jupiter was a cornerstone strategy for Munguia, and has established the property as a makeshift headquarters for many regional organizations and annual fundraising events. The Oregon Bears’ BearTown has turned to the Jupiter as host hotel and event epicenter.

Similarly, Portland Latino Gay Pride—co-founded by Munguia’s late partner José Ornelas—is a perennial partner, and an organization that until this year held its primary base of operations at the Jupiter. The hotel has also served as host site for the Rose City Softball Association’s Cascade Cup and Pride Northwest functions.

“We have a saying: ‘As in God’s house, all are welcome at the Jupiter,’” Munguia says. “We just don’t care whether you’re gay or straight, black or white, hipster or business suit-by-day. We want people to be able to come and feel accepted and free to be whoever it is that they may be and however it is they define themselves.”

This June Munguia’s efforts were recognized on a grander scale, when Governor John Kitzhaber appointed him to the Oregon Tourism Board. As a member of this administrative body, it’s Munguia’s duty to review spending strategies and allocate funds for grants to increase the state’s viability as a tourist destination. The board’s suggestions and decisions are then implemented by Travel Oregon.

Since Munguia’s appointment came after the 2011-12 strategies were established, his input is likely to be felt more in the coming years of his four-year term.

“As a Latino, I bring that perspective of, ‘What do we need to do from the Oregon perspective to really make Oregon attractive to this segment of the population?”

Munguia explains. “And then as a gay man, I bring that perspective of, ‘What are we as a state doing to promote LGBT tourism to the state?’ Those are going to be my big focuses.”

Under Munguia’s wing, Oregon’s widely touted hospitality isn’t just hype. It’s fact.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lesbian couple kicked out of local hotel for kissing

By Courtney Gousman via

Two women say they were the victims of discrimination after they were asked to leave St. Louis' Four Seasons Hotel for kissing.

The lesbian couple tells News Channel 5, they were trying to enjoy a day by the rooftop pool at the Four Seasons, when they say they were harassed for openly displaying affection. The hotel tells News Channel 5, it wasn't that simple.

"When we got into the Jacuzzi, and we were sitting close to one another and we were kissing that a member of security came over to us," said Teresa Folds.

Folds says the hotel security officer told her and her girlfriend, Juleigh Snell, they weren't allowed to kiss on the hotel property. They asked to speak with a manager.

"He said that they didn't even allow heterosexual couples to kiss on their property," said Folds.

"When we were explaining how gay people have rights, he basically insinuated that we were not a normal couple and should not be kissing," said Snell.

Folds and Snell say the manager stated the couple was acting inappropriately and that the hotel had received complaints.

"They have yet to tell us what that inappropriate activity is. Other than the kissing, that's all they can say because that's all we were doing," said Folds.

The couple says they were left alone, and they continued to kiss. They were approached again.

"Told us that they wanted us to leave, and I mentioned that the pool didn't close until 8:00," said Folds.

Folds and Snell say when 8 p.m. rolled around, they were approached by a security guard who showed them the door.

"I was disheartened by the whole experience," said Snell.

"It was very much understood that they were kicking us out," said Folds.

News Channel 5 reached out to the Four Seasons about the incident.

General Manager Alper Oztok sent this statement to News Channel 5:

"Four Seasons respects the behaviors of our guests, except where doing so may be a breach of law or create tensions among people. This was the case on the night in question, as our staff received several complaints about the guest's behavior. I can assure you that the gender of the couple was never at issue."

The couple says they've reached out to Gay Pride St. Louis and the Human Rights Campaign to make them aware of this incident.

They say all they want is an apology, and for the hotel to be clear about its kissing policy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicago reins in Gay Pride Parade in effort to cut down on drinking.

BY FRAN SPIELMAN via Chicago Sun Times

Chicago is altering the route, size and starting time of its annual Gay Pride Parade to curb public drinking and accommodate crowds that topped 800,000 last year.

The most important change is the starting time. The parade held on the last Sunday in June will step off at 10 a.m. instead of noon.

“Unless you’re a hard-core drinker, most people don’t drink at 10 o’clock in the morning,” said parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Chicago’s first openly-gay aldermen, added, “There’s people concerned about alcohol being consumed on that day. Complaints are that people actually bring their coolers and consume a lot. An earlier start time will promote less drinking.”

Burgeoning crowds have also forced several other changes.

The number of entries will be reduced from 250 to 200 to shorten the duration of the parade and return the streets to neighborhood residents sooner.

And the route of the parade will be lengthened five blocks — from 17 to 22 — and dramatically altered to stagger crowds, add two CTA L stations to accommodate arriving spectators and reduce neighborhood choke points.

The city’s second-largest parade used to begin at Belmont and Halsted, travel north on Halsted to Grace before making a V-turn back down Broadway from Grace to Diversey.

That prompted complaints from area residents that the parade created, what Tunney called a “dangerous situation” that cut off access to emergency vehicles and made it difficult for area residents to get home.

The new route will begin at the corner of Montrose and Broadway and travel south on Broadway to Halsted before turning east on Belmont, south on Broadway and east on Diversey to Canon Drive.

Once a niche parade known for its outlandish costumes, the Gay Pride Parade has fast become, what Tunney called a victim of its own success.

Attendance has doubled over the last three years — to roughly 800,000 a year ago. The parade has become a mandatory appearance for elected officials currying favor with the fast-growing, clout-heavy gay community. Friends and relatives of gay Chicagoans show up in force to support their loved ones.

“It’s a celebration of our history, of our politics and our civil rights. It’s also become a parade for everybody in the entire city. Outside of the Bud Billken parade, it’s now probably the city’s second-busiest parade. But, it’s outgrown its size. The route has become a real concern for public safety,” Tunney said.

“The question is, has the parade gotten too big for the neighborhood? Our feeling is, with these changes, it can still be a neighborhood parade.”

Pfeiffer said parade attendance has ballooned as “more and more gay people have come out” and the parade has drawn more straight spectators.

“Everybody has a best friend or a relative or someone they work with in the next cubicle who’s gay. That’s part of the increase in the crowd. To accommodate that increase, we needed to make changes to help make it a safer event,” he said.