Preferred Pride hotel program caters to LGBT travelers

Nearly 100 preferred hotel group members have joined together to create Preferred Pride, a network of independently owned and operated hotels that cater to the needs of the LGBT community. In addition to being “gay welcoming”, these hotels offer equal opportunity employment and are active in their efforts to support the LGBT community.

Certain requirements exist for hotels to be able to join Preferred Pride. Hotels must be either TAG Approved (Community Marketing’s Travel Alternative Group) or be a member of IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association).

The Preferred Pride program was created in order to bring together a diverse group of hotels from around the world who are committed to the LGBT community, as well as a way to learn more about what this community needs in order to have a more enjoyable travel experience.

First gay museum in the U.S. opens in San Francisco

Less than a month after President Obama repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the U.S. has gotten its first gay museum. The GLBT History Museum is located in the Castro District of San Francisco. Run by the GLBT Historical Society, it features 1,600 sq. ft. of exhibition and activity space.

Yesterday was its grand opening and visitors got to see two exhibitions: Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History and Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives.

The GLBT Historical Society has some history of its own. It was founded in 1985 and has one of the largest archives of its kind. Currently there is only one other gay museum in the world. The Schwules Museum in Berlin is the first museum dedicated exclusively to GLBT history. It had its first exhibition in the Berlin Museum in 1984 and moved to its own space in 1985.

[Photo courtesy GLBT Historical Society ]

Erotic art exhibit bares all

When you think of art exhibits, you probably don’t think of scenes of group sex, gigantic phalli, and barnyard animals, but the Eros exhibition ain’t your grandma’s art show.

In fact, when this art was made, your grandma wouldn’t be born for another two thousand years.

The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece, has just opened “Eros: From Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity”. This exhibition is dedicated to ancient love in all its manifestations from the early years of Greek civilization to the waning of the Classical world during the decline of the Roman Empire. It includes 272 artifacts from fifty museums in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and France, and will run for six months.

Eros was the god of love, but he was also the god of lust, jealousy, and all the other good and bad emotions connected with desire. One statue shows him dragging Psyche, the goddess of the soul, by the hair and hitting her with a mallet. That sums it up nicely.

The ancient Greeks were anything but prudes. The civilization that gave us theater, literature, poetry, and the ideals of democracy liked things a bit raw. Their art was full of images of sex, from the more vanilla varieties involving husbands and wives to older men with young athletes to randy farmers doing objectionable things with the livestock.

The Romans were more prudish than the Greeks, but still made room for the randy side of life. Although they turned Eros from a lascivious young man into a cute innocent cherub, their art often expressed deeper urges.

This exhibit isn’t like what you’d see in the Amsterdam Sex Museum; it’s history with a point. It shows us that the two great Western civilizations that created the foundation for our own culture weren’t all that different from us. Sure, they didn’t have the Internet, but they made up for it with paintings, poetry, and sculpture. The things that some people get shocked by nowadays have always been around. They aren’t a sign of the decline of morality or the approaching Armageddon. They are, like it or not, part of the human condition.

Christians protest transssexual Jesus

A play in Glasgow, Scotland, has sparked an angry protest by local Christians. Jesus Queen of Heaven depicts Jesus as a transsexual woman and is part of the Glasgay! Festival celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered culture.

The festival, which runs through November 8, features plays, music, dance, comedy, and many other events and has drawn artists from around the world. The annual festival has been held since 1993, attracts more than 20,000 visitors, and receives partial funding from national and municipal arts councils.

While gay arts festivals and the inevitable protests against them are nothing new, Jesus Queen of Heaven has drawn special ire. The play, written and performed by leading transgendered artist Jo Clifford, looks at her personal path to faith as a transgendered person.

The description of the play begins, “Jesus is a transsexual woman. And it is now she walks the earth. This is a play with music that presents her sayings, her miracles, and her testimony. And she does not condemn the gays or the queers or the trans women or the trans men, and no, not the straight women nor the straight men neither. Because she is the Daughter of God, most certainly, and almost as certainly the son also. And God’s child condemns nobody. She can only love…”

About 300 Christians, on the other hand, felt differently. They held a candlelight vigil outside the Tron Theatre last night, holding signs protesting the use of public funds for the festival and Clifford’s depiction of Jesus. One read “God: My Son Is Not A Pervert.” It is not clear if the sign was written by the protester or was a direct quote from the Almighty.

If November sounds like a bad time to go to Scotland, there’s always Pride Scotia in June, a ten-day national LGBT event that culminates in a massive parade in Edinburgh. If you really want make sure you’ll be partying in the sun, head south to Madrid, where the Orgullo (“Pride”) festival is held in the toasty months of late June and early July.

Band on the Run: Normal in Normal, Illinois

The musical traveller, Troubadour. Road Rat. Whatever you want to call it, this blog will hold the stories that take place when travelling musicians are not on stage. What happens between the shows? What happens behind the scenes?
Ember Swift, Canadian musician and touring performer, will be keeping us up-to-date on what it’s like to tour a band throughout North America. Having just arrived back from Beijing where she spent three months (check out her “Canadian in Beijing” series), she offers a musician’s perspective on road life. Enjoy!

Normal, Illinois is blessed with a conversational name. I’m sure that every resident has heard this question more than once: “why is this town called ‘Normal’?” I, of course, had to ask also, but I consistently asked people who were also visitors like me. I got several shrugged shoulders, some snickers at the irony and one set of rolled eyes before I got any kind of real answer.

You see, we were in Normal, Illinois for the National Women’s Music Festival. This festival has been going strong for over thirty years and traditionally is a gathering place for women who are not considered “normal” by the status quo: strong women, independent women, bisexual women, lesbians, etc. I’m talking messing with gender roles here.

You get my point. Of all places to bring a women’s festival, I think this is the town. How to normalize non-traditional choices, identities, behaviour? Bring the gathering to a town called Normal and think nothing of it.

Just act normal.The town of Normal is relatively small with only about 50,000 inhabitants. It is called “Normal” because this was the site of a major teacher’s college, or “normal school” as such a school was called a hundred and fifty years ago. The original teacher-training school that became the town’s namesake was Illinois State Normal University, which later evolved into the general four-year university it is now and dropped the “Normal” from its name: Illinois State University. (source)

We arrived by plane into the little airport in Bloomington, Indiana (Normal and Bloomington are like “twin cities”) and, like many travel experiences via United Airlines or American Airlines (this was the latter), I received only one of my two checked bags. Thankfully, the one I received was my guitar and so I still had the means to do my job. . .

just no clean underwear or toothbrush.

Exhausted and needing a nap before the gig, I piled into the van that picked us up and lay horizontal on the bench seat as we drove the full fifteen minutes across the state line into normalcy. When I finally sat up, the van was parked outside of a university dorm where all of the attendees and the performers were being accommodated. Here we were at the famous Illinois State University and most of the students were gone for the summer.

(For those of you who have followed my writing, I just spent three months in Beijing living in a dorm room at a university there. Now that I’m back on the road with my band, I was prepared [excited?] for a hotel situation. Funny how the minute you imagine going up in the world, the world reminds you of what level you’re meant to be at.)

I hauled myself and my guitar up to the 7th floor via the clunking elevator that smelled suspiciously like sweaty gym socks, along with Lyndell Montgomery, my fellow band member who had just travelled in with me. Lyndell was still gratefully chatting with the festival rep who picked us up and who was escorting us to our dorm room. In fact, Lyndell had been carrying on a cheery conversation with her during the whole drive back. I had become monosyllabic due to lack of sleep and she was filling in the social gap extremely well. I made a mental note to thank her for that once I woke up.

We lumbered down the dark hall of the seventh floor and we were greeted by sweet notes taped to the door from our drummer (Cheryl Reid) and our two beautiful crew members (Desdemona Burgin and Julie Turner, photographer and stagehand, respectively) who had already arrived the day before. A friend greeted us in the hallway with hugs and love (and two shiny apples to snack on!) and she offered to help me find whatever I was missing from my undelivered luggage. I smiled my gratitude weakly but sincerely and everyone ushered me and my weary eyes towards the bed inside my dorm room. I must have looked terrible because there were several concerned faces bent on getting me to sleep!

When I woke three hours later, there was a toothbrush, clean underwear (brand new from the DITC vendor in the craft area) and a new t-shirt (from the same vendor) waiting for me to put on before we had to file down towards dinner and our performance. Not only did they want me to sleep, but they wanted me to smell better too! Can’t blame ’em!

I was so touched. Thank you.

The concert went well. We had two excellent guests join us on stage: Trina Hamlin on harmonica (she’s AMAZING) and Zoe Lewis (who does a killer fake trumpet sound). Both musicians expertly filled in some melodic holes for us in two of our songs. Both were a joy to share the stage with.

After the concert, we returned to the dorm and a huge pile of the festival performers all had a serious game of ping pong together. In fact, this was a full-out tournament that included six simultaneous balls in the air, four players on each side (two front players with paddles and two back “court” players to catch the stray balls using rolled up cardboard or other paddle replacements). There were mountains of screams cascading with laughter.

Scenic despite the scenery.

The concrete walls and fluorescent lighting of the basement recreation room in this dorm building had never seen such sunshine. We were recreating the space with every flying ping pong ball and yelp of fun.

Here we were on the grounds of the school that started the town – the original “normal” school. I love that this location (not just the town!) was the site of this year’s National Women’s Music festival. A place of learning and teaching hosting an event that offers the same: workshops and performances by women who have strong voices, who reach outside of traditional roles and prescribed behaviour and seek new ways to express, to be, to live.

The National Women’s Music Festival is a great experience, for all. Men can attend the musical performances as well; it is not an exclusive event. That’s what makes it revolutionary, I feel. This is what separates it from other women’s festivals and elevates it, for me, regardless of having to sleep on a campus for one more night this summer.

I eventually did get my luggage, just before pulling out of town the following day with our whole crew piled into my drummer’s van. We drove the full ten hours back to Canada sharing lively stories from the past three months of everyone’s separate adventures. It was great to be reunited again.

Back on the road.

Celebrating women’s music and women’s issues by simply being us — being normal.

In Normal, Illinois.

(Group shot above from left to right, back row: Martin Locke, Tret Fure / second row: Jane Weldon, Lyndell Montgomery, Me, Desdemona Burgin, Trina Hamlin, Julie Turner, Cheryl Red / laying on top: Jamie Anderson.)