Day: May 25, 2013

San Francisco Pride 2013

June 29, 2013toJune 30, 2013

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco LGBT Pride

2013 marks the 42nd anniversary of the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade. The theme is “Embrace, Encourage, Empower” and the event will be held over the weekend of June 29 and 30, 2013. With over 200 parade contingents, 300 exhibitors, and more than twenty community-run stages and venues, the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade is the largest gathering of LGBT people and allies in the nation.

The two-day celebration takes place in Civic Center Plaza in downtown San Francisco the last full weekend of June each year. The Parade, which takes place the Sunday morning of the event, kicks off from Beale Street along Market and ends at Market and 8th St. in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

A world leader in the Pride movement, SF Pride is also a grant-giving organization through our Community Partners Program. Since 1997, SF Pride has granted over $2.1 million dollars from proceeds of the Pride Celebration and Parade to local non-profit LGBT organizations and those organizations working on issues related to HIV/AIDS, cancer, homelessness, and animal welfare.

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THEATRE REVIEW: The History Boys, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Based in the fictional Cutlers Grammar School in Sheffield, this award winning play tells the story of a group of young students as they prepare for university interviews at Oxford and Cambridge.

by Paul Szabo | 25th May 2013

★★★★

The History Boys

The headmaster of the school is determined to propel the school up the ranks of the league tables by increasing the number of pupils who are accepted by the prestigious establishments. In his resolve to do so, he enlists a supply teacher called Irwin, whose sole responsibility is to fully prepare the boys by employing a rigid teaching structure and encouraging them to stick strictly to stock answers, whether they believe what they are saying to be true or not. This approach is in stark contrast with that taken by the boy’s favourite teacher, Hector, who is eccentric and laid back, revelling in the joy of knowledge, whilst encouraging the boys in their free thinking and exploration of their own interests, allowing them to forge their own educational path. Unfortunately, one of Hector’s interests is taking the young students out on his motorcycle and touching them up, something that the boys seem to readily accept as harmless fun, but which eventually leads to a confrontation between Hector and the headmaster. As the two teachers and their respective teaching styles clash and the young boys turn into young men, the relationships between the students, both with each other and with the staff, is examined which leads to tension, sexual angst and divided loyalties.

Sheffield Theatres once again excels, this time with their production of this award winning Alan Bennet play, which has a wordy, warm and witty script. Within its critique of the education system and its social commentary on the almost hierarchical nature of learning, the play also explores, both gently and more blatantly, a number of themes surrounding the often painful transition into adulthood and aspects of accepting and coming to terms with homosexuality and sexuality in general. Posner (beautifully played by Oliver Coopersmith) says at one point “I’m a Jew. I’m small. I’m a homosexual. And I live in Sheffield. I’m fucked”. This neatly sums up his frustration at his status as the youngest of the class and more importantly, his unrequited and unconditional love for his fellow pupil, Dakin (played by Tom Rhys Harris). Dakin is a cocksure and bravado filled young man, who relishes in his ladies’ man status, yet who develops a deep admiration for and relationship with his teacher, Irwin. This leads to the point where Dakin propositions Irwin and offers himself readily; causing Irwin to face his own closeted sexuality. There is also the darker undertone running through the play of the abuse of position and trust by the teachers, Hector who is touching the boys when he takes them out on his motorcycle (much to Posner’s annoyance that it is never “his turn”) through to the direct confrontation between Dakin and Irwin whereby Irwin’s teaching of the importance, or otherwise, of the truth is challenged.

The set made excellent use of the Crucible’s unique stage, effortlessly merging the scenes and creating a real school hall feel, from the parquet gym floor to the strip lighting, the PE benches to the plastic chairs. The play was well directed, ensuring the whole audience felt included and addressed. The performances were all of a very high quality, especially from Edwin Thomas who excelled as Irwin in what is his professional stage debut. Matthew Kelly undertook his role of Hector with a quiet confidence, but his performance was overtaken by the lead boys, namely Will Featherstone as Scripps, Tom Rhys Harris as Dakin and Oliver Coopersmith expertly demonstrating the teenage angst of burgeoning sexuality.

The play was scattered with bridging sequences for the set changes, which involved short, loud blasts of electro new romantic and punk music accompanied by over exaggerated schoolboy dancing. These segments which sharply transported you back to your own school days were entertaining and nicely contrasted with calmer, more classic aspects of the script. The script was wordy, with long soliloquies delivered by the characters, but was punctuated with warm and gentle comedy delivered by likeable characters. The play was slightly long for me (perhaps it could have been around 20 minutes shorter), but this is not a criticism of the production in any way and more a reflection on the type of theatre I prefer. Overall, it was exceptionally well performed, staged and presented and was a memory invoking, through provoking piece of quasi-nostalgia tinged theatre which tackles head on a number of social issues within the education system.

The History Boys is currently at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until the 8th June 2013.

OPINION: Action (Wo)Man

Tesco has become the second major retailer to be criticised in recent months for gendering the sale of its children’s toys.

by Peter Richards | 25th May 2013

Boys with Dolls | http://www.flickr.com/photos/22326055@N06/2627418437/size

Boots previously displayed science toys for boys and ‘domestic games’ or Tea Sets for girls. Clearly boys or men do not drink tea and girls cannot be expected to understand the science behind every day things? It is not only sexist, it is socially damaging.

Segregating toys by gender, and denying children the chance to develop their interests, damages formative education and perpetuates gendered constructs into later learning. The World Bank’s 2012 report on Gender Equality and Development argues that it is “stereotypes within the education system, norms governing gender roles in the household that constrain a woman’s choice of occupation.” Indeed, early learning impacts educational and academic choices and leads to limited talent pools for ‘atypical’ occupations.

Children’s author Megan Peel writing in the Guardian highlights that “Boots is a science-based company that employs many female pharmacists, opticians and chemists and should know better than to discriminate in this way.” Indeed Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) suffers from low representation of women in their sector and therefore compete for the few candidates in order to attract a diverse workforce. A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce found only one in seven engineers is female and less than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science go to women, even though female graduates hold 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. Industry news site The Engineer suggests that women constitute just 8.7% of professional engineers in the UK - much lower than China where more than a third of engineers are women. So Tesco’s defending of their chemistry sets as ‘for boys’ and toy cookers as being ‘for girls’ is aggravating existing gender imbalances; which are clearly socially constructed.

What also perplexes me - why is it always down to the women to challenge unconscious bias? I watched the BBC Breakfast covering this story and Suzanna Reid proudly asserted that ‘there is nothing wrong with a boy playing with dolls’ but she was met by a stifled sneer from Bill Turnbull who quickly deflected to a spokesperson from @LetToysBeToys. Even the sample of ‘everydaypeople’ spoken to on the street reflected a very gendered approach – one man said that he didn’t expect a boy to play with Barbie while a young mother (her baby boy in tow) said ‘if he wants a doll, he’ll have a doll!’ Why do men feel they have to police gender?

This also has further implications for the LGBT communities. Men feel they are expected to reinforce the differences between them and women, with gay and bisexual men seeming to blur these boundaries; whether through alternative choice of toys, clothing or employment.

The Gay British Crime Survey 2008 conducted by Stonewall highlights that the majority of victims of homophobic hate crime are young gay men, administered by males under the age of 25. For me gendering toys is homophobic and misogynistic, the two often linked. Every gay friend of mine at university had a My Little Pony. In fact when I had my tonsils out as a child I was rewarded with a toy of my choice – and what did I choose? Yes, a My Little Pony. Despite some initial reservations, my parents did not deny their child his wish and I feel that their support for my ‘different’ behaviour has helped my creativity and ability to seek out what I really want in life, rather than what I feel is expected or demanded of me.

Institutional gendering of toys perpetuates negative and limiting constructions of gender. They also reinforce the binary of male or female, thus excluding those along the gender spectrum leading to the disproportionately high levels of isolation, depression and suicide amongst the transgender community. The National Centre for Transgender Equality (NCTE) estimates that between 30-50% of the transgender community has attempted suicide at least once. Although this is not immediately correlated with gender construction alone, it does highlight one barrier to be overcome by those transitioning between one gender and the other, especially when considering the young.

The EverydaySexism.com site lists reams and reams of cases where prejudice against the gender spectrum is enacted on a daily, and often unchallenged, basis. Much of the examples are ignored or disregarded as too widespread, low level or unchangeable. But if we all do not challenge these consistent inequalities and unfairness then they will not change. It is not ‘petty’ to demand equal pay (as it was deemed until 1975), women and men are not simply ‘acting up’ if they do not want to be spoken about as sexual objects and it is not acceptable as a mother or father to deny your daughter a science kit or your son a tea set; if they prefer an Action Man or Barbie then at least you have a child who knows and speaks their mind – isn’t that what a self fulfilled adult is all about?

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