I was interviewed on the Manny Waks Hour on J-Air, Feb 13 2014.
Interview on the Manny Waks Hour on J-Air, Feb 13 2014.
“Manny Waks talks Education with Yossi Goldfarb. He talks to Michael Barnett about being gay and Jewish. Devorah Leah Waks calls from Israel for (The Waks Effect) segment.”
I came in at 29 minutes into the show, aptly just after the Barbra Streisand song.
A Cultural Diversity Day event at my workplace has posed some challenges for me that leave me feeling I don’t (want to) have a cultural identity.
Today my workplace has foisted upon me “Cultural Diversity Day”. There have been about two weeks build-up to this grand event, with momentum over the last couple of days growing to fever-pitch amongst the organising teams. We have been asked to bring in items of food from our cultural background, wear culturally identifying garments (or supply them to be hung on display), bring in items of cultural interest, and so forth.
This has left me totally bewildered, and to a certain extent, depressed.
I don’t have a recognisable cultural identity. Nor do I want one. Most especially I don’t want anyone to force me to have one.
Let me explain.
I was born in Australia and as I live here permanently I consider myself Australian. My parents were born in England and New Zealand. They don’t particularly consider themselves English or New Zealanderish. My father probably considers himself more Rhodesian than English anyway, as that is where he grew up, but he’s definitely Aussie these days.
Their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born in England, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Poland and Belarus. Aside from my English grandparents on my father’s side, the others would probably have distanced themselves from their national identity. Why? They were culturally and ethnically Ashkenazi Jews.
Their Yiddish culture permeated my upbringing, in terms of language, food, identity and heritage. Yet that is not me. I do not identify as a Jew, as I believe religion is divisive and creates barriers to equality and harmony. I enjoy the influences I grew up with, but I don’t cling to them.
And so, as a first generation Australian who does not have an ethnic or religious identity, how do I contribute in an event at my workplace that wants me to label myself with a culture? Hard call, and one that does not make me very happy to have to do, despite wanting to contribute even in a small if not token way.
Yet I came up with a compromise. I brought in some lively, uplifting, happy, “freilach” Klezmer music. Music of my ancestors. Music I can identify with, that does not have a geography, does not have a specific ideology, that does not label me anything, and most importantly is universally loved and is most definitely cultural.
I am more than a label and I don’t want to have to choose one, or have anyone hang a label on me, as labels are restrictive and can be divisive.
This Cultural Diversity Day at my workplace has been very powerful for me and has allowed me to reflect deeply on who I am. It will be interesting to see how the day pans out and how I feel at the end of it. First and foremost though, I am Michael.
VicBears. Are you in yet?
FRIEND Film is about a gay & transgendered teenager dealing with coming out in 2012.
Please Watch & ShareJoseph’s Story of almost committing suicide & overcoming being bullied.I would be forever grateful if you would share this amazing story of a young teen on your Facebook Page. I met Joseph in Tennessee while interviewing LGBT teens across America. His story changed my life and inspired me to really honor him in my writing. Our goal is to get the video viral by October 11 for Coming Out Day.Once Again Thank You,Elliot LondonFRIEND Film is about a gay & transgendered teenager dealing with coming out in 2012. A world of social networking and social change.
Director Elliot London Wants You as Friend to LGBT Youth through
National Awareness Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(LOS ANGELES – OCT. 2, 2012) – It’s no doubt difficult being a teenager in today’s society, especially a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teen.
But through it all, having strong allies and friends does tend to make it easier.
Once a victim of childhood bullying and homophobia himself, film director Elliot London (The Wedding Dance) has embarked today on an empowering and eye-opening campaign across America, hoping to bring awareness to the plight of LGBT youth bullying, and the importance of support systems.
The “Friend Project” is a new campaign showcasing two separate, yet thematically connected digital vignettes from two teenagers in different parts of rural America sharing their raw and tear-jerking stories of growing up gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in the conservative heartland of America.
Starting today, each week for the next two weeks, London will share a new video with the public, with the ultimate goal of bringing these stories and others to life through an upcoming feature film entitled Friend.
In a completely hands-on and hybrid approach, both teenagers are also acting as creative liaisons on the project, having helped integrate their own life stories into the script.
“It’s a film that will bring the narrative and the reality into one,” says London. “We will be integrating a point of view from real life teenage experiences, rather than from a room of writers in Hollywood.”
He continues, “It’s so important that we continue to support and foster true independent American cinema. Unlike many other influential nations, we do not have the luxury of much government funding, grants and support they do for indie cinema, especially in a niche market.”
In the first film, viewers will get to meet Joseph, a timid, yet courageous 16-year-old boy from Tennessee who once thought suicide was the only way out from the pain and torment that bullying carved into his impressionable young soul.
Anyone interested in becoming a part of Friend is encouraged to visit the project’s IndieGoGo campaign page at indiegogo.com/friendproject All donations are tax-deductible, as this film is being supported through Fractured Atlas, a registered 501(c)3.
Enjoy the extended mix of “Gay Pirates” by Cosmo Jarvis. A touching song about love.
Gregory and I had a smooch in front of a group of radical, fanatical Islamic protesters at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention. Allah liked it, but these whack-jobs didn’t feel as compassionate, saying we would burn in hell.
A group of radical, fanatical Jihadi Islamic protesters gathered at the Global Atheist Convention on Sunday April 15 2012. Seemingly they felt that atheism was a threat to humanity and their very existence.
Gregory and I had a smooch in front of these whack-jobs and they started howling that we would “burn in hell”.
Our friend Pete Darwin captured the moment with my trusty Nikon and the rest is history.
There’s been a bunch of coverage online:
- AronRa (YouTube) (USA/watch to 1:00)
- Alexander Ryking
- Amerika Bülteni (Turkish/USA)
- Ateist Canavar (Turkish)
- Atheist Republic (Facebook)
- Australian Skeptics Forum
- Butterflies and Wheels
- Dave The Happy Singer (Australian)
- David Icke’s Official Forums
- death + taxes mag
- Democratic Underground
- Dispatches from the Culture Wars
- DNA Magazine2 (PDF) (Australian)
- DV.is (Icelandic)
- European Freedom Initiative
- Friendly Atheist
- Furious Purpose
- Gay News Network (PDF) (Australian)
- Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear (Australian)
- Gregory Storer (Australian)
- In Vino Veritas (Australian)
- Joe. My. God. (USA)
- Libertarian Republican3
- Newsvine (Grishman’s Column)4
- Obama 2012 Election – Blog archive5
- Occupy All Streets -> Ⓐnarcho Queer
- On The Record
- Pharyngula (USA)
- Photo submitted to reddit by Pete Darwin (comments)
- queer.de (German)
- Star Online (Australian)
- same same (Australian)
- The Caudal Lure (Australian)
- the burned over district
- The Raw Story (1)
- The Raw Story (2)
- Thoughts and Cute Things6
- UAAR Ultimissime (Italian)
- Wolfies World
If you find any other places that have covered this story, please let me know.
Thanks to Katy Perry for inspiration.
A look back at the inaugural Global Atheist Convention, March 12-14 2010
I attended the inaugural Global Atheist Convention in 2010. It was an exhilarating weekend packed with some of the finest speakers from Australia and around the world. There were so many highlights for me, although perhaps the biggest highlight was getting to meet a long-standing idol Robyn Williams, and more recent source of inspiration, PZ Myers.
Stand tuned for the photographs from the second Global Atheist Convention, this coming weekend, April 13-15 2012.
Lastly, recapture some of the excitement from 2010 through the eyes of the Bruce Llama.
In a submission to the Australian Senate on Marriage Equality, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick has called for the decriminalisation of marijuana for strictly religious sanctioned use to assist gay Jewish men in achieving sexual redemption.
In what can only be described as a cliff-hanging turn of events, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, has come out and admitted in a submission to the Australian Senate inquiry into Marriage Equality that there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of the Torah that has to this day posed as a religious barrier to gay marriage.
In the Senate submission Rabbi Gutnick stated that the traditional interpretation of the Torah has rendered sex between two men problematic, because the translation of the Torah into English was thought to be that a man should not sleep with another man as he would sleep with a woman, with the penalty for doing so that they both be stoned to death.
He felt that this attitude to homosexuality was deeply troubling and discriminatory and so sought advice from a pool of sage rabbis from around the world. These rabbis looked at the original wording in the Torah and felt that maybe there had been a misunderstanding of God’s word and that there was room for a better interpretation, one that offered a more acceptable outcome.
After weeks of collaboration, these rabbis unanimously agreed to reinterpret the Torah and provided an English translation that now states that a man should not sleep with a man as he would with a woman, but rather he should sleep with a man differently to how he would sleep with a woman. However should he be found to be sleeping with a man as he would with a woman, they should both become stoned to a state of holy happiness, except if there’s a dearth of marijuana.
And this is where Rabbi Gutnick has called upon the government to decriminalise the use of marijuana, for strictly religious purposes, to ensure that two men found having the wrong type of sex with each other are dealt with in a more humane and appropriate fashion. The pool of rabbis agreed that each man should be given a bong and a quantity of marijuana and be instructed to smoke the other man’s pipe until each had reached a state of spiritual redemption.
Rabbi Gutnick clearly expressed in the Senate submission that this relaxation of the use of marijuana would only be required for Jewish men and not for gentiles, as gentiles are spiritually unclean, due to not having had a religious circumcision ceremony.
Most unexpectedly, Rabbi Gutnick apologised to the gay community for his earlier claim that he would be opposing gay marriage and noted that since this religious loophole had been found to the previously problematic issue of homosexuality, he now had no issue with gay marriage, and in fact fully endorsed it, claiming that gay men are now encouraged to “shtoop like rabbits, especially on Shabbat”.
The explanation given in the Senate submission was that he realised that if same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia, he wanted the Jewish community to have unfettered access to the estimated $161 million dollars of wedding spend likely to be outlaid on same-sex marriages.
He said that it would revitalise the kosher catering and hospitality industry, that kosher food suppliers would feel the surge of business and that all manner of Jewish shops and enterprises would thrive from the rush of gay weddings, especially the Jewish diamond and ring merchants. Rabbi Gutnick went on to say that the kosher butchers would do particularly well because he knew how much gay men liked their meat, and added that the kosher fish-mongers would do particularly well from lesbian weddings. Rabbi Gutnick went to great pains to explain in the Senate submission that his connection to Kosher Australia should not be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Rabbi Gutnick’s new enthusiasm for gay marriage was evidenced by his statement that Orthodox Judaism was particularly sensitive to the needs of single-sex celebrations, because in traditional heterosexual weddings the men and the women were required to be separated by a mechitzah, and so there was an existing culture of men celebrating with men and women celebrating with women. He added that it’s actually a principle feature of the religion that men must spent considerable amounts of time with other men, in close confines, in the absence of women. He said he felt that it was very homoerotic at times, and the headiness of the masculinity in the crowded prayer and study sessions was particularly appealing, especially on those hot days, when the men were dripping with a particularly musky sweat, and were just a little frustrated. He noted that this frustration was most evident when the men were denied sexual gratification with their wives during their periods of uncleanliness, and further exacerbated by the total religious prohibition on masturbatory relief.
In the summary of the submission, Rabbi Gutnick repeated his apology for the long overdue admission that to deny gay men and women the right to equality was in fact an oppresive and persecutory behaviour and that he had looked back at the history of the Jewish people and felt that he was in no place to call for the superiority of heterosexual Australians over homosexual Australians.
An addendum to the submission included a suggestion that Rabbi Gutnick officiate at the first mass Jewish gay and lesbian wedding in Australia, co-hosted by Adam Hills of the In Gordon St Tonight fame, because he said the ABC studios in Elsternwick were at the centre of the ultra-religious quarter of Melbourne’s Jewish community, and that he was particularly proud of the ground-breaking work that Adam Hills had done to break down barriers in the community around gay marriage.
MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Easter Bunny died for your sins.
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