Monday, November 12, 2012

Vancouver YMCA Suspends Member For Violently Anti-Gay Remarks And Offers Anemic Apology For Failure Of It Initial Reaction, Transgender Female Files Lawsuit Against Federal Bureau Of Land Management Over Taser Use, Austin Texas School District Cancels Play About Same Sex Penguins Scheduled For Elementary Schools, Hillary Clinton Loves Canadian Design Show, Ryan Lochte And His Speedos Return To Competition, Tom Daley, Andrew Garfield

In Vancouver, the YMCA has suspended a man’s gym membership and apologized for its initial reaction after the man made “homophobic and threatening remarks” to another member in the change room last week. The gym originally gave the man a second chance after he called longtime member Aaron Poirier a “fag” and threatened to punch him on two occasions at the Robert Lee YMCA on Burrard St. Upset with the response and fearful for his safety, Poirier filed a criminal complaint with the Vancouver police and suspended his own membership. But after backlash from the community, the YMCA apologized, suspended the man’s membership, and announced plans to work with MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and B.C.’s queer resource centre QMUNITY to “be a part of the solution to address discrimination and homophobia.” In a statement, Simon Adams, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver’s vice-president of membership, said, “The Y acknowledges that the initial way in which we handled this situation has caused anger, frustration and hurt for those involved and members of our community. We are sorry and wish we did better. The Y works hard every day to be a safe place for all. While this incident is regrettable, we value the diversity of our community and believe that by working together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive society.” Poirier is encouraged that the Y will work with the community and its leaders, but disappointed it took a public outcry to get results, he said Monday. “I’ve received many unsolicited e-mails of similar experiences. This to me seems systemic,” he said. A message that bullying will not be tolerated needs to come from the top of the organization and a written discrimination procedure must be put in place, Poirier said, adding he’ll wait to see if changes are made before reinstating his membership. “I love the Y,” he said, adding that he teaches a weekly class there. “I’m sad that they chose the bully instead.”

In southern California, a transgender Ramona woman has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management of excessive force for firing a Taser to her groin in an incident in the desert more than a year ago. The encounter between a BLM ranger and Brooke Fantelli on public lands in the Imperial County desert near El Centro was captured on a video posted on YouTube. The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in San Diego, contends that Ranger J. Peter’s attitude changed markedly when he learned Fantelli had gone through a gender change. Stephen Razo, a BLM spokesman, said Monday that the agency needed to review the lawsuit before making any comment. According to the suit, the ranger had approached the group Fantelli was with on October 22, 2011, and asked to see identifications. The group was in a spot off Split Mountain Road to take commercial photographs using a classic Datsun truck Fantelli owns. At the time, Fantelli’s driver’s license identified her as a male, Rodd Fantelli, but she was in the process of changing her gender. “He was super nice, until he saw the ID,” Fantelli said in an interview Monday. “He went from calling me ‘Miss’ and ‘Ma’am’ when it first started, to ‘Sir,’ ‘Dude’ and eventually calling me ‘it.’ ” According to the lawsuit, Peter first searched Fantelli’s truck, and then sat in a BLM vehicle, where he watched the group for more than an hour. At that point, Fantelli approached the ranger and said he was making the models uncomfortable and asked him if he would leave. Instead, the suit said the ranger arrested Fantelli for being drunk in public. Though she had drunk two beers, she said she was not intoxicated. At that point, the video picks up the confrontation. Fantelli stands with her hands in the air, with the ranger and an Imperial County sheriff’s deputy a few feet away. The Sheriff’s Department had been called to assist in the arrest and is also named in the suit.After a few moments, Fantelli turns and says to her companions, “Take pictures. Take pictures.” Seconds later, the Taser strikes her and she falls backward, moaning in pain. The ranger and deputy roll her on her back and try to handcuff her. The ranger warns her he will use the Taser again. Seconds later she is shot again with the Taser, this time in her groin. The lawsuit said that a blood test taken later showed Fantelli had no alcohol in her system. She was arrested on suspicion of public drunkenness and making a terrorist threat — a charge that stemmed from a comment Fantelli made to the ranger in the hospital that “this will not be the last you hear from me,” or something similar. But the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office never filed any charges against her. Fantelli spent a night in a holding cell in the county jail, before posting bail the next morning. Douglas Gilliland, Fantelli’s lawyer, said it was clear to others that the ranger became hostile just after checking the IDs. “His demeanor completely changed,” Gilliland said. “Everyone felt it was palpable.” Fantelli builds and races off-road cars and has won 46 such races in her career.

A University of Texas play about two male penguin parents has created controversy at the Austin school district, prompting the cancellation of ten scheduled performances at Austin elementary schools. Written by UT theater graduate student Emily Freeman, And Then Came Tango is a play about Roy and Silo, real penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who were given a fertilized egg and raised the hatchling, Tango, together. UT students first performed the play for second-graders at Lee Elementary School in Central Austin in October. District officials raised concerns about age appropriateness and suspended the play, finally canceling it at the end of the month. According to the Austin American-Statesmen, this is the first time the district has canceled a UT performance. “The subject matter communicated in the play is a topic that Austin ISD believes should be examined by parents/guardians who will discuss with their elementary school age children at a time deemed appropriate by the parents/guardians,” Greg Goodman, the Austin school district’s fine arts director, said in a letter to UT’s Coleman Jennings, the head of the university’s youth theater program. The Austin school district has routinely allowed UT students to perform their works in schools to satisfy degree requirements. Freeman said she was disappointed about the cancellation of her play and said the work was meant to communicate messages of fairness, equality and love. “The play is about different families,” and under state teaching standards, that’s appropriate for kindergarten, Freeman said, referring to state curriculum standards. “I can’t see the argument that it’s not age appropriate for kids in second and third grade.” She said the cast and crew have performed the play for private schools in the area, as well as at Round Rock High School and Del Valle Middle School. Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative Texas Values group, said he believes the district made the right decision. “We define marriage very clearly in the state of Texas. So if you have a play that tries to push and promote a different marriage definition, which is clearly illegal, it leads students to ask questions about it, and it leads to the discussion of sex,” Saenz said. Some schools and advocacy groups, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group Family by Choice, have agreed to sponsor free performances of the show. Carmel Drewes, whose son attends Ridgetop Elementary School in Central Austin, said the district overreacted and said she hopes her son will have the opportunity to see the play. “The more that kids are encountering various symbolism and representations of family structure, the more normal it becomes,” Drewes said. Freeman said she is working on what she could do differently to eventually show the play in the Austin school district. There will be free performances in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre, 300 E. 23rd St., from November 30 to December 1.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hillary Clinton ruminated on her new move, and mentioned all the things she’ll do when she is no longer secretary of state. That led to a mention of her favorite television show – the Canadian-made Love It or List It, “in which a couple who are unhappy with their current residence gets to look at new houses while a decorator rehabs their old place. The plot arc is always the same, and in a way, it’s sort of Clintonesque. The redecorators find termites or a leaky furnace; the house search goes awry. Everybody’s upset! But after a lot of hard work and the final commercial, there’s a happy ending ‘I find it very calming,’ she said.”

Ryan Lochte returned to competitive swimming winning both the 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke on the final day of the Minneapolis Grand Prix Sunday, but as stress, his Speedo, or rather what it packs, the main attraction.

Tom Daley photo bombed.

A bearded Andrew Garfield spotted getting gas.

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