When the trailer for the gay film Cul-de-Sac was posted on YouTube, it garnered thousands of hits in just a few days—such is the thirst for stories about gays in the Middle East, especially in Iran and Iraq, where gays routinely face lashing, torture, and execution for being found out. But when the film’s out Iranian star Kiana Firouz was rejected for asylum in England and faced deportation (and certain death upon her return), the internets erupted in anger, petitions were signed, and eventually Firouz was granted five-year refugee asylum. The 28-year-old Firouz tells Vp she is safe and sound, working on various new projects within the quiet of her asylum. We are grateful for her bravery and fearlessness—and for the visibility her case brought not only to the devastating conditions for queers in Iran but the disappointing and hypocritical asylum programs that exist throughout the “enlightened” West.
17. Mädchen in Uniform - Autumn Sandeen, Activist/blogger
It was Autumn Sandeen’s tireless coverage of the Angie Zapata hate crime murder trial that first landed her on our radar. Tweeting from inside the courtroom, Sandeen brought much-needed visibility to the horrific murder of a trans woman which the mainstream media mostly ignored. This spring, donning her Navy dress blues, the tireless activist, blogger, and military vet chained herself to the White House fence during GetEQUAL’s DADT protest. Sandeen’s dedication to the repeal of DADT stands out because the unjust law addressed only the military service of lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers, and as a trans woman, Ms. Sandeen is not included. Her rejection of the secular, self-serving politics that often colors LGBT issues makes her a role model for the rest of us.
18. Deep Lez - A.K. Burns A.L. Steiner, Interdisciplinary Artists
In September of this year, A.L. Steiner and A.K. Burns showed their 69-minute socio-sexual art movie, Community Action Center, at Taxter and Spengemann in New York. Steiner and Burns are artists who work individually but have collaborated on film/video projects over the years. Community Action Center is their first feature length production. The movie, not to be mistaken for porn, is a womyn-centric, trans-queer, intimate, hedonistic, humorous exploration of lesbian sexuality. Working in the vein of a Warholian factory-esque environment, the artists use friends and peers, as well as themselves to portray the “community action.” Shot on a number of locations from the urban to the rural (including the ending sequence in a friend of Vp's backyard in the Catskills), the film also defines “queer space.” Taking their inspiration from gay-porn-liberation films of the 70s, Steiner and Burns have successfully brought a contemporary queer voice into the canon of art history.
19. Queer Couturière - Parisa Parnian, Fashion Designer
Best known for glamming up queer fashion with her Rigged OUT/fitters clothing line and ubiquitious, iconic photo shoots of pouty, doe-eyed bois and grrrls, Parisa Parnian’s “queer and dirty” vision left a lasting impression on our collective aesthetic—in fact, we say a silent prayer of thanks each time a handsome butch trades in her trucker cap for a fedora. Originally from New York, Parnian moved to the Bay Area to teach design at the prestigious California College of Art. Her queer-themed course, Alternative Bodies, was such a hit, CCA made it a permanent part of the curriculum. This year the subculture style maven went mainstream when sexed-up denim originator GUESS plucked her out of academia to become a Senior Designer for their menswear line.
20. Your Cool Queer Uncle - Lynn Breedlove, Performer/Queer Icon
Lynn Breedlove’s status as a queer vanguard has been set since his days as intrepid frontman of the queercore band Tribe 8, and this year saw the hilarious ladies’ man win a Lambda Award for the book version of his widely acclaimed solo theater piece, One Freak Show. A skilled storyteller, Breedlove’s first book, the autobiographical novel Godspeed, was lauded by critics, eventually inspiring a solo show and short film. After years of nearly continuous touring with One Freak Show, Confessions of a Poseur, and other solo pieces, Breedlove hunkered back down in the Bay Area and launched Homobiles, a 24/7 volunteer-run queer car service that safely transports LGBT folks home at the end of their late night adventures.
21. Multi-Culti Anarchy - Gaye Chan, Interdisciplinary Artist/Professor
Gaye Chan has been making art for decades, weaving together cultural identity, social policy and politics in a multitude of media. Chan’s early works were photographic explorations of lesbian bodies. Since then her work has evolved into web-based and print publications that deal with post-colonialism and, most recently, participatory, on-location installations, experiments in the distribution of goods sans organizational infrastructure. Chan has had several shows this year with works appearing in New York, Minneapolis, and Honolulu. Originally from Hong Kong, Chan got her BFA at the University of Hawaii, an MFA from the San Fransisco Institute of Art, and now holds the position of Chair in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Hawaii. Chan is one of the most prolific artists of her generation, with numerous shows yearly, and on-going installation and web-based projects. She has also become an in-demand speaker, appearing this year at Philadelphia's Basekamp artist collective and New York’s Creative Time Summit.
22. The Champion - Dawn The Self-Esteem Queen, Community Activist/Co-founder of ImGayNowWhat.com
In a year with so many devastating and high profile LGBT teen suicides highlighted in the news, teen prostitution and runaway advocate Dawn The Self-Esteem Queen (TM), known as “the Harriet Tubman of the Teenage Prostitution World,” teamed up with Studology101 to start up ImGayNowWhat, an online safe haven for LGBT youth. Building on the Studology101 fanbase and the ‘We All We Got' movement, ImGayNowWhat became an instant success. Dawn has empowered gay youth at this crucial moment in our history by providing them with a safe space to connect and talk about the various issues they face. Her words of wisdom and sense of humor make it easy to understand why she has developed a small cult following on Twitter, but it’s her ability to see the good that comes out of every situation that has us believing in the Self Esteem Queen.
23. The Eye Candy Doctor Is In - Courtney Trouble, Filmmaker
One of the major divisions in the world of feminism is the split between the sex positive camp (i.e. On Our Backs; celebrating radical queer sexuality) and the protectionist camp (i.e. Andrea Dworkin & Catherine MacKinnon, who believe porn hurts women). You can guess which one we’re in. Courtney Trouble is just the kind of radical queer pornographer we go gooey for. Not only did she create Nofauxxx.com, the longest-running indie queer porn site, but her most recent film, Speakeasy, won a Feminist Porn Award in 2010 for Most Tantalizing Trans Film. In November 2010, Trouble launched a new project, QueerPorn.tv, a hardcore queer porn site that promises the same sex-positive, indie queer porn we love, only “a little brighter, a little rougher, a little louder.” Thank you, ma’am, may we have another?
24. Literary Lesbutante - Barb Johnson, Author
Mid-City native Barb Johnson has been racking up literary awards since before she posted her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. Her first win was a grant from the Astraea Foundation as an undergraduate. Then she was a finalist for a Tennessee Williams short story award, and eventually she won the $50,000 Gift of Freedom from the A Room of One’s Own Foundation. Late last year her MFA thesis, a short story collection titled More of This World or Maybe Another, was published by Harper Perennial. It’s a coming-of-age story slash portrait of a tight-knit community in the Gulf Coast/New Orleans that features a lesbian couple at its center; no doubt, it represents some of the most beautiful storytelling and finely-crafted writing seen in recent years. Johnson worked most of her adult life as a carpenter in her beloved New Orleans and wrote many of the stories in this amazing collection in the post-Katrina turmoil—on balconies and in tents wearing a miner’s head lamp. She is currently at work on her first novel.
25. Footloose - Constance McMillian, LGBT Youth Activist
Constance McMillian just wanted to attend prom like any other teenager. But when she asked her high school for permission to take her girlfriend, Mississippi's Itawamba High barred her. McMillan and her father brought in the ACLU and, under threat of a lawsuit, the school canceled prom, only to plan an alternate “private party” in its place. Itawamba school district parents sent Constance, her girlfriend and five other classmates to a decoy prom, while the rest of her class attended the private prom. Her lawsuit ultimately netted both a financial settlement for Constance and new school policies protecting LGBT youth in the Itawamba County School District. In addition, her story garnered national attention in both the MSM and the gay media. McMillan was awarded $30,000 by Ellen DeGerenes for her college education, became the Grand Marshal of New York City’s Pride Parade, and received a formal invitation to the LGBT reception at the White House with the President. Constance reminded us that fighting for our rights is about personal dignity in the most basic way—and that, like Emma Goldman, we still demand a “revolution we can dance to!”