The Art of the Talking Body, The Art of Martin Navejas

Martin Navejas, Photo: John M. Livelsberger

(Hammond, IN) With an infectious smile Martin Navejas greeted us at the entrance of the White Ripple Gallery in Hammond. This would be Martin’s second solo exhibition and if he was nervous you could not tell. We moved slowly up a flight of stairs passing the art work of what I assumed were other artists to be featured at the gallery. We arrived to a huge room at the top of the stairs and along the walls the work of the 27 year old artist hung.

I walked around the room taking in his work, most were nudes with both men and woman. What struck me about Martin’s work was not just the level of nakedness the models have but where the pictures were actually taken. To Martin the locations where he takes the pictures are just as important as the models and in some of his work it’s almost as if the model is secondary and the location and is the main subject, like the abandoned church confessional that was used in one of his pieces.

The White Ripple Gallery & Co. Photo: Facebook

Born and raised in Hammond Martin Navejas has been taking pictures since he was a teenager, saving his allowance to buy disposable cameras and pay for film developing. Inspired by other photographers pictures of abandoned buildings, Martin started ditching school and ‘breaking into’ empty and abandoned buildings in his hometown and in other locations to get his own pictures. After awhile accompanied by his friend Tia he would put her into his early work, then a natural progression to other models as his work evolved. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but I’m not a good writer or speaker, so I thought I could do it through my photography.” When asked what inspired him I was surprised when he said music and poetry. “You would never think that inspiration comes from a song that I hear but in my head it works.” Indeed it does as Martin puts a visual to what he hears. Martin describes striping the model down to their bare essentials just like the abandoned locations that he uses as a backdrop. Referring to his body of work, “There’s a story you can make up in your head.”

When I asked Martin what he says to a person that cannot differentiate or compares his works of art to pornography he had this to say. “I feel like maybe this is just me, but I feel if you take away the clothes, the mask, if you will, essentially I think working with the naked body, they (the model) are more vulnerable. It’s more genuine, it’s more raw.” Using physical structures that have been abandoned by man and taken over by nature seems to make the body of his work genuine for both location and model, naked bones bare. His work can come of as sad and lonely but almost romantic and beautiful at the same time.

Artwork by Martin Navejas: Photo by John M. Livelsberger

Martin Navejas is an upcoming young gay artist that is putting his mark on art and culture in Northwest Indiana with his thought provoking and provocative work.

You can experience the work of Martin Navejas starting June 10th at the White Ripple Gallery & Co. located at 6725 Kennedy Ave. Hammond, IN 46323.

 

 

 

Is a Nationwide ‘R. F. R. A.’ Coming on May 4, 2017?

Then Candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Denver

The ‘religious liberty’ executive order that has been championed by Vice-President Mike Pence and and other religious conservatives will allegedly be signed by President Donald Trump on Thursday May 4, 2017. According to “Politico,”  http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/02/donald-trump-religious-liberty-executive-order-237888 two senior administration officials confirmed the plan that is set to coincide with the “National Day of Prayer.” Conservative leaders have been pressuring the President to fulfill the campaign promise that he made to protect so called religious freedom. Some experts claim that the order is to broad and will let any business, employer, landlord, or health care provider discriminate against the LGBT community for any reason as long as they claim it goes against their religious liberty.

In March of 2015 then governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law which caused outrage in Indiana’s LGBT community. The law also caused outrage among Indiana based companies like Salesforce and Angie’s List, as well as the NCAA, also based in Indiana. Opponents of the law claimed that it cast the Hoosier state as unwelcoming and discriminatory towards the LGBT community. Religious leaders such as Eric Miller from Advance America, a right wing lobbying group, said at the time, “It is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana, it was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” The bill was signed by Governor Pence behind closed doors and ended up costing the State of Indiana over 60 million dollars in revenue.

During his campaign, then candidate Trump touted himself to be a friend and champion to the LGBT community by Tweeting on June 14, 2016, “Thank you to the LGBT community!  I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” Yet during his short time in office President Trump has continuously rolled back former President Obama’s executive orders protecting LGBT rights.

 

Transgender Prom King an Indiana First

North Central High School Prom King Alan Belmont and his date Anastacia Cohen. Photo: Courtney of Emma Brett, @emmaline.jpeg

North Central High School in Indianapolis hosted their annual prom and for the first time in the school’s history a transgender student is crowned prom king.

17 Year old Alan Belmont, who started coming out as transgender at the age of 15 knew that he identified as a straight boy. Belmont started running for prom king not out of a need to by popular but to show everyone including those who are younger and wrestling with their sexuality that they are okay, “I wanted young kids at my school, who are trans or maybe gay or just coming into their identity, to know that being LGBT doesn’t have to be a cripple and that being LGBT is something that you should be proud of and you should represent.”

Not all of Belmont’s peers were so accepting and after he had posted flyers at his school urging the student body to vote for him the words ‘prom king’ were scratched out and replaced with the words ‘prom queen.’ “I knew that there were going to be some people who weren’t as accepting as others, but I couldn’t let myself be depressed because if I did, I would let them know that they won, and I didn’t them to have that,” he said of the incident.

After it was announced that Belmont had been crowned prom king he had this to say, “It was honestly one of the most heartwarming feelings that I’ve ever felt. Just to feel an audience of my peers and an audience of believers in progression, to hear that my peers were on the same page that I was was incredible and to know that there were juniors I hadn’t met yet who voted for me was incredible.” Belmont attended the dance with his girlfriend, Anastacia Cohen.

Correction: The photo provided was courtesy of Emma Brett. Credit was mistakenly originally given to WTHR TV.

Seventh Circuit Court Rule Against Discrimination

Kim Hively

The full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an 8-3 decision in favor of Kim Hively, who sued IVY Tech Community College on the basis of sex discrimination. Ms. Hively who had taught at the school had been discriminated against for being a lesbian and was not offered full time employment by the college. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that upheld Judge Richard Young’s decision to strike down Indiana’s gay marriage ban in June of 2014.

In the complaint against IVY Tech, Ms. Hively’s lawyer, Gregory Nevins of Lambda Legal claimed that not allowing Ms. Hively full time employment at the college violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. In the ruling, Chef Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority, “It is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discrimination on the basis of sex. It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from sexual orientation.” The ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights act also protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination has the potential to reshape Title VII nationwide.

Attorney Nevin’s cited a case that appeared before the Supreme Court in the 1980s in which workers were discriminated against based on their mannerisms and who did not behave in the stereotypical social norms of male and female. The High Court found in favor for the plaintiff’s that their civil rights were violated. Mr. Nevin’s found the same argument applied to Ms. Hively’s case against IVY Tech Community College. “You can’t discriminate against a woman because she rides a Harley, had Bears tickets or has tattoos, but you can if she’s a lesbian.”

Eight out of the 11 judges that heard the case were all appointed by Republican presidents including Judge Richard Posner who asked the attorney representing IVY Tech, John Maley, “Who will be hurt if gays and lesbians have a little more job protection.” When Mr. Maley could not think of an answer, Judge Posner then asked Mr. Maley what the “big deal” was.

In the unlikely event the Republican controlled Congress chooses to amend Title VII to include sexual orientation, this case could still appear before the United States Supreme Court.

Lecture on Same Sex Attraction at Local Restaurant Causes Controversy

Rev. Kevin R. Huber, D. Min. Pastor, Queen of All Saints Catholic Parish Source Facebook

Controversy erupted  in Michigan City over the weekend when meme calling for the boycotting of a local pizzeria started circulating on social media. The meme accused the restaurant of hosting a “hate group” and pictured a pamphlet that was for sale called Why Homosexual Unions Are Not Marriages and Scripture, Mercy, Homosexuality. This upset many in Michigan City’s LGBT Community and their allies. The meme does not say which “hate group” had been meeting at the restaurant.

After further investigation by The Beacon it was reveled that the restaurant in question was hosting a lecture series called Tapped In formerly called Theology on Tap by Father Kevin Huber of Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. The lecture series is for members of Father Huber’s congregation and other people of faith from La Porte County and Northwest Indiana. The series is for adults 21 and over and covers the Church’s stance on several topics including ones that can be considered controversial. The topic on March 8, 2017, was on the Church and the subject of same sex attraction. The lecture is part of a series of lectures that encompasses a different subject every week and sometimes features a different speaker. When asked why the attendees would choose to meet in a local restaurant instead of the church community room, Father Huber said the answer was simple. “We wanted to reach out to the community instead of the community coming here to the church.” Father Huber also indicated that some of the people in attendance also wanted to enjoy an ‘adult beverage’ with their dinner, something that is not possible in the church community room.

Father Huber was asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the meeting. He indicated the entire situation had been taken out of ‘context.’ “People should understand the real purpose of the meeting, was to address the issue of same sex attraction and the Catholic Church. It was not meant to be exclusive but inclusive and it was not my intention to cause any ill will between the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community.”  Father Huber issued a “sincere apology if anyone was offended.” When asked about the pamphlets and if he understood how seeing a booklet called Why Homosexual Unions are not Marriages might upset some people the LGBT Community. Father Huber said he understood why people would be upset, and that the Catholic Church did not provide the pamphlets in question and he had no knowledge that the booklets were even there until after the fact. Father Huber said that the booklets were provided by Queen of Angels Book and Gift Store, located at 1609 E. Coolspring Ave. in Michigan City. The bookstore had no prior authorization to sell their pamphlets at the meeting.

Picture depicting the Pamphlets ‘Why Homosexual Unions are Not Marriages’ and ‘Scripture, Mercy, Homosexuality.

The Beacon reached out for comment from Queen of Angels Book & Gift Store and spoke with Tony Balsamo. Mr. Balsamo stated that he had no prior authorization from the Catholic Church to sell his booklets at the meeting and in fact only sold one such booklet.

Father Huber expressed concern that the restaurant in question might be boycotted and suffer dramatic blow back. He does not want to see a local business or it’s employees suffer because of a misunderstanding. Video of Father Huber’s lecture can been seen on You Tube by clicking the following link: Tapped In Queen of All Saints. Father Huber wishes everyone in the community to know that in no way was this a meeting of a ‘hate group’ and that he and Queen of All Saints Church is here for everyone in the community including those who identify as LGBT.

 

 

 

 

Conservatives Rally Against Teacher at Plymouth Junior High School

Plymouth, IN-A first year teacher at Lincoln Junior High School is under fire from conservatives for teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in her 8th grade health class. The lesson,“LGBTQ: Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities” was supposed to be one on tolerance and acceptance of others and the material is on the list of national standards for 8th graders according to Plymouth Community Schools Superintendent, Daniel Tyree.

Superintendent Tyree went on to add that, “ With the attention that the past two presidents and our governor over the last two years has given to harassment and bullying over sexual orientation and gender identity, students hear the news. By ignoring the topics in schools, we would be doing our students a disservice.” Monica Boyer, President of the Indiana Liberty Coalition disagrees, “It goes way beyond education, it’s actually indoctrination telling student not only they have to accept a lifestyle they have to celebrate it and embrace it.”

The Superintendent indicated that he has received e-mails from ‘concerned’ parents but no complaints from parents directly. “The ones I received on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were in support of teacher and the principal.” Most of the complaints are coming from conservatives on social media. One user of the Marshall County Conservatives Facebook page had this to say, “I’m so happy that I home school and I can choose what I believe is appropriate for my child to learn.”

The lesson plan consisted of a video and some questions that students answer while watching. Some of the questions that drew outrage were,“What is an LGBTQ ally? What is gender identity? What are the two things you can do to show support for the LGBTQ community? Conservative columnist Todd Starnes accused the teacher of attempting to indoctrinate the students, “Kudos to the Indiana Liberty Coalition for exposing this nefarious scheme.” Then Mr. Starnes went on to ‘plug’ his book “The Deplorables’ guide to Making America Great Again.” Whether Mr. Starnes actually cares about children’s education or if he is only trying to sell his book remains to be scene.

Superintendent Tyree claims that the situation has been blown out of proportion and that the teacher in question did not follow board policy regarding how to address a controversial topic. It is unknown whether the teacher will be disciplined as it is a personnel issue and will not be discussed.

 

Hate Crimes Legislation Dead Again

(Indianapolis) The hate crimes bill proposed by State Senator Sue Glick (R) of La Grange, IN. has died at the Statehouse. State Senator Mike Delph(R) of Carmel, IN proposed so many amendments to the bill it would have rendered it virtually ineffective.  The lawmakers that are against hate crime legislation claim that it protects and creates a special class of citizen.

State Senator Sue Glick (R) La Grange

Hate crimes legislation allow tougher sentences for crimes commented against people based on their sexual orientation,  gender identity, gender, race or religion. This is not the first time legislation like that has not made it past the Statehouse.

With hate crimes on the rise and a Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis that recently received a bomb threat, Indiana still remains one of five states that does not have hate crime legislation on the books.

State Sen. Mike Delph (R) Carmel

President Trump Rolls Back Protections for Transgender Students

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions

WASHINGTON-In a move that surprises almost no one the Trump adminastration rolled back former President Obama’s executive orders allowing transgender students to use the restroom or locker room that coincides with their gender identity. A statement from the White House released today reaffirms the administrations policy on the issue, “As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level. The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.” Last April when on the campaign trail President Trump made his feelings clear on the issue of transgender rights by supporting an individuals right to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” 

To resend former President Obama’s executive orders both the Justice Department and the Department of Education had to agree and work together, which pitted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions ideologies against each other. Secretary DeVos has been a quiet supporter of LGBT rights issues for years. Ms. DeVos went ‘against the grain’ of her conservative rich and influential family in support of LGBT rights. The families of Ms. DeVos and her husband have donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups such as Focus on the Family. Attorney General Sessions has strong record of opposing not only LGBT rights but voters rights and immigration rights. When secretary DeVos would not endorse the rolling back of the executive orders President Trump was brought in as a ‘tie breaker’ of sorts ordering DeVos to comply. Ms. DeVos released a statement saying it’s a “moral obligation for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”

The move outraged and saddened LGBT rights advocates both on a national and local levels. Meghan Buell, from South Bend, IN and the founder of the Transgender Resource, Education & Enrichment Services, (TREES Inc.) said in a statement to The Beacon, “Schools can only be effective agents of learning when all students feel safe and included. Rescinding this order leaves schools without clear direction thus leaving open the opportunity for disparities. This could lead to an increase in alienation, bullying and harassment of the trans and gender non-binary students. I fear we may see an uptick in lives lost due to this reversal. This scares and saddens me.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council applauds the President’s decision, “President Trump is keeping the shredders busy with his predecessor’s radical policies and orders.”

President Trump is the only Republican President to give at the very least a minicam of support to the LGBT Community by waving the Gay Pride Flag on the campaign trail but has gone on record saying that he believes in traditional marriage, yet feels the issue is settled law. More and more counties, cities and towns not only in Indiana but over the nation are enacting local ordinances to protect their LGBT citizens. With the rollback of Mr. Obama’s executive orders protecting transgendered students gay rights activists are hoping that those local ordinances will be enough.

 

Does Mike Pence Only Care About HIV When the World is Looking?

Vice President Mike Pence & Bono at the Munich Security Conference

On Saturday U2 front man, Bono met with Vice-President Mike Pence, at the Munich Security Conference, to thank him for his efforts in 2008, when Pence was an Indiana Congressman, for supporting then President George W. Bush’s attempt in supporting AIDS relief in Africa. “Twice on the House floor you defended that. That’s how we know you,” said the pop star.

What is not clear from the meeting is if Bono knows that Vice-President Mike Pence efforts to prevent HIV infection back home in Indiana have not been so praise worthy. In 2013, then Governor Pence defunded Planned Parenthood in Scott County which was the only place the 24,000 Hoosiers that live there could get an HIV test. This led to 190 new HIV cases, the worst is state history.

HIV was spreading at an alarming rate due to intravenous drug use and the only way to curtail an epidemic was a needle exchange program, something that Governor Pence was morally opposed to. The first cases of HIV started showing up in January of 2015. Governor Pence waited until April of that same year to finally approve a temporary needle exchange program. In that time Scott County was experiencing approximately 20 new cases of HIV a week.

Is Betsy DeVos the Right Choice for the Nations LGBT Students?

Newly confirmed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos was sworn in today as Secretary of Education in a highly contentious confirmation process that split the United States Senate 50/50 down party lines with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote. DeVos, who has zero experience in education or administration and whose family has given millions of dollars to the Republican Party, was called by the editor of the Detroit Free Press, Stephen Henderson, “…a lobbyist-someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”Fury 2014 movie streaming

The controversy surrounding DeVos does not stop at her lack of experience, but how her leadership of the U. S. Department of Education will affect the thousands of LGBT students across the county. As a religious conservative DeVos’ family has given thousands of dollars in donations to anti-gay organizations such as Focus on the Family, a group that still supports the wildly denounced practice of conversion therapy for gays. A practice that former Indiana governor and now Vice-President of the United States, Mike Pence still supports. DeVos’ father, Edger Price even donated thousand of dollars to help found the anti-gay Family Research Council. Wanting to focus on education and charter schools it has not been reported that DeVos or her husband Richard have made donations to any anti-LGBT religious organizations, just the DeVos family in general. At one time DeVos called on Dave Agema, a Republican from Michigan, to step down from the Republican National Committee because of disparaging comments made about the LGBT community.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign expressed his concerns in a statement saying, “The DeVos family has a long, well-documented history of funding organizations dedicated to undermining and restricting the rights of LGBTQ people.” Stephanie White, the executive director of Equality Michigan, DeVos’ home state, believes that Ms. DeVos’ view on LGBT issues has “evolved,” noting, “she’s shown a capacity to grow in her understanding of LGBT issues.”

Voting to confirm DeVos was Indiana Senator Todd Young (R), who has received approximately $48,000 in campaign contributions from the DeVos family last year. In a statement to NUVO, Indianapolis’ alternative newspaper, Senator Young stated, “I voted for Betsy DeVos because she has devoted her life to the field of education. She has an unwavering belief that parents should be in charge of making choices about their child’s education. I look forward to working with Ms. DeVos following her swearing in as Secretary of Education.”

There is no telling which way the new Secretary of Education will handle sensitive subjects such as transgender bathroom or locker room rights, and with a stroke of her pen she could rescind all of President Obama’s executive orders for transgender students. One thing is for sure, the controversy surrounding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the other picks President Trump choose for his Cabinet is sure to continue.