Letters to the Editor

Week of April 10, 2002

A Contest Contested

But she was voted Miss Understanding: As the promoter of “Bondage A Go-Go,” April Fools' Day came two days late for me. Imagine my surprise when I woke up April 3 and found out I was a homophobe (“Bondage and Discrimination,” Dog Bites, April 3, on a beauty pageant contestant who claimed she was disqualified for being transgender). My shock was based on my being a fourth-generation (liberal) San Franciscan, growing up in the Castro, and having lived, worked, and played with gay people all of my life.

This is not the first case of sour grapes I have encountered in my nine years of promoting at “BAGG,” but it sure is one of the worst. The information you published is ill-informed, incorrect, and insulting to me and my event. Your contention that any transgender contestants were disqualified because of gender is incorrect and shows a lack of insight as to how the contest was conducted.

As I explained to your reporter, I encouraged Camille [Dunham] to enter because I thought she had a good chance of winning the exhibition. She was one of six TG/girl drag/gender-fuck contestants [who] entered that night. The judges all have close ties to the GLTG fetish community, and their reputations are crystal clear and inclusive. Not a bigot in the bunch. None of the judges were coached by me or anybody else as to how to vote.

Camille lost a beauty contest. She was eliminated, not disqualified. She was not cheated, lied to, oppressed, or insulted in any way. “Bondage A Go-Go” is an inclusive, pansexual club where any of the fetish-curious are welcome. I apologize to any of our customers who may have the wrong impression of the club or were offended based on your article.

George Lazaneo
Promoter, “Bondage A Go-Go”
Western Addition

A Messy Situation

Didn't your mother ever teach you not to play with your food?: I was both excited and disappointed to read your article “The Slime of Their Lives” (Night Crawler, March 27, on “sploshers” and “wammers,” people who enjoy lolling in messy substances like food and mud). I was excited to see that people are enjoying wamming somewhat locally. I was disappointed because I wasn't there.

Rebecca M. Lopes

The Two Sides of Rabbi Lerner

How to mix politics and religion: Rabbi Michael Lerner's dream of establishing a new political party has all the characteristics of his other world-saving ideas (“The Rabbi Who Would Save the World,” March 20). It has plenty of chutzpah, an unparalleled academic plan, and absolutely no practical grounding in the world around us.

Lerner is an idealist and devotes himself to ideas instead of realities, taking up the cause of Palestinian suicide bombers without accounting for their bloodthirst. He simultaneously welcomes and alienates potential allies with his bizarre combination of liberal dogma and conservative theology.

And the obvious contradictions of Lerner's proposed Spiritual Party — a “love-ocracy” with no single religion in the driver's seat — are an extension of this hypocrisy.

But there's a much more prominent American Jew who blends his religion and politics on a daily basis: Joe Lieberman, U.S. senator and former vice presidential candidate. Lieberman may be the only politician with any sense of how to manifest religion in his politics. He rarely treats his beliefs as anything other than that: beliefs. [He] doesn't work on Sabbath, but he's never coerced anybody else to rest on Sabbath, much less tried to work it into official laws.

If Lerner were content to lead by quiet example, maybe the Jewish Renewal movement would become a real paradigm of American ethical religion instead of a pop-liberal fad.

Matt Roth

Good plan, poor execution: Thank you for publishing a most thoughtful, accurate, and insightful article on this very complex man. Michael Lerner is a consummate thinker, well educated, and an ordained rabbi. I like his politics, his writing, and his ideas. But having worked at Tikkun magazine in 1998, I can tell you he is a very difficult person. He is quoted as saying that people displace their immaturities and spiritual deficits upon each other and on society, yet he does precisely that also, with his own immaturities, lack of self-awareness, and constant need to feed his enormous ego. His new Spiritual Party sounds like one more example of Lerner's creating yet another organization to be ruler in chief of. The man needs to grow up, to learn to share, and to practice what he preaches.

Marcia Weisbrot
Duboce Triangle

Spiritual politics: In Peter Byrne's piece about Michael Lerner, Byrne and Lerner critic Marc Stern both raise the specter of theocratic rule. But a politics that recognizes spiritual issues on the level of generality that Lerner advocates — like how to act based on love and caring, and with recognition of the sacredness of life — need not impose the tenets of any particular religion. Our society has massive disagreements on health care, transportation, and crime, but we don't refuse to discuss — or permit state action in — those areas. My guess is there's far more agreement on fundamental spiritual issues — even among people who do not consider spirituality part of their lives — than on any of these others.

The insistence that the language, ideas, and motivations from the spiritual realm of life be kept out of politics is an unquestioned, received orthodoxy. And guess who benefits? Those who want to minimize societal restrictions on the economic and political resources in their own hands. Why talk about how love, nonviolence, caring, and reverence for our planet could guide our choices, when keeping the world safe for maximization of profits provides a steady compass?

Michael Goldstein

We're Honored

SF Weekly staff writer Lisa Davis has won the John Bartlow Martin Award, a public interest magazine journalism contest sponsored by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Davis was honored for her series “Fallout,” which looks at the mishandling of nuclear waste at the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. The New Yorker magazine and New Times, a Phoenix, Ariz., alternative newsweekly, won second and third place, respectively, in the contest.

Named after an investigative magazine writer who became a Medill professor, the John Bartlow Martin Award is widely considered to be among the nation's most prestigious magazine journalism contests. The last three winners of the Martin Award wrote for Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and Time.

Davis and “Fallout” are on an award-winning roll of sorts. In February, Davis joined writers from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker as a winner in this year's George Polk Awards. And last month she was named a winner in the Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards.

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