The gay vote won the election for Barack Obama in 2012. While this might seem an extraordinary claim, consider that heterosexual voters split their votes 49/49, so the tie breaker went to the gay vote.
Gay voters went for Obama 76-22, putting Obama over the top. Romney won straight Ohio and Florida votes, but lost the LGBT vote, and therefore the election.
This also tells us a lot about the future as only 1.6% of those over 65 are out as gay while 6.4% of young people identify as LGBT. While a broad coalition won it for Obama, the gay community has finally arrived as one of America’s most important voting blocks.
Call us the tie breakers.
Rap has a history of homophobia, but even there things are changing.
From B. Dolan, a sign of the times:
Gay marriage rights won the popular vote for the first time in the election of November 6, 2012
- Three states had full marriage rights on the ballot: Maine, Maryland, and Washington. All three won.
- Minnesota had a measure on the ballot to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage. It lost.
Same-sex marriage is now the law in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico. (In Mexico only Mexico City has gay marriage, but those marriages are recognized nationwide.
20% of Americans now live in jurisdictions that grant same-sex couples the same rights as other-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
If California’s Prop 8 remains overturned, as it has been by every level of courts so far, then one in four Americans will have legal same-sex marriage.
As a young man, like five or ten years ago, I could not have pictured equality of civil rights arriving so fast.
God Bless America. We stumble along the way, but we get there eventually.
Wow. According to to the Human Rights Campaign, these elections made the United States the first country EVER to grant equal marriage rights by the popular vote. “All other marriage-equality measures in the US and elsewhere have been made by legislators or courts.”
There are times I am really proud of my country. We have not celebrated the importance of these victories nearly enough.
Lana Wachowski at HRC
Astonishing. Lana Wachowski tells her story, and you should watch.
Lana was one of the Wachowski brothers when they made The Matrix, V for Vendetta, and other films, and co-directed the new movie Cloud Atlas as Lana, now part of the brother-sister pair with her brother Andy.
I could tell more of her story but I recommend listening to it in her words as Lana is both charming and devastatingly powerful. Click through here to watch her powerful speech.
Cloud Atlas Movie Review
Brilliant. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time. But it is not for everyone. Having read the book, I knew what we were getting into and my suggestion to any viewer: Go see it. Sit back and enjoy. Do not try to make sense of the intertwining plot threads. Enough will make sense for the movie to work, and the rest will tease your brain, but you have to let go of linear thinking.
In the end I was left thinking of Don McLean’s song American Pie. Who knows what it means, but it remains a timeless beauty nonetheless.
Cloud Atlas is not put together like a typical movie. It is a piece of art to be enjoyed for the easy parts and then puzzled over for its depths. Some of it will never make sense, but then that is true of so much good art.
The NY Times has one of its puffy cultural pieces about ex-gay men who claim they are cured of their homosexuality, but even a cursory read reveals these are some very sad men.
The story leads with a man who has wrestled against his sexuality his whole life, including seventeen years of marriage, finally finding a woman attractive in his late 50s. Nowhere does he acknowledge that the mellowing of his sexuality may have more to do with age than cures. How tragic to be nearly sixty and still craving to be like the other boys. The other testimonials are equally suspect, even on face value.
The other thread, of course, is these men are all Christians. They are struggling to square their primal hard-wired feelings with their belief that God hates them. It was hard not to come away with the feeling they need to be cured of their warped religious beliefs more than their homosexuality. I am not anti-religion but it seems clear which one is the root of their pain.
Gay adults can choose to live as straight if they want, just as straight men choose to live as gay, as they do in prisons. This should not be confused as a cure. As adults we can choose, and our choices should not be forced on people.
California took the right approach in banning therapy aimed at curing homosexuality for children. Adults can make their own choices but children must be protected from harm, no matter how well intended by guardian parents.
Until their version Christianity catches up with the realities of human sexuality, the rest of us can only pray for the well being of these men who think God curses them for exactly how God made them.
You may not be following the reality TV show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC, a humorous look at a charismatic self-described redneck family in Georgia, but suddenly we have a gay redneck spokesman.
Honey Boo Boo is a precocious seven year old who has opinions on everything, including on her Uncle Poodle, Honey Boo Boo’s name for her gay uncle Lee Thompson. (It turns out poodle is her name for all gay men… and she perceptively referred to Anderson Cooper as a poodle on his show, a month before he came out.)
As Uncle Poodle told the Georgia Voice:
Things are changing. My husband and I live in Milledgeville because we want to be out in the country. I’m gay, but I’m as redneck as I can get, and we want to be somewhere we can fish and jump on a four-wheeler, go hog wallowing. There’s probably 40 or 50 of us — gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender people — around here, they’re all open about it, everybody knows it.
And here’s Uncle Poodle’s declaration in support of Spirit Day 2012.
I love that our voices come in from so many parts of our culture. It is one of the grand things about the gay community, we pop up everywhere!
Orlando Cruz came out recently, making him the first openly gay man in professional boxing and one of the very few in professional sports.
Boxer Orlando Cruz (photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, AP)
At a time when few professional athletes are out in any sport, that is a daring move. As Cruz he told USA Today:
It is a macho sport — there’s a lot of machismo. I was afraid I could be discriminated against because there is a lot of discrimination against the gay community. This fight is important for me because I am now liberated. I made history (but) I want to be respected.
Cruz represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and now he’s won his first fight since coming out.
These last two weeks have weighed heavily on Orlando Cruz. But as soon as he walked out to a cheering crowd displaying flags of his native Puerto Rico, boxing’s first openly gay fighter could finally breathe and do what he came to do, slugging his way to a victory by unanimous decision over Jorge Pazos. “That was my moment, my opportunity, my event,” Cruz said Friday night after the bout, his mother Dominga Torres-Rivera seated beside him. “And I won.” Cruz was touched by the support on display at the Kissimmee Civic Center outside of Orlando, the latest in a continual outpouring since his announcement two weeks ago that made him the first active male athlete in a major sport to come out. “I was very happy that they respect me. That’s what I want – them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word.
And on how it feels being out:
And Cruz seems to be more at ease with his new position as a gay role model, no longer hiding who he is in one of the world’s most macho sports. “I’m only one person,” Cruz said. “I feel happy with where I am. I’m free. I’m more at peace.
Congratulations, Orlando. And keep it up!!!
Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens. NoH8 is the pro-gay marriage campaign that arose after the Mormon-led Proposition 8 took away equal marriage in California.
[Language warning: The attached letter includes some wonderfully pungent obscenities.]
Professional sports is a holdout of our old culture of homophobia, so it is lovely to see change arriving, even there. For Spirit Day 2012, a day in October when people wear purple in solidarity with LGBT youth and against bullying, America’s six major sports leagues all joined in: The National Basketball Association (NBA) / Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS) and NASCAR.
On a more individual level, The Huffington Post just ran an article highlighting 22 straight professional athletes who are outspoken allies of the LGBT community, including people like Charles Barkley, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the adorable Ben Cohen. (Sadly it is formatted in one of those insufferable slideshows. ) They also had to go global to get that many names. It hurts our allies are so thin on the athletic grounds, but good to see it is starting to change.
NFL players like Texans linebacker Connor Barwin and New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie have come strongly for equal rights, but the ripest support came from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe was responding to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. attempt to silence Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo spoke out in support of equal marriage for gay people in Maryland, and Burns sent a letter to the Raven’s owner saying, among other things, “I am requesting you take the action necessary […] to inhibit such expressions from your employee…”
Clearly Burns is not a bright man. It also hurts when a black politician writes on official government letterhead that political expression “has no place in sport.” The irony reels.
With that setup, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s responded to Burns with steaming intellect and righteous anger. It is eviscerating, and a joy to read.
Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,
I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):
1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.
2. “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s “deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland”? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”? I can’t even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”).
3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?
In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.
P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.
Gallup has just conducted the biggest polling ever on LGBT people. They asked over 121,000 people across the country a simple question: “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?”
The number saying yes: 3.4%
Of course that is only a baseline number, as this was the percentage of Americans willing to come out as LGBT to a pollster on the phone. We know the real number is a good bit higher than that because of all the people who prefer to keep their orientation or gender identification private, for whatever reason.
Most importantly, that 3.4% number includes the elderly, yet only 1.6% of those over 65 years old identify as LGBT. Among 18-29 year olds the number is 6.4%, and even higher for women 18-29 at 8.3%. Clearly the number of out LGBT people will grow as this out generation ages and the closeted generation fades, and those higher numbers among the young are closer to the real numbers as they come from younger people who have grown up in a more open and accepting era.
The study has a lot of other interesting data along with this headline statistics, making it well worth a read through, including that minorities are more out than whites, that women are more out than men, and that LGBT have less education and wealth than their straight compatriots…to bust a stereotype.
We will never know the exact number of LGBT people because the questions around it are too personal and the edges that define our community too fuzzy, but clearly, we are many.
Just to give the size of those LGBT numbers some perspective: According to the US Census, out Mormons make up about 1.9% of the country, Jews 1.7%, Muslims 0.6%, and Southern Baptists 6.7%.
We are many. We are valuable. And we deserve equal citizenship rights.
Gaydar is the uncanny ability many of us have to identify homosexuality in others, as in “Oh Lordy, that young man over there certainly pings my gaydar!”
We already knew ovulating women have enhanced gaydar, and now there is evidence for part of how it works.
Scientists have found that heterosexual faces are slightly more symmetrical than homosexual faces, and the more heterosexual a face was rated, the more symmetrical it was. Researchers also found that faces rated more masculine tended to be rated heterosexual, confirming an overall sense that feminine male faces may somewhat accurately indicate homosexuality.
I wonder a bit about this study. Shakespeare said “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” I get that facial symmetry sounds like a pretty hard-coded body structure, but I still wonder how much our faces simply tell who we’ve become over the course of a lifetime. We’d have to run this test on newborns to really get accurate data.
We know that gay men have more symmetrical brains than straight men, a structure that more closely resembles women’s brains.
New research demonstrates that higher brain symmetry gives gay men an enhanced ability over straight men to recall faces, a skill women typically excel at.
The same researchers found a corresponding correlation with handedness.
Left-handed heterosexuals were better at facial recognition than left-handed homosexuals and right-handed heterosexuals, which aligns with our knowledge that women and left-handed men have more bilaterally symmetrical brains than right-handed men.
- Paul Brewster, Caitlin Mullin, Roxana Dobrin, Jennifer Steeves. Sex differences in face processing are mediated by handedness and sexual orientation. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 2010
Arnold Schwarzenegger, musclehead turned action hero turned governor, was not generally a gay ally. He said marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and when the California Legislature passed bills approving same-sex marriage Schwarzenegger vetoed them, twice.
But people can grow and change. We now find out that Schwarzenegger performed the marriage of his Chief of Staff to her girlfriend while governor. From CBS News:
Leslie Stahl: You had a chief of staff– Susan Kennedy.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Stahl: You– even called her I think– this is a quote, “A cigar smoking lesbian,” you once said. And she got married. Did you go to the wedding?
Schwarzenegger: I performed the wedding in the office.
Stahl: You married–
Schwarzenegger: I married her in the office– in the governor’s office.
Stahl: Then you must be for gay marriage.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator (photo by Bob Doran)
Even opponents who block gay rights can evolve. Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger. We welcome you late but glad you got here.
The New Republic‘s Jed Perl describes Michelangelo’s The Dream as his most haunting drawing.
The dreamer is a handsome young man, his naked muscular body decisively, dramatically posed. But the dream itself is tangled, ambiguous, dramatically confounding.
Amidst the tension between the calm of the central figure and the agitation swarming around it, Perl notes this may be a portrait of Michelangelo’s longtime lover, Tommaso de’ Cavalieri. If true this offers an astonishing portrait of an often troubled relationship. Whatever the source, The Dream inspires, disturbs, and challenges me. As Perl puts it:
The Dream explodes the ordinary pleasures of allegory, which are the pleasures of piecing together a puzzle. Michelangelo’s puzzle, complete but still puzzling, is irreducible allegory—a whole thought to be grasped through the experiencing authority of the eye.
More about Michelangelo’s homosexuality click here
In 1966, three years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York, drag queens and others rioted against the police in San Francisco, a moment beautifully documented in the documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria.
As the director states, “It was the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in United States history.”
At 24 minutes it is an enjoyable watch if you are interested in queer history or just love seeing how deliciously crazy, and defiant, we are here in San Francisco. (I say that as a proudly crazy native!)
[Trigger warning: While I include no graphic descriptions, if you or someone close to you has been victim of adult-on-child assault this frank discussion of the perpetrator’s condition may be disturbing.]
Pedophilia is one of our society’s most perplexing problems. On the one hand we must protect our children. Few goals are more important to a civilized culture than protecting the innocent, and none are more innocent than a child.
That said, the way to keep children safe is to make sure people who have pedophilic feelings get help before they act. It is clear most of the people who suffer from an attraction to children never act on those feelings.
While we need harsh punishments for those who do become child molesters, we also need to discuss and research the nature of pedophilia, and offer help to those tempted to violate society’s boundaries and harm a child.
Three recent articles have broken the impasse on discussing this touchy subject. Clearly Jerry Sandusky’s highly public conviction after years of molesting boys as assistant coach at Pennsylvania State University brought the discussion forward in ways that have been rare over the last decades.
In a prominent New Yorker article, Malcom Gladwell tackled the subject of how Sandusky and all child molesters get away with it, pointing out that the process includes grooming both the victims and their supposedly protective adults.
When monsters roam free, we assume that people in positions of authority ought to be able to catch them if only they did their jobs. But that might be wishful thinking. A pedophile […] is someone adept not just at preying on children but at confusing, deceiving, and charming the adults responsible for those children.
To my mind the role of the supporting cast is particularly fascinating. I am stuck on the image from Sandusky’ s trial of a child screaming in the basement while being abused while hearing Mrs. Sandusky doing housework upstairs. To this day she denies any knowledge such things every happened.
Of course the other image stuck in my mind is of Penn State students streaming into the streets to rally behind their team’s coaches even as the damning news of the pedophile scandal broke. That is a group pathology I cannot even wrap my head around. I guess I don’t love football enough.
The other two articles focus on help and prevention. The more disturbing comes from Gawker with the provocative title, Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children which states, “If you can’t beat pedophiles, it’s best to try and help them help themselves.” While the descriptions of the crimes are tough the review of the current state of our scientific understanding of pedophilia is constructive.
The other article is a bit more clinical as Slate.com tackled the issue with useful descriptions of actions we are taking as a society to help including organizations like B4U-ACT, Virtuous Pedophiles, and Germany’s Prevention Project Dunkelfield.
While we do not know the origins of pedophilia, whether it is inborn, learned, or a mixture of both, we do know that a child cannot give informed consent for adult sexual contact. Because of that simple fact, every adult attracted to children could use our help. What we need now is a more pro-active approach to the problem of pedophilia, as the first line of any good defense is prevention.
Deep in the Amazon lives a tribe of lesbians who reproduce without the involvement of penises, sperm, or any males at all. Whiptail lizards, Cnemidophorous uniparens, lost all of its males somewhere along the evolutionary cycle. Females now reproduce by female-female sex. As described in Aarathi Prasad’s Like A Virgin: Exploring the Frontiers of Conception:
While the lizard is on top, it will intermittently rub its cloaca against the back of the passive female, stroking the back and neck with its jaws and forelimbs. The active female then grasps the back of the neck or shoulder of the passive female in its jaws and begins to curve and force its tail beneath the others’ tail, so that the cloacae of both are brought into close contact, somewhat as a male lizard would so in order to erect one of its two penises through its cloaca.
Once the orifices of both females are in contact, the courting female shifts its jaws to grip the lower half of the mounted females body. This forces the couple to adopt the contorted posture characteristic of mating lizards of opposite sexes.
Female-on-female Whiptail lizard action in the Amazon
Obviously questions remain. We do not know how this female-on-female sexual act causes the eggs in the passive female to “activate” as if fertilized and begin dividing into embryos, and we do not know if this pseudo-copulation is required to start the process. There is evidence of solo females reproducing in captivity without another female’s assistance.
We also do not understand how this lizard passes on DNA correctly. Typical sexuality combines half the maternal and and half the paternal DNA to give the child a new full set, but these lizards start with twice the normal DNA so halving it again gives their children a full set.
Once again, God and Mother Nature laugh at our formerly simplistic ideas of how sex works.
* A cloaca, by the way, is the name for the vent in the rear of many birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and others that serves as the single orifice for the intestines, urinary tract, and reproduction. Descriptively enough, the word comes from Latin, meaning sewer.
An intelligent young Christian of deep faith worked through how his homosexuality relates to his Bible-based beliefs.
Interviewed in the New York Times, Matthew Vine’s summarizes his research:
It is simply a fact that the Bible does not discuss or condemn loving, gay relationships. [...] The point is that these texts have a meaning, and the traditional reading of them is wrong. It is incorrect — biblically, historically, linguistically.
As Vine realized, the Bible never addresses same-sex love.
…every instance of homosexuality in the Bible represented excess lust, gang rape or “unnatural” acts committed by heterosexual men. Portrayals — much less condemnations — of naturally gay men, for whom opposite-sex relationships are not an option, simply never appear.
Christians quote the Bible’s few verses against male-male sex acts as if that ends the discussion. Few gay people find useful answers to the questions we have about leading ethical sexual lives in these ancient scriptures. For those of us who are intrinsically gay and Christian the Bible is only a starting point, just as Old Testament sexual ethics are just a starting place understanding modern heterosexual relationships.
Although an hour long, the video of Vine’s speech is well worth watching for those who are interested in sorting out the Christianity versus Homosexuality debate.
We know that mother’s bodies change as they have more male children. One of the results is a change in the hormones generated in the mother’s womb with each additional son, resulting in an increased probability subsequent sons will be gay.
New evidence confirms a new aspect of how male children change their mother’s bodies. Scientist studied mother’s brains looking for male DNA, and found it in 63% of them, distributed across the brain and persisting through the mother’s lifetime. This means that mother’s receive DNA from their children across the placental barrier!
Not only do mothers help create gay sons, but all sons may help create their mothers. Wow.
Before Mao Tse-tung created today’s unified China under communist rule the country was a weak state ravaged by foreign powers, a weakness exemplified by Puyi, the last Emperor of China.
Anyone who has seen Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (highly recommended if you haven’t) knows the basics: the strangely pampered childhood after his rise to the throne at two years of age, his mentoring by the Imperial household’s eunuchs, his weak government overthrown by the invading Japanese who made Puyi their puppet, and his forced “reformation” under the communists turning the last Emperor of China into an everyday citizen of the People’s Republic.
Scene from the movie “The Last Emperor”
One major error in the movie is the central love interest centering around Puyi’s wife. According to many witnesses, Puyi was gay. Mocked from his youth for his feminine figure, his stereotypically awkward glasses, and his preference for men, Puyi’s homosexuality is openly discussed in modern China. His own sister-in-law wrote in her memoirs that he lived with a pageboys as his concubines, and many say he never consummated his marriage.
While traditional China accepted homosexuality as a normal aspect of the human condition, people in Puyi’s time said he and his wife Gobulo Wan Rong could not have children because he was infertile, a common way of talking around homosexuality. There is even a later story of the estranged Empress getting pregnant by her chauffeur, the baby killed at birth.
I find Puyi fascinating as a gentle man born into a central role in a tragic history. I cannot imagine what his life was like, but I can imagine the quiet life he might have led if born into more normal circumstances. His surviving relatives gathered recently for a touching discussion of their famous relation. A niece says he was such a playful man that, “he was just like one of the kids,” and so humble the other children who knew him did not believe he had ever been the Emperor. They laughed about how this man, raised in such mind-bending privilege, could not even use money correctly for everyday transactions.
Some tender souls are born into ill-fitting circumstances. It is strange to think of the cosmic karma that created a life as extravagantly odd as Puyi’s. My empathy goes out to anyone who struggles to fit into life wherever their birth takes them.
An homage to my home planet.
If you haven’t seen any of these videos taken from the International Space Station, they are beyond beautiful.
…and two more after the jump…
Continue reading Earth From Space →
I know the author Fran Lebowitz mostly because she is so quotable. In a recent article she nailed what I have felt for a long time — that much of the progress we have made as a gay community is because of AIDS. That most massive of dark clouds had an astonishing silver lining. It forced us out of the closet.
As Lebowitz said in a recent interview in The Awl:
The idea—and not just the idea, the actual life of homosexuals—changed immeasurably because of the acceptance of homosexuality. And that was because of AIDS. No one ever says that. Or how AIDS caused gay marriage. I mean, it would never have existed. You could pretend to your family that you were straight, but you couldn’t pretend you weren’t dying.
As AIDS forced our entire community out of hiding, it also pressured my generation into pretending we were normal. Even if we had HIV, even if we were dying, most of us did not want to be associated with this disease the culture so deeply feared. As Lebowitz tartly puts it:
And after AIDS, I think that [homosexual] people were afraid of a kind of official response to AIDS, like they would be arrested, or put in jail, all these kind of things, which are not unlikely things, by the way, and so they made up a lie. ‘We’re just like you. We are just like you, we’re exactly like you.’ But of course, they were not exactly like straight people. They were nothing like straight people.
Only now, after being outed by AIDS and overcoming the stigma of being gay and possibly diseased, are we coming into our own as people. That is the current gay politics: to be accepted as people, unique in our own rights and equal as citizens.
Sesame Street’s beloved Big Bird was created by two gay lovers who lived together for over 50 years, Kermit Love and his partner Christopher Lyall. They created the original Big Bird from a Jim Henson sketch and those glass toy drinking birds that rock back and forth as they drip their beaks in a glass of water.
Lyall and Love were partners in work and life for half a century and in the 1980s traveled with Big Bird to the White House for the annual Easter egg roll. The most momentous results of that presidential nexus were the grass stains on Big Bird’s outsize feet. Nobody could have imagined that this puppet might someday play even the smallest role in deciding who would occupy the Oval Office. “We’ll see,” Lyall says. The possible political impact of this 8-foot-2 yellow plumed character takes a turn from the ridiculous to the delightfully apt when you consider this: Big Bird was the product of a profound partnership between two men that was in every way a marriage save for in the strictly legal sense that the law until very recently forbade.
Big Bird, left, and his creator Kermit Love, right. I think they both look like adorable muppets.
Read the full story in The Daily Beast, its lovely about both the bird and his dads.
And hard as it is to believe, this lovely gay man who so influenced Sesame Street was actually named Kermit Love. According to Wikipedia at least, he was born Kermit Ernest Hollingshead Love. So. Cool.
Q.: Why do we call heterosexual people “straight”?
A.: Because homosexuality was a crime and “straight people” were those who did not commit that crime.
Saint Matthew teed off the concept with his description of the path to righteousness in Matthew 7:14, which King Jame’s translators rendered as:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
English speakers have said rule abiders follow the “straight and narrow” ever since. Dude gets out of prison and we tell him he should “go straight” and people who don’t do drugs are “straight.” Someone who is not straight is bent, a word we used for criminals, as well as homosexuals and any sexuality that did not have mainstream approval, back when those where overlapping categories.
The intersection in front of my house is one way. ahem.
Straight people are those who follow the rules, and are therefore not homosexual. It does makes me wonder if that word “straight” still works for heterosexuality.
And this all reminds me of a joke. When gay guys in a car come to an intersection we can’t really instruct the driver to “go straight,” so we have a substitute of our own …instructing the driver he should proceed “gaily forward.” Every little sub-culture has its own awkward humor. ;-)
Malala Yousafzai, 14, was shot in the head for being a girl who wanted to go to school in her home city of Mingora, Pakistan. Taliban militants claimed responsibility after targeting her for openly expressing the belief that females should receive an education. After extensive brain surgery she is still alive, but barely.
There are cultures that fear women and the feminine wherever it appears. Control over women and suppression of the feminine become their core values.
Unsurprisingly, these are the same cultures that most fear the feminine aspect in men. Gay men, transexuals, and people born intersex are all anathema to these cultures, to be suppressed and wiped out when possible.
Healthy nature is a balance, an interplay, and a dance of the male-female and the masculine-feminine. Islamic extremists do us all a favor when they highlight the dangers of suppressing women and the feminine, but the rest of us should not be too smug. This same bias is built into too many of our cultures and religions.
Malala Yousafzai’s desire to go to school, and the violent reaction it spurred, should be a wake up call for all of us. We must embrace all of God’s children, respecting and celebrating the things that make us the same and the things that make each one of so unique, in women and men.
The BBC has more on the brave actions of Malala Yousafzai. May she, and all women under such oppression, live into a better future.
From the travel website Expedia, one of the many companies in Washington State that have stood up for marriage equality for their employees and customers, comes this lovely story:
Most parents of gay kids have a similar story of their journey to acceptance.
I love the backstory Expedia shares:
Nikki and Jill had first met as young girls at overnight camp. Twenty-five years later, the two reunited on the camp’s website, and rekindled the connection they knew as childhood friends. That friendship blossomed into attraction and became the foundation of a loving adult partnership.
The name of the god Apollo rings across time as the classic young, powerful, beautiful man. He is typically portrayed as the ideal kouros, the beardless athletically bodied youth idealized by the ancient Greeks. Apollo had many powerful attributes as he was the god of the sun and light, prophecy, healing, music, and poetry. Typical of handsome young men, he was also known for his sexy ways.
At one point Apollo fell in love with a young man named Hyacinth. One day they were playing discuss together as Zephyr, the god of the west wind, watched. Zephyr grew jealous of their affections and when Apollo threw the discuss high into the air Zephyr blew the discuss back at Hyacinths head, killing him.
As Hyacinth’s head hung broken from his body, drooping like a flower blossom from its stalk, his blood spilled into the earth. On that spot a beautiful flower sprang up, the Hyacinth, although it was probably the flower we now call the Iris.
The Death of Hyacinth by Benjamin West, 1771, Swathmore College, Philadelphia.
For more ancient myths that include gay people and gender variation, click here
Pompeii is important because it froze a Roman city in time, so we get to see glimpses of ancient lives caught in their doomed city like a fly in amber.
One of the fascinating things preserved in Pompeii is the graffiti on the city walls where the thoughts of the people are written uncensored by subsequent history, and what we learn is that not much has changed. The walls of Pompeii read like a truck stop bathroom, including some colorful gay comments. As they appeared on August 24, 79 AD:
On the bar-brothel of Innulus and Papilio: Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!
On the house of the Citharist below a drawing of a man with a large nose: Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you. Salvius wrote this.
On the basilica: Phileros is a eunuch!
On the Eumachia Building: Secundus likes to screw boys.
On the house of Orpheus: I have buggered men.
And who knows who wrote this one, male or female?
On the house of Poppaeus Sabinus: If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make more haste to see Venus. I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go. Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet. You are mine…
Of course Pompeii wasn’t all gay. Most of the graffitti is straight, like these from the walls of a brothel where we get bragging men and a client’s review:
Celadus the Thracier makes the girls moan!
Gaius Valerius Venustus, soldier of the 1st praetorian cohort, in the century of Rufus, screwer of women
Myrtis, you do great blow jobs.
Two men and a woman having sex, from the Suburban Baths of Pompeii circa 79 BC.
We find similar scenarios in the art of the Suburban Baths. A frieze there shows sixteen sex scenes, including male-male and female-female couples along with same-sex pairings within group sex scenes. Both men and women went to the bathe there, sharing a singular changing room, and we therefore presume these type of images where common and acceptable to the people of the day.
There is a simple question the anti-gay ask: If a gene creates a homosexual orientation that decreases human reproduction. Wouldn’t evolution weed out this unproductive gene?
Logical as that question seems, the answer is not that hard if we remember the obvious fact that each one of us adds more to humanity’s success than just our ability to reproduce. Women contribute more than the fruit of their wombs, and men contribute more than their sperm. To think otherwise is daft. Put even more simply, the overal survival of humanity is predicated on more than just our birthrate.
To provide the simplest example, it is not the number of babies that determines reproductive success in a species, it is the number of children who successfully make it to adulthood and are able to have children of their own. Any trait that benefits the net success of reproductively viable adults should thrive.
More specifically, genetic scientists Gavrilets and Rice found three possible reasons for the persistence of a genetic origin for homosexuality:
Answer #1: Overdominance
Overdominance says that if there is a gay gene, having two parents with that gene may make a child gay and decrease their reproduction, while getting the same gene from only one parent may increases that child’s reproductive success, resulting in increased reproduction over time.
We know this dynamic from Sickle Cell Anemia, where the gene from one parent makes you immune to malaria, but the gene from two parents gives you a crippling disease. A gene for homosexuality might work the same way.
Answer #2: Sexually antagonistic selection
This theory says that the same gene has different effects depending on the child’s gender. The gene that makes a brother gay and less sexually reproductive, may make his sister more reproductively successful, for a net increase.
The sexually antagonistic selection theory gains added credence when we note the sisters of gay men do, in fact, have more children than women who do not have gay brothers. The gay gene, or more likely, combination of genes, appears to be a net positive for the family.
There is also increasing evidence that male homosexuality may be have stronger genetic origins
Answer #3: Kin altruism
I personally like this one, as kin altruism posits that a gay gene may run in families, and the presence of a gay family member helps the overall reproductive fitness of the family, so the gene perpetuates.
This one is the most obviously logical, without the genetic complexities of the previous two. Clearly having a few confirmed bachelor uncles and spinster aunts around can be a helpful for large families, especially in stressful times. A related theory from the social sciences says that families benefit from having a certain percentage of spare adults around who are not tied to specific children.
Hard for us to imagine in our times when family means nuclear family, but families used to be large and complex social systems of interrelated people that benefited from a certain amount of diversity as they worked together for the common good.
- S. Gavrilets and W.R. Rice, Genetic models of homosexuality: generating testable predictions, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 273 (2006), pp. 3031–3038.
Farnese Hercules statue, Roman copy of a Greek original circa 300 BC, National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy.
The name Hercules (Heracles in Rome) still resonates as the ultimate slab of masculinity.
Hercules was a stud, having sex with countless women and bearing as many as 500 children. In one story a king named Thespios had Hercules help him get rid of a dangerous lion. Thespios also introduced Hercules to his family, which included 50 virgins. Nine months later 49 of them gave birth to sons, as the 50th was too shy.
Based on those stories, Hercules was clearly not “gay” in the modern political sense, yet Plutarch says he also had male lovers beyond counting. Names we know include his lovers Admetos, Iphitos, Euphemos, Elacatas, Abderus, and Iolaos.
In the most famous story of Hercules’ love for young men, he fell in love with Hylas during Jason’s quest for the golden fleece. As the poet Theocritus wrote in 300 BC, Hylas had locks of hair that hung down in curls,
And like a father with a dear son he taught him all the things which had made him a mighty man, and famous.
And they were inseparable, being together both day and night. That way the boy might grow the way he wanted him to, and being by his side attain the true measure of a man.
Hylas and the Nymphs, by John William Waterhouse
Hercules helped row the ship Argo, but was so strong he broke the oar. When they got to land Hercules went to find a strong tree to make a new oar while Hylas went to a famous spring for water. At the spring Hyllus met nymphs who fell in love with his beauty and captured him, possibly dragging him into the water. Hercules was so distraught he remained there searching for Hylas when the Argos sailed, abandoning the expedition for love.
We know Hercules best for his famous labors, performed to please King Eurystheus. It was rumored Eurystheus was another of his lovers, providing the motivation for his heroic acts.
Hercules may not have been gay in the modern sense, but his love of men proved pivotal in his heroic life. Only by understanding all of who he was can we make sense of this heroic figure.
For more ancient myths that include gay people and gender variation, click here
Having grown up in a community defined by its sense of being persecuted for being different, primarily on the issue of marriage, it is painful to watch the inability of the Mormons to get the irony of their anti-marriage positions.
My theory on why Mormons, of all people, cling to the narrowest definitions of traditional marriage here.