The news is filled with stories of gay marriage gaining across America and the world. But it none of that really matters unless you understand what this progress means in individual lives.
Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston of Casper, Wyoming, at home with friends. (Ryan Dorgan, Star-Tribune)
To that end, I highly recommend this beautifully written account
of two men who have been together for many years, quietly and discretely in the town of Casper, before becoming the poster couple for gay marriage in Wyoming.
Tissues recommended. I cried reading this, their story is so very sweet.
Wyoming was the state of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man brutally killed and left to die hanging from a barbed wire fence on a lonely Wyoming road. While controversy may always remain about what happened that night, the extraordinary publicity around Matthew’s murder made anti-gay hate crimes visible to average Americans for the first time, another important step in shifting mainstream perceptions of gay people.
And just as Matthew’s story was so sad and hard to grasp, this simple story of Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston illustrates what is happy, lovely, and worth celebrating in the progress of gay rights.
Wyoming is a lonely and beautiful place, from the Tetons that easily stand as the most stunning mountains in America, to the vast high prairie and its surreal “big sky” that gives the land its name. People there are rugged, and there are 50% more people in the 7 x 7 miles of San Francisco than there are in the entire state of Wyoming, and they have over 97,000 square miles. But out of those people rose these two gay men, who bravely stepped out of their quiet lives and into history.
No individual exemplified the glass closets of my youth, where everyone knew someone was gay but no one would admit it in public, with more vivacious audacity than the pianist and entertainer Liberace.
I have fond memories of watching him, with more than a little confusion, performing on the television in my grandparent’s house in the 1970s.
A recent article on Slate highlighted this animated version of an interview with Liberace, including his rationalization that he dressed so flamboyantly because of a 1960s fashion trend where “The male peacock is beginning to show his true plumage.” He then segues from the attention on his outrageousness, and any potential danger of revealing himself as gay, by invoking Reagan-esque attitudes about hard work and perseverance. (No really, he invokes Reagan, then governor of California.) It all makes for a fascinating timepiece:
For young people who do not know him or his story, and everyone who does, too, I recommend the brilliant HBO movie Behind the Candelabra with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his chauffeur and clandestine lover. It is a beautiful movie that really captures the story and times admirably and with surprising respect. Watch on HBO or on Amazon.
Throughout his career, Liberace claimed he was not gay. In fact in 1957, a London newspaper wrote that he was:
…the summit of sex — the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love…
Liberace sued that newspaper for libel, and won, claiming he had never committed a gay sex act.
Liberace smoking in a London rehearsal room. (Allan Warren, 1968)
To this day he remains one of my favorite queer progenitors, but his story leaves me with profoundly mixed feelings. (Freddy Mercury of Queen is another, for similar reasons.)
On the one hand, I love Liberace’s pluck and absolutely admire his talents and truly groundbreaking success. He managed to be the ultimate male peacock, to use his own words for it, at a time when society was successfully tormenting most gay people into cowed conformity. He lived his life his way in great big style, and I can only admire him for that.
On the other hand, Liberace was never able to break out of his closet, even as he lay dying from a disease being spread among a group of people he denied he was one of. Liberace died of AIDS, in 1987, after swearing his wasting was caused by a watermelon diet.
If he could have just stepped out of that closet for a moment before his death, like the actor Rock Hudson was able to do, Liberace could have affected countless blue-haired old ladies who still thought of gay people as monsters, and therefore believed gay lives had no value. That one additional brave step would have been the perfect ending flourish to a lifetime defined by boldness, and he could have gone down in history as a hero for human rights, and be remembered as more than a near-buffoon entertainer.
In the end, Liberace remains one of my favorite funny uncles… one of the batshit crazy ones I was left admiring and marveling at without ever really understanding. He was the kind of gay man from my grandparents generation who always left me puzzling about the kinship we seemed to both share, and not share, at the same time.
R.I.P, Uncle Władziu Valentino Liberace. Some of us still remember you with great fondness and bedazzlement, just as you would have wished.
As a side note, back when I was a young pup I really loved the song Mr. Sandman. It was just one of those tunes that got stuck in my head and played over and over again, so much that I used to wonder what it was about the lyrics that so drew me in. Only in retrospect can I see that experience as an early indication of my not-quite-yet-budding homosexuality, wishing for just the right man to hold. And only on re-listening many years later did I realize that 1950s song named Liberace as a heterosexual ideal, at least for the kind of women could really harmonize.
Here is a classic version with animated subtitles from The Chordettes. The reference to Liberace’s luxuriant hair is at the 1:51 mark. Enjoy!
What a wacky world we live in when a Canadian TV ad for Cheerios can make me tear up.
Thank you, General Mills. (And for one of their previous efforts, via their Betty Crocker brand, click here.)
You know you have won in our current society when the big money is so firmly on our side.
Yet another example of the normalization of gay life.
Now that marriage is an option, some gay men are saving their virginity until they find the right person to marry.
Funny what happens when you treat everyone equally, as freedom means freedom for all kinds of choices.
While America is rapidly advancing gay rights, France is working hard to disprove the old canard that Europe is more sophisticated and sexually progressive than America.
Over this last weekend, as many as half a million French people rallied in the streets to protest gay rights. Here is an irreverent take on the event at Jezebel.com.
Maybe someday the French can learn to be as sexually permissive and accepting as Utah.
(AP Photo/Thibaut Camus)
I thought this was worth its own note, just because the reasoning was so beautiful.
The Attorney General of Missouri, Chris Koster, said that following the Supreme Court’s ruling letting the repeal of other state’s marriage bans stand, Missouri will start honoring all marriages from the states that allow gay marriage. In his words:
The circuit court’s judgment in Barrier v. Vasterling held that Missouri must recognize marriages lawfully entered into in other states. We will not appeal that judgment. Our national government is founded upon principles of federalism — a system that empowers Missouri to set policy for itself, but also obligates us to honor contracts entered into in other states.
A consequence of this morning’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court is that gay marriage will soon be legal in as many as 30 states. At a time when Missouri is competing to attract the nation’s premier businesses and most talented employees, we should not demand that certain individuals surrender their marriage licenses in order to live and work among us.
Missouri’s future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion.
What a beautiful thing to hear. E Pluribus Unum, Missouri.
The United States Supreme Court today let stand the federal court decisions across the country that ruled state bans on same sex marriage unconstitutional.
This is big. With this spark the court started the last great fire that will burn down all the old barriers to equal citizenship for LGBT Americans. All the lower court rulings against marriage bans are now in place, meaning more than 60% of Americans now live in states with legal gay marriage, and all the remaining barriers in other states should now fall very quickly.
As of today, gay couples can marry:
Gay couples in Salt Lake City celebrate the Supreme Court legalizing their gay marriages. (photo by Scott G Winterton, ©Scott G Winterton/Deseret News 2014)
The next to fall will be other states that come under the existing court rulings, meaning it is just a technicality now to get same sex marriage legalized in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas, as the higher court ruling their laws are unconstitutional are already in place.
As the Human Rights Campaign said today: “There is no reason under the sun for federal courts not to fast-track all pending marriage cases in light of today’s news. Every argument has been made, every legal dispute has been heard, time and time again”
- A fuller explanation of why this is probably the end of the road and the fight over gay marriage is over, from The Atlantic.
- For a more scholarly view of where we are now with the various states, here is an NYU Law professor’s take.
I get pretty grinchy at Christmas from too much fakey manufactured happy happy joy joy, but these guys touched my heart.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had huge hits with their songs Thrift Shop and Can’t Hold Us, and then another unexpected hit in Same Love, a song that makes the political case for gay marriage. Or as Macklemore puts it: “No freedom till we’re equal. Damn right I support it.”
More on the success of Same Love at the NY Times, and more on homo-friendly hip hop here.
The culture wars of the 1990s obsessed about everything sexual, which put gay people right in the center of the bullseye because of what we represented about the human condition. And because of that, what happened to gay people would affect everyone. Or as the right wing magazine The Nation put it in their 1993 cover story:
All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people — at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis — have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.
Out of the mouths of conservatives.
Wholesome homemaking brand Betty Crocker, of Minnesota’s General Mills, just came out for gay families in a really big way. Their video is lovely, and the statement it makes – stunning.
Our differences make us unique.
Love makes us the same.
~ Betty Crocker
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.